Bringing in insights from sociolinguistics, this conceptual paper advances the theorizing on language and identity in the MNC, viewed as socially constructed by individuals in interaction when they cross fluid linguistic and geographical boundaries. We posit that the identities of global business professionals in the MNC are not intrinsically tied to nationality and native language, they are rather cosmopolitan and constructed in interactions in English as the working language (BELF: English as a Business Lingua Franca). We further conceptualize the multilingual MNC as a social constellation – providing the context for processes of identity construction but also shaped by them. We outline three propositions that capture the ways in which BELF contributes to the construction of a cosmopolitan identity on three dimensions (individual, interactional and contextual) in multilingual professional MNC settings. The first one concerns the identification of individuals as participants in BELF interactions drawing from their different linguistic resources, national origins and professions, and previous experiences. The focus in the second one is on BELF interactions that manifest an orientation to both sharedness and difference in skills, knowledge and social relations. The third proposition concerns the MNC context in terms of enabling BELF interactions and being (re)constructed as a social constellation with fluid linguistic and geographical boundaries. We further elaborate on the methodological implications of sociolinguistic and cosmopolitan approaches to IM research on identity in general, and how our propositions could guide future research on language and identity in the MNC in particular.
- English as business lingua franca
- Multinational companies