Taikomoji kalbotyra, 17: 38–61 eISSN 2029-8935
https://www.journals.vu.lt/taikomojikalbotyra DOI: https://doi.org/10.15388/Taikalbot.2022.17.2
Mixed Speech Styles in Two Single-Gendered Occupational Groups: Identities in Interaction
Abstract. This paper qualitatively examines mixed speech styles within the context of two single-gendered white-collar Lithuania-based workplaces situated in Vilnius: an IT company and a company producing cosmetics (COSM). In Lithuanian contexts, mixed speech styles could be broadly defined as a flow of speech consisting of linguistic resources from languages other than Lithuanian (mainly English and Russian) incorporated into otherwise Lithuanian talk. The paper focuses on situated usage of mixed speech styles employed in talk at work. It aims to see how the linguistic enactment of mixed speech styles varies according to the working team and how such variation may influence the construction of participants’ complex identities. The research is based on naturally occurring recorded speech, and the method applied could be determined as ethnographically informed Interactional Sociolinguistics. The analysis shows that the two single-gendered communities of practice examined do not draw on the same non-native linguistic resources and that such dissimilar speaker choices and identity work can be predetermined by an intricate interplay of social and situational factors.
Key words: mixed speech, workplace discourse, identity construction, communities of practice
Mišrūs stiliai dviejose vienalytėse profesinėse grupėse: tapatybės raiška
Santrauka. Straipsnyje pristatomas mišrios kalbos lietuviškoje darbo aplinkoje tyrimas. Mišri kalba – toks kalbėjimo būdas, kai į pagrindinę – šiuo atveju lietuvių – kalbą įterpiama kitų kalbų elementų. Iš keturių tirtųjų darbo aplinkų šiam straipsniui pasirinktos dvi darbo aplinkos Vilniuje, kuriose dirba tik vyrai ir tik moterys. Pirmoji – informacinių technologijų įmonė, o antroji – kosmetiką gaminančios įmonės rinkodaros skyrius. Tyrimo dalyvių skaičius tiriamosiose grupėse, jų tautybė ir amžius yra panašūs. Tyrimu siekiama išsiaiškinti, kokiems pragmatiniams ir socialiniams tikslams pasiekti abiejų grupių kalbėtojai vartoja mišrią kalbą ir kaip mišrus stilius – papildomas kalbinis išteklius – prisideda prie kalbėtojų tapatybės raiškos. Tyrimas paremtas autentiškais natūralios kalbos darbe garso įrašais ir apie dalyvius ir tiriamąsias aplinkas surinkta informacija. Tyrimo medžiaga analizuota remiantis interakcijos sociolingvistikos metodu, kuris sujungia diskurso analizę su etnografinėmis įžvalgomis. Tyrimas parodė, kad mišrios kalbos skirtumai tarp grupių labiau išryškėja ne profesinėje (kur abi grupės panašiai viena į kitą vartoja angliškus savo specialybės terminus), bet santykių plotmėje. Būtent šiai funkcijai grupės kalbinius išteklius konstruoja skirtingai: vyrų grupės vartosenoje rasta ir angliškų, ir rusiškų elementų, o moterų grupės mišriame stiliuje kaip kitakilmiai ištekliai vartojami tik angliški elementai. Vyrų grupėje mišrus stilius vartojamas keikiantis, erzinant ir pravardžiuojant vienas kitą; moterų grupėje – plepant apie įžymybes, apkalbant kolegas, konfliktinėse situacijose. Vyrų grupės mišri kalba pasitarnauja bendradarbiaujant, palaikant vienas kitą, o moterų mišri kalba pasitelkiama užslėptai konfrontacijai, konkurencijai ir pasyviam agresyvumui reikšti. Šiuos formos ir socialinių reikšmių skirtumus tarp grupių nulemia įvairūs tarpusavyje susipynę situaciniai ir socialiniai parametrai.
Raktažodžiai: mišri kalba, darbo aplinkos diskursas, tapatybės konstravimas, veiklos bendruomenės
Copyright © 2022 Dalia Pinkevičienė. Published by Vilnius University Press.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence, which permits unrestricted use,
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Sociolinguists see multilingualism as an integral part of social reality. Despite monolingual norms officially adopted in Lithuania (Vaicekauskienė, Šepetys 2016), contextualized language use reveals that people often turn to speaking a mixed, hybrid variety of language, which can hardly be dissected as composed of two or three separate languages (Blommaert, Leppänen, Spotti 2012). Such linguistically diverse forms and styles can be seen as a supplemental linguistic resource, which enriches the linguistic repertoire of individual speakers and speaker groups (Blommaert, Rampton 2011). Multilingual everyday practices are increasingly observed throughout Europe (Weber, Horner 2012), and Lithuania is not an exception. Lithuanian sociolinguists have already carried out some studies on linguistically mixed speech and writing in such areas of human social activity as afterschool conversations among teenager peers and social media (Čekuolytė 2012; Vyšniauskienė 2014; Vaicekauskienė, Vyšniauskienė 2019), while workplaces, the environment where adult speakers spend a large part of their lives, remain under-researched, possibly due to the fact that gaining access to observation of occupational settings is highly problematic.
This paper qualitatively examines mixed speech styles within the context of two single-gendered white-collar Lithuania-based workplaces situated in Vilnius – an IT company and a company producing cosmetics (for the sake of brevity, further on called COSM). Such working groups form relatively enclosed environments (communities of practice) where mixed speech is one of the elements of their shared repertoire used mainly in Goffmanian backstage encounters between community members (Goffman 1959; Koester 2010; Angouri, Marra 2011). Mixed speech, also termed as “multilingualism from below” (Pennycook 2014: 164), or “metrolinguistic practices of the workplace” (Otsuji, Pennycook 2014: 18), contributes to the in-group norms and conventions (Otsuji, Pennycook 2014). In Lithuanian contexts, mixed styles could be broadly defined as a flow of speech consisting of linguistic resources from languages other than Lithuanian (mainly English and Russian) incorporated into otherwise Lithuanian talk (Vaicekauskienė, Vyšniauskienė 2019).
