Language, Policy and Power in a Transient Multilingual Workplace

Dorte Lønsmann, Janus Mortensen

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearch


    Many international workplaces today are characterized by frequent employee mobility and a large degree of project‐based work. This means that employees constantly find themselves in new teams and project groups. At the same time employees work with projects that transcend national and linguistic borders. In this paper we invoke the concept of ‘transient multilingual communities’ to capture the characteristics of such workplaces. In transient multilingual
    communities norms for language choice are less stable and more negotiable than in other settings. This entails continuous negotiation of norms for language choice and the social meaning associated with different ways of speaking.
    Our case is an international company in Denmark which has recently implemented a new language policy. The language policy focuses on the introduction of English as a corporate language and on the choice between Danish and English. We view this corporate language policy as one kind of norm negotiation. We want to look at the language policy from the
    perspective of language socialization, as a very explicit form of language socialization in a work setting. We are interested in linking language policy with company culture and ask: how is the corporate language policy used as a tool for language socialization to bring about cultural change in the company?
    From the perspective of ‘Language, power and politics at work’, our case also lends itself to an analysis of how corporate language policy as a kind of norm negotiation influences power and status relations in the workplace. The implementation of a corporate language policy includes powerful players in the corporate setting. We are interested in investigating how these
    players position themselves and others in the written material used to promote the new language policy. From this perspective we ask the following questions: Who benefits from the language policy? How does it influence power and status among employees?
    The data consists of ethnographic interviews with employees responsible for developing the language policy and of written materials from the case company. The data has been analysed using thematic coding and discourse analysis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2015
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    EventiMean4 Conference 2015: Language and Impact - University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom
    Duration: 9 Apr 201511 Apr 2015
    Conference number: 4


    ConferenceiMean4 Conference 2015
    LocationUniversity of Warwick
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address

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