Language diversity and the construction of social identities in multilingual organisations

Activity: Talk or presentationScience to science


The purpose of this paper is to discuss the links between identity constructions, language policies and underlying power relations in multilingual organisations. More specifically, this paper investigates which impact language policy-related decisions (i.e. language practices, implicit and explicit language policies) in organisations have on how managers and employees construct certain aspects of their social identity. The concept of social identity, stemming from social psychology, refers to perceived similarities and differences between groups of speakers; it also constitutes the basis for shared social action and comprises elements of the collective history of a social group (e.g. a group of speakers with the same linguistic background). Since languages are supposed to be identity-generating, they are of major concern in studies of multilingual organisations and the ongoing identity work carried out there. As the focus of this article is on diverse organisations (due to culturally and linguistically diverse staff, the geographical location, export- or global orientation), it aims to investigate the relationship of different languages within an organisation. Perceived imbalances in this relationship can provoke empowering or disempowering effects on speakers. Therefore, processes of social construction are central, first, because they often legitimize decisions in language policy (e.g. the choice of a certain corporate language), second, because they can be identity-generating and responsible for creating language awareness among employees. The chosen approach to language policy emphasises the highly neglected subjective perspective of multilingual employees and their perception of implemented linguistic measures. In this way, it tries to unveil potentially hidden structures of power that come along, for example, with the dominant use of one corporate language.
Period10 Oct 201312 Oct 2013
Event titleLanguaging Diversity International Conference
Event typeUnknown
Degree of RecognitionInternational

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 506009 Organisation theory
  • 602004 General linguistics
  • 602048 Sociolinguistics
  • 602042 Romance studies