Language use as a negotiated object for identity making
In a globalized business environment, interaction across linguistic boundaries is becoming a normal part of everyday life. In these encounters language differences may affect the formation of social identities among organization members. While studies based on Social Identity Theory perceive the link between identity and language to be linear, this article takes a different approach. By drawing on anthropological theories on ethnic identity it is argued that the relation between language and social identity is negotiated in interaction. In the empirical analysis the article focuses on the encounter between expatriates and local employees of a Danish subsidiary in England. The findings show that identity making may be actualized by competition for resources and recognition. This can be done by investing certain objects such as the symbolic application of language with certain identifications. It is finally argued that the processes by which identifications develop can cause both polarization and accommodation in the relation between groups and individuals.
International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 2008, Vol 8, Issue 3