Language rationalization in the workplace

In progress
Project leaders:
Amado Alarcón
Amado Alarcón; Maria Martínez-Iglesias; Rafael Böcker; Blanca Deusdad; Iria Vázquez; Miguel Ángel Pradilla; Josiah McConnell Heyman
Proposed start date:
Proposed end date:

Funded by Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, Government of Spain

This project analyzes how language rationalization within business organizations shapes ethnic and gender relations. Language becomes a commodity and it is increasingly evaluated in economic terms. One notable aspect of globalization is the increasing importance of worker’s language skills and abilities. Language becomes a raw material in managerial programs. Decisions concern what language and what language properties and styles are essential to minimize transaction costs within the organization and to improve service quality and customer satisfaction. From a sociological approach, our main goal is to understand to what extent these processes of linguistic rationalization of work tend to reproduce social inequalities.

This project tries to:

  • Identify the different processes of linguistic rationalization aimed at increasing the efficiency of internal and external communication.
  • Observe how much rationalization involves linguistic registers linked to education and social class, national origin or styles culturally defined as male or female.
  • Understand how language reproduces inequalities based on national origin (prioritizing one or another variety of Castilian or English) and on gender (gender differences in language style).

The field work will be conducted through eight case studies in two different stages, trying to understand the commodification of language in industrial and services sectors. Chemical companies (industrial) and call centers(services) will be studied to analyze the process of linguistic rationalization.

First, two questions are addressed:

  1. How organizations choose between different natural languages.
  2. Standardization process of linguistic practices (in the internal and external communication in computer-mediated communication in the processes of formation, scripts in customer relationship and evidence of access to businesses).

Second, we will analyze to what extent these processes reproduce social inequality based on:

  • Social class and educational level
  • Gender language style
  • Linguistic variety according to national origin
logo_MINECO  Ref. FFI2012-33316