Date of Award

Spring 5-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies



Committee Chair

Lawrence Hosman

Committee Chair Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 2

Wendy Atkins-Sayre

Committee Member 2 Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 3

Steven Venette

Committee Member 3 Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 4

Richard Conville

Committee Member 4 Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 5

John Meyer

Committee Member 5 Department

Communication Studies


This study advances understanding of powerful and powerless language effects by incorporating a relational framing perspective. Relational framing theory (RFT) suggests that when messages are interpreted using a dominance frame, issues regarding persuasion, influence, and control become salient. When exchanges are framed by affiliation, however, issues of liking, attraction, and regard become salient. Power of speech style researchers have instantiated dominance-framed interactions in their experiments primarily, thus leaving affiliation-framed interactions largely ignored. Addressing this gap, this study considered the effects of relational framing differences on participants’ evaluation of speech style variations. Consistent with previous literature and in partial support for the RFT derived hypotheses, this study found that when the exchange was framed by domination, powerless language negatively affected speakers’ superiority, general control, dynamism, and control over outcome. However, effects were much less apparent when exchanges were framed more by affiliation than domination. These findings warrant further investigation concerning when exactly powerless and powerful language effects exist in day-to-day interactions.