“English is an unwritten rule here”: Non-formalised language policies in multinational corporations

Guro R. Sanden*, Anne Kankaanranta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)



The purpose of this paper is to examine the implications of corporate language policies that are implemented without formal decision-making processes.


A qualitative case study based on three Scandinavian multinational corporations which use English as a common corporate language without formal language policy decisions.


Non-formalised language policies are found to be clearly distinct from formalised language policies in terms of language policy format, language policy focus, language policy formation, language planning agency and management style. Non-formalised language policies can represent a type of informal control, but the absence of a policy document leaves employees without a common reference point which may cause confusion and inter-collegial conflict.


The study offers a nuanced perspective on the role of language policies in corporate communication by demonstrating that language policies may come in a variety of different forms, also as implicit assumptions about language use. Findings reveal benefits and drawbacks of the different language policy approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-566
JournalCorporate Communications
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Case studies
  • Corporate communications
  • Internal communications
  • Languages
  • Multinational companies


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