Due to historical and political reasons, English and Russian are two main non-native linguistic resources in present-day (ex-Soviet) Lithuania. Most of the population is bilingual, i.e., they speak Lithuanian as their native language, as well as Russian, English, or both (Ramonienė 2020; Vaicekauskienė, in press). However, English and Russian are distributed quite unevenly between social groups. English, being the language associated with economic success and education, is mainly used by fairly well-off city dwellers up to their mid-forties at the time of writing of this paper, while Russian is spoken mainly by people currently over forty, senior speakers having the highest proficiency in Russian, younger ones showing decreased fluency in the language. “The age line up to which a higher command of English is expected, can be set at mid-forties in 2021” (Vaicekauskienė, in press). The command and use of Russian does not show social or economic correlation (Vaicekauskienė 2010). It is assumed that, generally speaking, the use of English is related to the country’s orientation towards progressive Western (and global) values, whereas the use of Russian has lower prestige and associates with the Soviet times as well as with the post-soviet bloc (Vaicekauskienė, Vyšniauskienė 2019). Yet it has to be noted that this generational shift from Russian to English has been quite slow and not radical as Russian remains a useful communicative tool for local and inter-regional communication, as well as a resource for informal interactions that draw on speech mixing (Vaicekauskienė, in press).
These associations with different languages and contextual features in Lithuania create a significant source for certain speaker styles, mixed ones as well, which can serve as conversational strategies to construct and negotiate identities in interaction (Gafaranga 2007 among others). The present study sees language production as socially meaningful and speakers as active agents who make their linguistic choices and thus (not necessarily consciously) display, construct and negotiate who they are in everyday life (Coulmas 2005; De Fina 2010; Eckert, Labov 2017 among others).
The study stems from the previous research on identity work through the choice of mixed speech in Lithuania and is based on the presupposition that adult speakers at work, similarly to teenagers and people on the social media, might be using mixed speech as an additional linguistic resource for identity construction. The questions raised in the study are as follows: (1) What does mixed speech (a word, a phrase, or a whole mixed style) do and pragmatically achieve in conversation?; and (2) What does mixed speech index or signify at contextual and social levels? Thus, the paper focuses on situated usage of mixed speech styles employed in talk at work. It aims to see how the linguistic enactment of mixed speech styles varies according to the working team and how such variation may influence the construction of participants’ complex identities.
The research takes a socio-functional perspective and draws on naturally occurring recorded speech in real workplace activities, supplemented with ethnographic data. The applied method combines ethnographic approaches with discourse analysis and could be determined as ethnographically informed Interactional Sociolinguistics (see section 3). The paper examines workplaces through the lens of communities of practice, taking into account both professional and relational aspects of workplace communication.
The data for this paper are part of a larger on-going project exploring social meanings of mixed speech in four white-collar workplace settings in Vilnius (all in all, about 80 hours of recorded natural speech). For the sake of greater variety, the subsample of two datasets chosen for this paper (more than 20 hours per each dataset) consists of an all-male working group (#IT) and an all-female working group (#COSM). In terms of group size, age and ethnicity, the two communities of practice are similar to each other; nevertheless, occupations and power relationships in the two groups are different, which leads to a greater diversity of situational contexts.
2. Theoretical background
In what follows, two background issues are covered: the concept of communities of practice and the social-constructionist approach to identity. As gender and professional identity are the most salient features of the two communities of practice chosen for analysis, these particular social factors are given closer attention.
2.1. Working groups as communities of practice
The framework of communities of practice (CofPs) has been widely deployed in sociolinguistics in general and has proved very valuable in examining work groups and their discourse practices in particular (e.g., Holmes, Stubbe 2003; Stubbe et al. 2003; Holmes 2006; Schnurr 2009; Angouri, Marra 2011; Mullany, Yoong 2017). A CofP is defined “as an aggregate of people who come together around mutual engagement in an endeavor” (Eckert, McConnel-Ginet (1992: 464) as cited in Holmes 2006: 13; see also Wenger 1998). Through regular social interaction, community members develop their own ways of doing things, ways of talking, their own beliefs, and values. Thus, the three main features to consider when speaking of a group of people as a CofP are as follows: (1) mutual engagement; (2) a joint enterprise; (3) a shared repertoire (Wenger 1998).
As for mutual engagement, the key word here is mutual, i.e., members of a CofP interact with one another establishing norms and relationships of mutuality; they seek to engage with the community and be trusted as partners. Through such interactions, they get to know each other well and learn how to cooperate productively and address problems together. Mutual engagement over time generates the sense of belonging, the sense that everyone’s contributions will be reciprocated in some way (Wenger 2000: 229–230).
The notion of a joint enterprise stands for the collectively developed understanding of what the community is about, what the shared objectives or the purpose of a particular group are. It has to do with a negotiated initiative of the group aimed at the achievement of the chosen purpose and involves the joint effort that is being put in to pursue the aim (Wenger 2000; Schnurr 2009). As any workplace is goal-oriented and aims at getting certain work done, workplace communities could presumably be considered perfect examples of CofPs.
The third feature, a shared repertoire of a CofP, includes communal resources, linguistic and non-linguistic ones, that members of a CofP develop through long-term interaction. These are “language, routines, sensibilities, artifacts, tools, stories, styles, etc.” (Wenger 2000: 229). To contribute to the activity of the group is to have access to this repertoire and be able to use it appropriately. For example, if language by someone in the group is used in a normative (acceptable and expected) way, it may serve as a signal that the person is a member of the in-group; if not, the person might be excluded from a discussion or activity. Inclusion (or exclusion) from a CofP can be signalled by, for instance, in-group humour, nicknames, group-coined phrases, inside stories and shared jokes (King 2014). Certain mixed speech styles may function similarly. Hence, the framework of CofPs is a way to theorize group membership and identity.
However applicable to workplace contexts the framework of CofPs might seem, a researcher cannot safely presume that every working group actually constitutes a CofP with its own set of localized practices developed through mutual engagement. The verification whether an aggregate of people is really functioning as a CofP is needed. Otherwise, a great deal of interpretation in discourse analysis can depend on the notion that people in a group somehow share localized language practices (King 2014), which is not always the case.
