English is an Unwritten Rule Here: A Case of Non-Formalised Language Policies in Scandinavian Business

Guro Refsum Sanden, Anne Kankaanranta

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


    The present paper examines the language policies of three multinational corporations (MNCs) headquartered in Denmark and Finland. The case companies all use English as their common corporate language, however, these language policies are implemented without formal language policy decisions and explicit language policy statements. Based on interviews with 27 informants, company visits, field notes and document data, we review the companies’ covert language policies (Baldauf 2006; Schiffman 1996), which we refer to as non-formalised by drawing on international management literature, where formalisation of rules and procedures is seen as a type of corporate control that limits the room for individual decision-making among employees (Nobel & Birkinshaw 1998). We also examine the formation of the companies’ language policies, and issues of policy compliance and noncompliance in a quest to uncover the immediate and long-term consequences of non-formalised language policies in Scandinavian business. On the basis of our empirical findings we discuss how non-formalised, covert language policies are clearly distinct from formalised, overt language policies in terms of language policy format, language policy focus, language policy formation, language planning agency, and finally, management style. Given the many different roles and functions of language within multilingual workplaces, we suggest that multilingual organisations may find it more useful to develop diverse language policies, i.e. combining non-formalised and formalised language polices, rather than opting for one overarching language policy applicable to all forms of companyinternal language use.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2016
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    EventThe 6th International Conference on Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice. ALAPP 2016: Transnational Flows and Professional Practice - University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
    Duration: 3 Nov 20165 Nov 2016
    Conference number: 6


    ConferenceThe 6th International Conference on Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice. ALAPP 2016
    LocationUniversity of Copenhagen
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