Language and power in Japanese transplants in Scotland

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Abstract

Previous research into Japanese owned and managed enterprises in western countries has been alert to problems in cross-cultural communication but there has been little research into the linguistic patterns accompanying these activities. This study of seven such plants in Scotland illustrates key features of the linguistic patterns evident in them. Forms of pidgin develop in co-operative working environments but unusually they are based on the language of the formal subordinates, local English speaking managers and workers. In contrast, and more in line with expectations from socio-linguistic theory, the local dialect is used as a device to promote local workforce solidarity against expatriate management. The former discrepancy between material and cultural power, which is not expected on the basis of Bourdieu's and related theories of cultural behaviour, is explained in terms of the differing career paths of Japanese and non-Japanese personnel, the marginal involvement of Japanese management in the local society and their reticence in asserting cultural power commensurate with their economic power. However, these lingusitic developments were local phenomena that did not challenge Japanese managerial control, both local and corporate, of decisions on development and investment. Hence, the opposition between cultural and material power may be permitted to persist because of these limited effects.

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