Thus, how can we verify empirically whether a given group of people working together is indeed a CofP? How can we measure that the criterial characteristics of a CofP (i.e., mutual engagement, a joint enterprise, and a shared repertoire) are in fact present? As in most cases the researcher cannot observe how a shared linguistic repertoire of a group evolves over time, Wenger (1998) provides a list of specific qualities which represent the three criteria in practice and can be seen synchronically. Some of these are:
• sustained mutual relationships;
• shared ways of engaging in doing things together;
• the rapid flow of information;
• absence of introductory preambles, as if conversations and interactions were merely the continuation of an ongoing process;
• very quick setup of a problem to be discussed;
• knowing what others know, what they can do, and how they can contribute to an enterprise;
• local lore, shared stories, inside jokes, knowing laughter;
• jargon and shortcuts to communication as well as the ease of producing new ones;
• certain styles recognized as displaying membership;
• a shared discourse (Wenger 1998: 130–131).
These might be the ways to verify the status of observed practices, and the need for such verification shows that ethnographically informed empirical investigation and analysis are still required. The framework of CofPs by itself does not do the explaining of what is actually happening in a certain workplace context; only empirical analysis does.
2.2. Identities as social practice
In contemporary sociolinguistics, identities – images of ourselves and others – are no longer seen as fixed and static sets of categories characteristic of a person or a group. From the social-constructionist perspective, which is dominant in current research, identities are viewed as dynamic, fluid and enacted in interaction, as opposed to something that pre-exists as a pre-given quality. Although individual intentions of speakers do matter (it is still them who decides on what to say and how to say it), social meanings are believed to be built and negotiated in social (and linguistic) practices. This means that identities are created in language use, emerge in conversation, and are co-constructed by the participants (Antaki, Widdicombe 2008; De Fina 2010; Motschenbacher 2016; Mullany, Yoong 2017). Therefore, identities emerging in speech are often fragmented, ephemeral and never representing individuals in their full complexity; this is precisely why we now speak of identities (of a person) in the plural, meaning that self-presentations by the same individual might be multiple and sometimes controversial.
Since we cannot grasp identities in abstraction from concrete social interaction and practices, to analyse talk in interaction as it occurs in natural speech has become very important. Theoretical insights and instruments to analyse social practices have been developed. These are notions of indexicality and style.
Identities seldom happen to be explicitly discussed in conversation. More often they are conveyed through signs (in linguistic analysis these are linguistic signs), or indices, such as words, utterances, accents, and styles (De Fina 2010: 215). Linguistic signs can serve as indices of identity only if they become associated with certain values, attributes, social roles, or groups of people, and this can only happen through a repetitive use of a particular sign in association with certain social meaning so that it becomes recognizable as carrying such identity-indexing potential (Motschenbacher 2016). Thus, the notion of indexicality relates linguistic signs with social meanings (which implies that indexicality is conventional), and yet it has to be taken into account that this relation is highly contextually sensitive (which means that at the same time it is situationally achieved) (Coupland 2002). Moreover, this relation is always prone to change. People continuously create new styles, and old styles acquire new meanings. Those new meanings are referred to as higher steps in indexical order.
Mixed speech styles are a potential additional resource (or an index) for identity displays (De Fina 2010: 217). It is believed that instead of stable languages and collections of separate languages, people throughout the course of their life trajectories acquire fragmented (or “truncated”) repertoires of heterogeneous linguistic features that can be seen “as complexes of specific semiotic resources, some of which belong to a conventionally defined ‘language’, while others belong to another ‘language’” (Blommaert 2010: 102). Here even such a basic concept as ‘language’ is problematized: languages are treated as socio-politically rather than linguistically defined units as it is believed that such new understanding of multilingual practices captures the elusive reality better. In workplaces, individual linguistic repertoires of co-workers come together and get related to their activities and the physical surroundings of the location. In this way, linguistic resources, activities, and the place are bound together “from below” and construct identities of the group and specific personas within the group (Pennycook, Otsuji 2014).
From the social-constructionist perspective, macro-societal correlations (gender, class, age, ethnicity, geographic region, status and occupation) are not in themselves indications of identities; however, they do indicate a probability that such meaning is at work at the local level (Coupland 2007: 132; Eckert and Labov 2017: 470). Identities are discursively enacted and performed through linguistic behaviour of people as they go about their daily activities, meaning that linguistic behaviour can be interpreted only in specific discourse contexts (specific communities of practice) in which it occurs (Eckert, McConnell-Ginet 2003; Holmes 2006; Baxter 2015). This means that in the interpretation of social meanings more context-sensitivity is needed.
On the other hand, the notion of indexicality presupposes that there are certain speaking styles that have become recognizable signs of certain social categories through regular association with those categories. For example, if certain speaking styles become regularly associated with men, they may be decoded as indexing masculinity. Moreover, those associations between language and, for example, gender, seldom happen to be direct. For instance, Ochs (1993) suggests that “few features of language directly and exclusively index gender” (Ochs 1993: 340). Ochs argues that linguistic features index more than one dimension of sociocultural context: social identities (e.g., gender) are linked to social activities (e.g., gossiping), stances (e.g., authoritative, consultative, hesitant, assertive) and acts (e.g., tag questions may index a stance of uncertainty as well as the act of requesting confirmation; these two contextual features in turn, if they are culturally associated with gender, may help constitute gender identity in certain communities (Ochs 1993: 335)). Similarly, there are certain speaking styles which have become signs of leadership (Mullany, Yoong 2017: 461). Depending on linguistic features employed, those styles can be seen as linked to particular stances (e.g., authoritative or consultative) and activities (e.g., achieving set goals, giving directives or reinforcing solidarity) which, in turn, can be associated with leadership and, possibly, with femininity or masculinity (Schnurr 2009; Mullany, Yoong 2017: 461) as gender is always potentially relevant in every social interaction (Holmes 2006).
Thus, to be able to interpret the signs of what is going on in a conversation, we need to have some understanding of, as Van Herk formulates it, gender-associated (social class-associated or status-associated) features of language that are culture-bound. After all, who, men or women, in the Western English-speaking world, are “more likely to say cute? Or Oh my God? Fabulous? To compliment others? To swear?” (Van Herk 2018: 97). Such cultural expectations do not necessarily have to be factually enacted in language use, but they set out “the range of possibility within which we place ourselves and assess others” (Eckert, McConnell-Ginet 2003: 87).
