Residents of nursing homes often find it difficult to develop (new) social relationships with other residents, even though these social relationships can contribute to quality of life, life meaning and satisfaction and feelings of belonging. Until now, little research has been done on the role language practices can play in encouraging residents to develop and maintain these social networks.

For this particular study, researchers from the The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) spent time collecting data at a relatively large nursing home in Maastricht in the Netherlands. By observing participants and conducting informal interviews, they explored the development of social networks among residents during different settings in the common area of the nursing home.

The results of this study show that language is an important factor for nursing home residents to be able to develop a social network. Due to the associations people make with linguistic features, residents prefer to develop a social network with those who are perceived to speak the same language or dialect.