Papers & Workshops



  The Paradox of Normativity in Workplace Interactions


Associate Professor Shanta Nair-Venugopal

Department of English Language and literature Studies, Faculty of Language Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

It has been predicted (Graddol 1997), in the context of the globalised workplace, that the widespread use of English will exert pressure towards global uniformity yet result in a large number of local varieties of English and hybrids. This chapter examines such contradictory sociolinguistic tensions between the phenomenon of homogeneity and normativity on the one hand, and fragmentation and variability on the other, in workplace discourse by exploring the nexus of normativity and language choice and use in localised workplace operations in Malaysia business contexts. The proclaimed universality of English as the international language (EIL) of the globalised workplace is compared and contrasted with the particularity of localised workplace interactions. Specifically it examines the training sessions and seminar presentations of two large local business organisations since almost all institutional imperatives on training in large Malaysian business houses are in English as the normative language of such organisations. An ethnographic account of code and style choice demonstrates the ascendancy of speech forms and styles of Malaysian English (ME) as the localised variety, and other ways of speaking in these contexts. Localised speech variation in the situated discourse of these workplace settings contrasts with and challenges the normative view of language choice and modelling in such contexts. The structural and lexical parsimony of the variants of ME when taken together with its 'un-English' intonation patterns and stress-timed rhythm, points, not only to its versatility, but also to its communicative viability as an alternative to more standard variants of English in a non-native context of normative English language use.
  Presentation Format: 45 min. paper

RMIT, Melbourne, Australia

5-9 July 2000