In the present study, Janet Holmes’s influential book Gendered Talk at Work (2006) is quite frequently used as a reference for gender-specific language features, acts, activities, and stances. It is because the book draws on the substantial corpus of naturally occurring workplace talk that was collected by the Language in the Workplace Project (LWP)1, a long-term study from various workplaces in New Zealand (offices and factories). The book provides pragmatically useful insights and is rich with real talk illustrations. What could be considered a limiting factor, though, is that gender performances in the book are frequently assessed against taken for granted gender norms that are labelled as normatively ‘feminine’ and normatively ‘masculine’, such as, for example, beliefs that women are more likely to use language to build rapport, while men are more likely to use language to communicate factual information (a report style); or that, as leaders, women are cooperative, while men are commanding. At the same time, Holmes’s book distances itself from such polarized “men do this; women do this” gender-binarism and over-generalizations by challenging them with the insights from the real workplace data, thus providing the reader with more nuanced and context-bound interpretations. Such insights, the scope and empirical value of the book make it a valuable point of reference for similar analyses.
To sum up, identities emerge in conversation, and speakers are seen as active doers and choosers. The choice, however, is not completely free; constraints at work occur at multiple levels: apart from inner norms of communities of practice, there are norms springing from the workplace culture of the organization and wider societal expectations regarding how men and women should speak at work (Mullany and Yoong 2017). Aspects of social life, such as occupation, gender, formality, ethnicity, class, leadership mix with each other (Van Herk 2018). According to Van Herk, “gender and other aspects of identity are so heavily implicated in each other. What (people think) it means to be a communist or a parent or a guitarist is different for women and men, and (people think) being a woman or a man involves different amounts or types of communism and parenting and guitar playing” (2018: 108). Social identities intersect and become multidimensional (or hybridised). Different components of multidimensional social identities are enacted in interaction via a range of speaker stances indexed by linguistic features depending on the goal and context of interaction, resulting in a nuanced, dynamic, and intricate interplay between speaker identities.
3. Data and method
The study draws on naturally occurring spoken data which was voice recorded in two white-collar workplace settings in Vilnius: an IT company producing teaching and learning materials for schools (further referred to as #IT) and a marketing department of a company producing cosmetics (#COSM). The amount of data collected per each dataset equals to 28 and 22 hours, respectively. Informed consent for participation in the study was secured prior to the recording, and the participants did not know that their mixed speech would be studied. The recordings were collected as unobtrusively as possible over a period of two to several months. During this time, people increasingly ignored being recorded; there are comments in the recordings showing that they had completely forgotten about the recording equipment. Besides, they did not know on which day and at which time the recorder would be turned on by the main volunteer. The recordings have been supplemented with ethnographic data of various kinds including pre-recording briefings, informal contacts with participants, follow-up unstructured interviews, biographical data of the participants and contextual notes provided by the key volunteers at the time of recording.
The lists of participants in #IT and #COSM workplace groups are provided in Tables 1 and 2 below. It can be seen that apart from gender and occupation, the groups are rather similar in age, ethnicity and the group size.
Table 1. Participants in the all-male group (#IT)
Code and pseudonym
Years with the company
English, basic Russian
Polish and Lithuanian
2 (an informal leader)
Table 2. Participants in the all-female group (#COSM)
Code and pseudonym
Years with the company
English, fluent Russian
8 (a shareholder)
English, very basic Russian
(an apprentice secretary)
In the IT team, all participants are, in principle, equal in employee status, while the #COSM group is more hierarchical (Donalda is one of the owners of the company). Besides, all men in the #IT team have been working for the company since its establishment two years before the recording, and they form a close-knit and constantly collaborating community of practice. As for the #COSM group, two participants (Gytautė and Felicija) are newcomers, Guostė joined the company two years before the recording, and only Donalda (the shareholder) has been working there for eight years since the very start of the company. Hence, the #COSM CofP’s routines and shared repertoires, especially the ones concerning the usage of mixed speech, might be not quite settled yet.
Following the frameworks of interactional sociolinguistics and discourse analysis, after the recordings were collected, the stretches of talk containing elements of other languages (mixed speech) were later selectively transcribed and coded according to certain sociopragmatic parameters of workplace communication2. The transcripts were qualitatively analysed in parallel with the recordings, paying attention to the prosodic3 and paralinguistic features (laughter and intonation) of talk and applying the ethnographic knowledge about the contextual situation. This kind of discourse microanalysis (Interactional Sociolinguistics perspective) aims at discovering recurrent form-context relationship patterns, which might lead to the “situated interpretation of communicative intent” (Gumperz 2001: 223), or the social meaning, of linguistic forms. These meanings are implied, rather than directly suggested, and to work out what is meant, the analyst needs to make assumptions based on the contextual cues, their past experience, and knowledge of the world. The initial hypothetical inferences are later on studied comparatively across the data, confirmed, disconfirmed or reformulated. The confirmed hypotheses can yield more general hypotheses. Bridging back from data analysis to retrospective comments of the participants and scientific literature by other authors is also a necessary part of this approach (cf. Rampton 2010).
It is not always possible to assess how much mixed speech contributes to the meaning (the aim, function or activity) of the discourse episode. In some cases, when an insertion stands out of the flow of discourse4, this particular switch becomes locally significant (cf. Auer 1999); in other cases, however, when mixed speech functions as an unmarked normative way of speaking of the group (Otsuji, Pennycook 2014), its relevance to the activity or aim has been taken for granted: once it is employed in some particular context, it is assumed to contribute to the overall meaning of the episode.
Transcription conventions are provided at the end of the text. Not adapted elements of English and Russian are provided in the conventional spelling. Morphologically or/and phonetically adapted ones are written down as they sound in Lithuanian.
