The behavior of the electrostatic ion acoustic mode in a partially ionized plasma is studied in the presence of collisions which involve processes of ionization and recombination, taking into account the dynamics of the neutrals caused by elastic and inelastic collisions with ions. The application of the model to space plasmas, which are usually subject to gravity, is discussed in detail. A dispersion equation which includes the effects of ionization and recombination is derived and the stability/instability conditions are discussed. Parameters applicable to a region of the upper solar chromosphere are used and the increment of the ion sound wave is calculated yielding an unstable ion sound wave for wavelengths larger than 20 km. (C) 2004 American Institute of Physics.