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Keynote Abstracts

Name: Eero Vaara 

Title: From cultural differences to identity politics: A critical discursive perspective on culture and identity in and around multinational corporations


Cultural differences play an important role in organizations in general and multinational corporations (MNCs) in particular. However, organization research has traditionally not engaged with in-depth analysis of national identity and nationalism. This is especially the case with the construction and manipulation of difference in and around MNCs. Drawing on critical discourse analysis, the purpose of this paper is to offer three approaches that can help to advance this area of research. In the first approach, MNCs are seen as part of the cultural-institutional context, and the focus is on how these organizations cope with or react to broader issues of globalization or constructed national interest. In the second approach, the focus is on MNCs as organizations within which one can study various kinds of struggle and confrontation, including ‘us vs. them’ constructions or reproduction of inequality. In the third approach, MNCs are then seen agents of identity politics. They can for instance advance imperialism or postcolonialism or act to promote positive change.


Name: Jan Svennevig

Title: Preventing understanding problems in conversation


Summing up a decade of research, I will talk about how speakers may anticipate potential understanding problems their interlocutors may face and act to prevent them from occurring. In Conversation Analysis, such practices are referred to as preemptive repair. I start by addressing a methodological question: how can we study empirically a ‘potentiality’, that is, an orientation to something that has not manifested itself? I continue by presenting some examples of such practices as they occur in first language speakers’ talk addressed to second language speakers. One practice is redesigning a turn-in-progress so as to accommodate into it additional information that will help the interlocutor identify the referent of a potentially problematic referring expression. Another is adding a candidate answer to a question just posed, thereby clarifying the aim of the question. A third is to decompose a complex utterance into smaller chunks and to present them one at a time so that the interlocutor may provide evidence of understanding at every step of the complex action. I will conclude the talk by presenting an experimental study that investigated whether these preemptive practices actually help second language speakers to better understand potentially problematic utterances. The answer will only be revealed in the lecture.


Name: Leelo Keevallik

Title: Emergent syntax in the embodied world



Language is but one resource of sense-making and action formation. As interacting human beings we cannot merely rely on our earlier experiences of lexicon and grammar, because this abstracted knowledge does not in itself guarantee mutual understanding here and now. A more realistic view on the achievement of intersubjectivity is to be found in the complex interplay between the embodied language, body movements, and the material environment. In this paper I will use data from contexts where bodies are in focus, pilates and dance classes, to show how syntactic structure emerges step-by-step in teacher talk. It does so in response to the students’ moving bodies, while it simultaneously directs them through the partially known moves. While “living” in the students’ bodies with the fine-tuned prosody, the teacher times syntactic coordination, phrasal constructions and occasionally even morphological suffixes in relation to the ongoing physical exercise. Furthermore, structures that would be characterized as ungrammatical in textbooks are locally established as formula for synchronous compliance and make perfect sense for the participants in the specific activity context. In contrast to formal theories that consider grammar as a device of coherent expression of pre-planned propositions, this study argues that syntactic structure emerges as part of practical action across participants and modalities.


Name: Pia Quist

Title: Embodied styles: Conceptualizing the body in the sociolinguistic study of multiethnolects


Speakers’ ability to shift language style in and across interactional contexts has been a central concern in sociolinguistics since William Labov in the 1960s linked style-shift to attention. The more attention a speaker pays to speech, the more prestige forms and the more formal style a speaker will use (Labov 1972). This cognitively based model has been widely criticized for not including the role and effect of external, social factors, such as audience (hence theories of audience design, Bell 1984) and identity projection and presentation of personae (e.g. Le Page & Tabouret-Keller 1985 and Eckert 2001). During the latest two decades, the dominant view in sociolinguistics (not least the study of multilingualism in society), anchored in social constructivism, has been to understand style-shift as an effect of performative practices (e.g. Quist 2012). In Denmark, most clearly expressed by the theories of languaging (Jørgensen, 2010) and poly-languaging (Møller, 2010) in which speakers are seen as linguistic constructors who combine all linguistic means available “to achieve their communicative aims as best they can” (Jørgensen et.al 2011). In this talk, I compare the study of multietholects (Quist 2008, Quist & Svendsen 2015) with developments in the sociolinguistics of style. Following Sharma (2018), I will argue that the ‘performative turn’ in style analysis “risks loosing sight of cognitive effects and implicitly assuming equal control of variants in an individual’s repertoire” (Sharma 2018: 3). This, I will argue, is particularly a risk when we consider multiethnic urban speech styles. The epistemological status of such styles has been discussed (are they dialects, styles, slang etc.?; e.g. Madsen 2008, Svendsen & Quist 2010) and critique of using labels such as ethnolect and multiethnolect has been put forward (Jaspers 2007, Eckert 2008). Based on data from studies of multiethnolect/multiethnic youth styles in Copenhagen and Vollsmose in Odense, I will show that these discussions, by and large, stem from an inability to and a neglect of handling the variability among speakers, in particular in terms of understanding ‘embodied’ variability. Despite apparently similar linguistic backgrounds and life experiences, some speakers come across as eminent style-shifters who are able to control different features of grammar, phonology as well as lexicon, while others seem to struggle and be unable to change speech in different situations. In other words, the question that this talk will address is why some speakers style-shift (e.g. between multiethnic youth style and standard Danish) seamlessly in interaction and across situations, while for others, the multiethnic non-standard forms seem to have, in Sharma’s terms, cognitive primacy (Sharma 2018: 26) in such a way that notions like dialect or even vernacular (in Labov’s sense, 1972) appear more epistemologically appropriate? Thus, central in the talk will be a discussion of how we address as well as conceptualize style variability as ‘embodiment of styles’.

Name: Ylva Hård af Segerstad

Title: The DNA of Mobile Communication 



Mobile technology has an extensive and profound impact on individuals and society, changing the conditions for communication and interaction, and providing new, mobile arenas for information access and socialization. Despite the widespread use and importance of this type of communication in everyday life it is still relatively unexplored.
In the project The DNA of Mobile Communication we studied naturally occurring spoken and text-based mobile communication with a holistic approach, by collecting and analysing series of interactions and its components. Mobile phone calls, text messages, as well as missed calls, were all regarded as communication events which together constitute an ongoing, continuous communication process.
Focusing on an empirically based understanding of authentic, everyday mobile communication, the project also aimed to contributing to the development of methodologies for data collection and analysis of mobile communication. Using existing as well as tailor-made applications for data collection we built a corpus of natural mobile communication sequences. Both qualitative and quantitative analyses of the material were used to identify the mobile communication DNA from a number of different angles. We are developing a tool, called Polly, for visualising and analysing such data. Polly allows for visualising general communication patterns as well as for detailed scrutiny of communication sequences. For example, looking into how participants in a coordination phase (e.g. planning to meet up for coffee) describe their context in a communication sequence that consists of both text messages and voice calls.
Mobile technology is of far-reaching and major importance for both individuals and societies in our rapidly evolving communicative landscape, which calls for further studies and development, grounding technological issues in social science research.