4. Data analysis. Features and functions of mixed speech in the two single-gendered professional groups
In this chapter, drawing on the recorded data, the usage of mixed speech in single-gendered #IT and #COSM groups is illustrated with chosen representative examples, starting with the contexts dominated by professional, task-oriented discourse that is characteristic of any workplace (4.1.). This is where mixed speech can be seen as an overall mixed stylistic strategy of the group. The relational aspects of participants’ communication (often termed ‘small talk’ or ‘social talk’) become more prominent in the subsequent part of the chapter (4.2.). Small talk, i.e., any non-task and non-work-related talk, is considered an integral part of workplace discourse (Koester 2010).
4.1. Professional dimension: mixed in-group styles
The distinction between professional and relational dimensions at work is far from being clear-cut. Fully task-related interactions or fully talk-related interactions do happen, but most of the time the work talk and small talk overlap and melt into workplace discourse comprised of work talk and small talk at the same time (cf. Di Ferrante 2013: 137). Even if the extract might seem fully related to work, as in the examples below, some relational aspects might “leak into” the otherwise fully work-related episode.
4.1.1. Mixed speech style in task-related discourse of the all-male group (#IT)
Typical work-related stretches of discourse in the #IT group comprise a mixed speech style consisting of the main Lithuanian language interspersed with numerous English IT terms and strong swear words of Russian origin. The former are mainly nouns that are morphologically modified and obey the rules of otherwise Lithuanian sentence structure. The latter are internalized linguistic resources for Lithuanians, mainly associated with strong swearing, rather than the Russian language. Therefore, ascribing swear words of Russian origin, commonly used by Lithuanians as strong swearing, to Russian insertions might seem debatable. Whichever way we choose to treat them, they constitute a salient resource in creating the interwoven flow of the #IT in-group mixed style as such and add a certain flavour to it. The following example (Excerpt 1) illustrates this type of usage. Excerpt 1 is a section from a much longer work-related sequence.
(1) Context: The men work with haste; they are expecting a client (Natalija) to come to see what their final product (a textbook) looks like.
(1) M3: bet čia tas ekscerptas yra (.) vordpreso funkcija
<EN: but here this excerpt is a function of WordPress >
(2) M2: reikia pagalvot kaip geriau nes kai baigiasi vidury sakinio šita ištrauka irgi bibys ne?
< EN: let’s think it over cause when this excerpt ends in the middle of a sentence it’s a shit uh? >
(3) M3: visiškas BIBYS
<EN: a complete shit >
(4) M1: nežinau gal galima (.) paragraph (.) paragraph n (.)
<EN: don’t know perhaps we can (.) paragraph (.) paragraph n (.) >
(5) M2: [bliat’ xxxx] jisai gali (.)programiškai (chuckles)
<EN: (SwRU) he can (.) programmically >
(6) M1: (chuckles) reik sakyt ne programiškai o kaip tu vordpresiškai apibrėši (invents a new word, all laugh)
<EN: not programmatically but to define wordpressically >
(7) M3: nachui išmest tą vordpresą ir suprogramuoti
<EN: (SwRU) let’s get rid of that wordpress and programme it ourselves >
(8) M1: bliat’ čia toks lengvas gaunasi saitas (with satisfaction) <...> čia kažkoks bibys buvo sugalvotas jis ir karpo viską xxx matai (.) pabandom pažiūrėt mozaikoj (.) Natalijai reiks duot išsirinkt
<EN: (SwRU) quite an attractive site it is here <...> some kind of prick was invented here and it’s now cutting everything xxx see (.) let’s try it in mosaic (.) Natalija will have to choose >
(9) M3: šūdas tas ekscerptas bliat’ chuinia kažkokia
<EN: a shit this excerpt (two SwRU) >
(10) M1: gal zajabys’ bus šita naujausia knyga (.)
<EN: it will be a fucking good (SwRU) book this newest one >
In Extract 1, it can be seen that language here is very dissimilar from an ordinary, not related to work, conversation. It is extremely fragmented and disjoint. The participants are in a hurry and are concentrated upon the action and the desired result. They know what they are talking about and see some text and images that they are working upon on their computer screens, hence the prolific deixis (here, this, that; see turns 1, 2, 7 and 8, underlined). To work quickly and effectively, they have to constantly consult each other and take decisions together. This is a close-knit collaborative CofP, the members of which are of similar hierarchical level. This can be seen in friendly teasing (turn 5) and joking (turn 6), both of which are indicated by laughter and chuckles.
Because of the intensive use of swear words, initially it might seem that the conversation involves frustration or stress. In fact, swearing and vulgar words in this community of practice are the norm. Swear words here are ritualized and semantically bleached (cf. Hasund, Drange, Stenström 2014). They very seldom serve to express irritation or to vent anger and can be ascribed to positive social swearing (cf. Nelson 2014), which is intended to build collegiality and solidarity, especially in male groups (cf. an exchange between male factory production members in Holmes 2006: 142). The #IT men working together seem to get along fairly well; even the slightly ironic teasing produced by Vladislovas (M2) about Saulenis’ (M1) abilities (turn 5), which is intensified by a Russian swear word, serves as bonding rather than biting (cf. Schnurr 2009). The speaker’s tone of voice and laughter together with the addressee’s jocular reaction (turn 6) evidence that.
Alongside Russian swearing, professional English IT jargon is constantly used in #IT. No doubt English professional terms are convenient and efficient to use, but they also display participants’ knowledge and expertise (cf. Vaicekauskienė 2020). Actually, the mixed speech style described in Extract 1 is very typical of this CofP and emerges as the #IT workplace norm, an unmarked mixed way of speaking indexing the right to claim this all-male professional group membership.
As will be seen further in the text (in 4.2.1), apart from English IT terms and Russian swearing, inserted phrases of English and Russian of more general nature can be occasionally found in the #IT workplace discourse. These might be deemed to be codeswitching (cf. Auer 1999), or language choices that are marked and intended to serve a particular function.
4.1.2. Mixed speech style in task-related discourse of the all-female group (#COSM)
The unmarked mixed speech style in the all-female #COSM group is characteristically devoted to work and consists of Lithuanian discourse interspersed with morphologically modified English marketing and advertising terms alongside with English names for beauty products. Russian is not used at all, let alone Russian swearing, which, as an index of informality, would be hardly acceptable in a group of educated women professionals hierarchically different in power. Besides, swearing in Russian in Lithuania is associated with the construction of masculine identity and rudeness (cf. Čekuolytė 2017) and women tend to dissociate from it.
