Linguistic globalisation or localisation? The practice of intercultural communication in multilingual spaces

11 Oct 2007

The paper represents a first attempt to apply Bourdieu?s theory of linguistic markets to the practice of intercultural communication within multilingual organisations. The background to the discussion is the extensive internationalisation of business and higher education, which over the past ten years has established English as an official corporate and teaching medium in Denmark. This has inspired a lively debate amongst intellectuals and politicians, who are concerned about the future balance between the national language of Danish and English as the global lingua franca. Yet few have addressed the topic from the perspective of individual language users, which is the motivation behind the current inquiry.

Drawing on data collected within Danish business and education organisations, I compare the trends towards a normalisation of standard British and American within the areas of linguistics, language education and business studies to the communicative behaviours encountered among non-professional users of English. The three practices of language clustering, localisation and dilute communication reveal intercultural communication to be a heavily localised activity, which suggests that language producers are ultimately responsible for the evaluation of linguistic performances. This calls into question the normative principles of language management and policy-making, asking whether indeed there is such a thing as 'global' English.

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