Project – S. Barfod

Linguistic practices in informal workplace settings with focus on German, Norwegian and Swedish as regional languages


The point of departure for the LINGCORP group is that the increasing diversity in internationalized workplaces has implications both socially and linguistically. The present sub-project will inquire into the actual language use occurring in informal settings of multilingual workplaces, focusing on the social implications of these linguistic practices. This study will discern how these linguistic practices influence the work satisfaction of both local and non-local employees.

Until now, in informal settings of multilingual workplaces, language choices and use have been identified as one of the barriers to social interaction. However, these studies are mostly carried out as interviews with the employees and not as observations and video recordings of what is actually going on, linguistically and thereby socially. By undertaking such detailed observations, the project goes beyond the way language-users themselves describe their practice and its limitations. 

This project examines the interaction in informal settings between multilingual employees in a Danish company to see how the local language (Danish) is used in conjunction with the global language (English) and particularly, with the regional languages​(German, Swedish, and Norwegian). Thus, the project will contribute to the identification of a corporate culture and explore, on the basis of literature on language ideologies and language status, where, when and why different languages are used in informal contexts.

The project will take a bottom-up approach, investigating naturally occurring data in informal settings, i.e. lunch breaks, coffee breaks, before and after official meetings. As the study employs a bottom-up approach, the data will also guide the analysis of informal settings elsewhere in the company.

Sonja Barfod

Ph.D. Student, RUC

Research questions

• Which languages are being used in informal workplace settings?

• Why and when does language alternation take place (if it takes place)?

• How do the language resources of an employee affect his or her social integration in the workplace?

The project will also draw secondary data from two of the other sub-projects in the research group where focus group interviews are being conducted, in which employees are asked to discuss how language diversity is perceived in the company culture. The latter will unveil some of the societal and corporate ideologies concerning multilingualism, local language(s) vs. global language(s), etc. The analysis of the interviews will then be contrasted with the findings in the interactional data to see if and how these ideologies relate to actual language practices.