In fact, the employees of this marketing department seldom talk about anything besides work, which is quite surprising as according to workplace researchers (cf. Holmes 2006: 11; Holmes, Schnurr 2006), more frequent small talk and social talk usually are expected in feminine, rather than masculine, workplaces. The absence of small talk in #COSM might be influenced by the hierarchical differences between the participants (as mentioned before, Donalda is a shareholder of the company). The presence of Donalda might have a certain intimidating effect on other participants (this was mentioned by one of them in a post-recording interview) and thus might result in more controlled language. The asymmetry in power, partially at least, could also be the reason why no Russian insertions, nor even slang, were found in #COSM discourse. A typical example of such unmarked mixed style is presented in Excerpt 2.
(2) Context: Guostė (F2) and Donalda (F1) are discussing a new marketing strategy. The discussion extends over some time, and just the key stages are provided below.
(1) F2: nes pavyzdžiui antieidžo tas beksteidžo klipas yra vienintelis tas kuris gerai buvo neišsitransliavęs <...> antieidžo buvo naudojama internetas ir spauda tuos prerolus5 darė nu bet prerolai nėra xxx nu tai va↓ <...> tai aš palaikau labai šitą pasiūlymą nes pati bryfe parašiau
<EN: for instance this antiage backstage film clip is the only one that wasn’t run to the full <...> for antiage the internet was used and the press showed those pre-rolls but pre-rolls they are not xxx so↓ <...> i am very much for this idea because i wrote it myself in the brief >
(2) F1: ir visas biudžetas sueina?
<EN: does it keep within the budget?>
(3) F2: jo biudžetas sueina ir nieko daugiau mes nedarom (.) tada vasario pabaigoj iššauna (name of product) BB6 (pronounces in Lithuanian way) <...> dėl ryčo7 tai pažiūrės pagal visus kriterijus kaip sudėliot <...> mes targetinsim į tuos moteriškus internetus visokius kad tiesiog įeit <...> kai neturi to biudžeto užvaryti su baneriais8
<EN: yes it keeps within the budget and we don’t need to do anything else (.) then at the end of February BB is launched <...> as for the reach they will take into account all criteria <...> we are going to target those women’s internet sites just to get in <...> with limited budget a lot of banners might be needed>
(4) F1: OK↓
(5) F2: taip labai tikslingai (.) neišsitaškant <...> tai žinai dėl mūsų pačių vidinės tvarkos dabar paprastint kampaniją
<EN: it’s target-oriented (.) not too much expense <...> just because of our inner rules to make the marketing campaign less intensive>
(6) F1: čia ne dėl tvarkos čia dėl cash floų žinai pagrinde visokių (.)
<EN: it’s not the rules it’s mainly the cash flows you know>
(7) F2: nu tai va tai aš dar pagal sąskaitų dydį tau summary atsiųsiu kaip ten su tom sumom
<EN: so i will send you a summary according to bills to pay as for the whole sum>
(8) F1: va pavyzdžiui į ketvirtį turim cash penkiasdešimt tūkstančių eurų <...> tavo tas svyravimas vis tiek gali būti bet jei tu sueisi į tuos penkiasdešimt tūkstančių <...> didžiosios išlaidos vis tiek yra media pagal bryfus atsidarius ten tą ką tu man rodei <...>
<EN: for example if we have cash fifty thousand euro per quarter <...> the fluctuation is ok if you manage not to exceed those fifty thousand <...> the biggest expenses anyway are the media according to the briefs that you showed to me <...>>
In Excerpt 2, Guostė (F2) is presenting to Donalda (F1) a new marketing strategy and the action plan for certain beauty products. Guostė created the strategy herself, and it is of great importance to her personally to get Donalda’s approval and permission concerning the planned expenses. Guostė tries to sound as persuasive and knowledgeable as possible. Her lengthy monologue (turns 1, 3 and 5) is saturated with numerous English marketing terms and some English names for beauty products. In the given situation, those insertions index Guostė’s professionalism and competence. Donalda keeps listening attentively providing only short responses or questions (turns 2 and 4) and only at the end of the episode (turns 6 and 8) she starts “mirroring” (cf. Zenner, Van de Mieroop 2017) Guostė’s mixed speech style by inserting several English nouns in acceptance to her proposal. Such “mirroring” strategy, according to Zenner, Van de Mieroop (ibid.), can serve as an indicator of a common group code or norm. It has to be noted, however, that in general Donalda is quite reluctant to turn to mixed speech forms in her language as she prefers to speak standard Lithuanian with the employees. On the contrary, Guostė characteristically uses plentiful English insertions in her talk. It can be observed that Donalda most of the time accommodates to the interlocutor’s (Guostė’s) mixed speech style. Whether this is an emergent or an already settled mixed group style remains unclear.
To sum up, the explanation for the absence of Russian, which in other contexts often serves as a signal of informality and solidarity, could be that the hierarchical differences in power together with the lack of time working together (some of the participants even do not know each other well) contribute to the more controlled style in which Russian insertions are not desirable. The reasoning that the younger members of #COSM – Guostė and Felicija – simply do not know Russian enough to be able to use it (see the information about participants in Table 2) seems to be faulty as it is known from what Guostė said in a post-recording interview that outside the #COSM group, in the communication with other departments of the company, at least two specific Russian insertions (v pechku and kakoi to pazor9) are used by many and that she uses them herself when it is appropriate (but never in #COSM). This supplemental information strengthens the assumption that the presence of Donalda, a shareholder, makes the communication in the #COSM group highly asymmetrical in power and restricts the group’s access to certain linguistic resources that are used by the rest of the company. On the other hand, in the Lithuanian society, English, in contrast to Russian, has gained overt prestige. Incoming higher-prestige speech forms in scientific literature (Labov 1974, 1990 as cited in Van Herk 2018: 105) are said to be preferred by women rather than men; hence, in this particular context of the all-female group, the choice of English over Russian can be also associated with femininity. More empirical research is needed to find out whether this localized all-female group norm can be generalized in other contexts.
The lengthy extracts (1 and 2) of typical in-group mixed styles presented here were deliberately not shortened much to better illustrate the flow of discourse as an overall mixed stylistic strategy employed by the two groups on a daily basis. The following sub-chapter focuses on the applications of mixed speech in various workplace genres, or activities, typical of each of the two single-gendered groups.
4.2. Relational dimension: mixed speech in workplace activities
This chapter concentrates on exemplifying ways in which mixed speech is employed in various workplace activities that contribute not only to the work that needs to be done but also to the relational aspects between the members of each of the two groups. Following Ochs’ (1993) framework (see 2.2.), it is assumed that identities are constructed and co-constructed not directly but through the activities in practice. Most of these examples contain switches to another code that are discourse-related and therefore locally significant.
4.2.1. Mixed speech for relational purposes in the all-male group (#IT)
In the discussions of the data below, four extracts of discourse containing mixed speech in the #IT group are presented. They illustrate the following characteristic activities of the group: jocular teasing, supportive humour, mixed speech as a mobilizing strategy, and conflictual humour.
Jocular teasing (Excerpt 3)
Apart from swearing that serves to represent a typically masculine style (cf. Van Herk 2018: 109) and (most of the time) indicates solidarity with the group members, the #IT group often turns to another speaking strategy – playful teasing, or joshing. In the studies of language in interaction such strategies are often considered masculinist (cf. Holmes 2006; Schnurr 2009). This can be seen in Excerpt 3. (In Excerpt 1, too, instances of playful teasing and joking “leaked into” the otherwise work-related discourse.)
(3) Context: Deimantas (M4) is adjusting the background colour.
(1) M4: nepagaunu kampo (.) bliat’ su pipete dar reik pakartot
<EN: no idea (.) (SwRU) I’ll repeat it with a (colour) dropper>
(2) M2: [su pipete]
<EN: [with a dropper] >
(3) M4: ne visi konverteriai vienodai konvertuoja
<EN: not all converters convert in the same way >
(4) M3: nusišneki (.) kaip gali bliat’ tris skaičius sukonvertuoti į KITAIP?
<EN: nonsense (.) how can (SwRU) three digits get converted DIFFERENTLY?>
(5) M4: buvau suvedęs RGB10 spalvų kodus (..) bliat’ aš jum surasiu (others are chuckling)
<EN: I entered RGB colour codes (..) (SwRU) I will show you >
(6) M2: TRY IT (teasingly, lengthening the y)
(7) M4: nesvarbu (.) uoj (.) nu va konvertuoja (.) dabar patobulėjo
<EN: doesn’t matter (.) oh (.) it’s converting now (.) getting better >
(8) M2: (laughs)
(9) M4: užlūžo viskas BLIAT’ tas fonas su tarpais (..) bliat’ (whispering) (..) bliat’ nu kas čia yra užlūžo visai užlūžo (.) eik tu na:chui (quietly, for himself)) (..)nu va dabar šviesiau biškį (.) Pinterestas šviesesnis
<EN: all got stuck the background and spaces (..) (SwRU, repeated several times in frustration) (..) what’s happening got stuck got stuck completely (.) (another SwRU) (..) it’s getting lighter (.) Pinterest is lighter >
(10) M3: šviesesnį dabar padarei? nu tai visai fainas(.) jisai nėra toks niūrus
<EN: made it lighter? it’s better now (.) not so gloomy >
(11) M4: gerai lengvas toks saitukas (.) tą bybuką pilką reiks priešingai daryt (with relief)
<EN: good the site is lighter now (.) that little grey prick needs to be done differently >
Excerpt 3 represents a stretch of work-related discourse in which Vladislovas (M2) playfully aligns with Domas (M3) against Deimantas (M4), who is trying (unsuccessfully) to adjust the background colour. Their critical remarks (turns 2 and 4) together with their laughter (turn 5) create tension, which is intensified when Vladislovas (M2) maintains the tease by uttering try it in English (turn 6). The emotional effect of this particular switch to English is strengthened by the intonation and the slower tempo (Vladislovas deliberately extends the length of the vowel y). Deimantas (M4) gets slightly irritated and responds by swearing and opposing himself to others in aš jum surasiu <EN I will show you> (turn 5).
The teasingly playful mood abruptly changes when Deimantas (M4) gets really frustrated because his computer freezes. His frustration and stress are expressed in numerous swear words (turn 9), and this is one of those rare instances in the #IT group when swearing serves to express negative emotions. After his computer eventually unfreezes, his sense of relief is shared by the other members of the group (turn 10). This episode demonstrates that competitive teasing in the #IT group might serve as a means of creating team and constructing solidarity between its members. It also shows that the group, as a community of practice, has learnt to switch rapidly between serious transactional work-related talk and playful teasing or joking.
Supportive humour (Excerpt 4)
Similarly to teasing, the #IT group might turn to humorous exchanges in which mixed linguistic resources come into play. Excerpt 4 represents an episode where a Russian insertion is employed for humorous purposes.
(4) Context: The men are discussing whether it is worth participating in a textbook contest.
(1) M1: negaliu patikėt (.) tai koks čia švietimas (.) mokymas švietimas (.) trys paršeliai
<EN: can’t believe it (.) what kind of education is that (.) three little pigs>
(2) M2: čia finalistai?
<EN: are these finalists?>
(3) M3: nes yra šeši dalyviai (.) tai natūralu kad negali išeit vienas (.) dabar iš (title) trijų nesąmonių ką mes galim paimt <...> man atrodo tie visi keturi ir pateko į finalą vienareikšmiškai
<EN: there are six participants (.) so naturally only one cannot be chosen (.) out of those three nonsensical things what can we take <...> I think those four are the finalists>
(4) M2: pirmadienį pakalbėsim gerai (.) nes matai iš vienos pusės jeigu jau pradėjom gal galim pabandyt iki iki galo nueit (.) nieko neprarasim (..) šimtą dešimt sekundžių PAZORO ir viskas (all laugh)
<EN: we’ll talk about it on Monday ok (.) look once we are already involved perhaps it’s worth to take part till the very end (.) we won’t lose anything (..) one hundred ten seconds of SHAME and it will be all over >
In Excerpt 4, the group members share rather sceptical remarks about an (electronic) textbook contest. Their scepticism can be seen in the ironic comment produced by Saulenis (M1) trys paršeliai <EN three little pigs> (turn 1) and the expression nesąmonių <EN nonsensical things> used by Domas (M3) in turn 3. Vladislovas (M2), who is an informal leader of the group, sticks to a slightly different opinion; he thinks that the contest is worth trying anyway. To defuse the tension and to facilitate agreement on the issue, he produces a humorous sequence šimtą dešimt sekundžių pazoro <EN one hundred ten seconds of shame>, which is partly in Russian (turn 4) and appears in the discourse so unexpectedly that everyone bursts out laughing. Humour in this case is strategic and effective; it is employed here as a supportive and consolidating strategy, and the insertion in Russian amplifies its humorous effect. Vladislovas (M2) turns to this supportive and cooperative style of humour in an all-male group because it helps him to achieve consensus. For the same purpose, he phrases his utterance in a tentative rather than challenging form (turn 4).
Interesting applications of mixed speech can be observed in situations of conflict at work. Compared to other environments, workplaces are highly competitive, and expressions of dissatisfaction, refusals or disagreement are inevitable. Although conflicts at work do not happen every day, their consequences can be observed for days or even weeks. (The language of conflictual situations will be further examined in #COSM group too.) Such situations are more emotionally charged than usual everyday communication. The following two examples (Excerpts 5 and 6) have been selected to illustrate the usage of mixed speech in a conflictual situation in #IT.
Mixed speech as a mobilizing strategy in conflictual situations (Excerpt 5)
The situation depicted here is an external conflict between the #IT and another company with whom they work together on a common project. It is known from ethnographic data and other recorded interactions that the partner company is dissatisfied with how quickly #IT proceeds with their work. Because of this, the partner company have turned their server off and are now threatening #IT with legal action. Besides, large sums of money may be at stake. The situation is critical, and there is no communication between the conflicting parties.
(5) Context: The server of the partner company has been turned off for a few days. Members of #IT are at a loss. They need to make decisions to handle the conflict. Vladislovas (M2) and Saulenis (M1) are discussing the issue. Deimantas and Domas are also present.
(1) M2: eik tu nachui (.) bliat’ (yawning) parašyk Angelei prašau
<EN: (SwRU) (SwRU) write to Angelė please>
(2) M1: ką aš tau rašysiu jai
<EN: what can i write >
(3) M2: jeigu gali (.) apie visus tris projektus parašyk (.) apibūdink
<EN: if you can (.) describe all the three projects (.) write to her>
(4) M1: bet jinai rašė konkrečiai kas dabar padaryta (.) kas bus padaryta
<EN: she wanted to know precisely what has been done (.) and what will be done>
(5) M2: ne jin sakė keliais sakiniais situaciją apibūdinkit
<EN: no she said just in a few sentences describe the situation >
(6) M1: аš noriu sulaukt kad bent jau atrašytų šitie (.) jeigu sakys ne nejungsim tada (.) ką? (.) tą pretenziją pabaigs ruošt tada mes nieko nebepadarysim (..) bliat’ jeigu ten prasideda visokie ŠŪDAI bliat’ ten užsiblokavę nepavyks išspręst problemos (.) čia WORST CASE SCENARIO (makes it louder in volume, pronounces slowly and clearly) (..) jei aš parašysiu jai kad dirbam (.) bliat’ atrodys tai (..) tai va (.) nežinau
<EN: I just want to see if they are going to answer (.) if they say we won’t turn it on (.) what then? (.) if they prepare the legal claim we won’t be able to do anything (..) (SwRU) if this SHIT develops (SwRU) if the server is blocked the problem won’t be solved (.) this is a WORST CASE SCENARIO (..) if I write to her that we are working (.) (SwRU) what is this going to look like (..) don’t know >
In Excerpt 5, Vladislovas (M2), who is characterized by the others as an “IT guru”, a skilled negotiator and a strategist (as known from interviews with other participants) tries to initiate a dialogue with the partner company. He wants Saulenis (M1) to contact them (turns 1 and 2). In his requests, Vladislovas sticks to a very calm and polite way of speaking (prašau <EN please>, jeigu gali <EN if you can>; such wording is infrequent in #IT masculinist everyday discourse). His way of speaking about the possible solution to the problem drastically contrasts with his swearing in Russian in turn 1 and might be intentionally used to draw attention to what he is saying.
Saulenis (M1) is hesitant about this suggestion and describes the situation as the worst-case scenario (turn 6) in English. By producing the phrase in another code (English), he emphasizes how serious the situation is and draws the group’s attention to it (Domas and Deimantas, even though they do not participate in this exchange, are in the room). Saulenis’ (M1) emotional outburst is strengthened by several Russian swear words and a Lithuanian vulgar word šūdas <EN shit> (turn 6). Besides, he makes the inserted English phrase more prominent by uttering it considerably louder in volume and pronouncing it slowly and clearly. Excerpt 5 provides an example of how mixed speech can be used to release tension, enhance team cohesion, and mobilize the team to act.
Conflictual humour (Excerpt 6)
Excerpt 6 provides another illustration of how mixed speech can help to process and discharge negative emotions.
(6) Context: Saulenis (M1), Vladislovas (M2) and Domas (M3) are reading an e-mail from the partner company with whom they have had a conflict because of exceeded deadlines.
(1) M1: neskaičiau aš
<EN: I haven’t read it >
(2) M2: ne nu tai vakar įvertino xxx tūkstančiai (.)
<EN: yesterday they evaluated it in xxx thousand >
(3) M1: nerašo kuriais metais tiksliai (.)
<EN: no year indicated >
(4) M2: nu ir kas iš to? (chuckles)
<EN: so what? >
(5) M1: kur čia yra? jerk off 11(quietly, to himself)
<EN: where? jerk off >
(6) M2: o jeigu pasakyt va taip va (shows something, whistles, all laugh)
<EN: what if we say it like this >
(7) M3: pasiūlytum palauk ką tu jam pasiūlytum kaip ten tas angliškas žodis?
<EN: you’d suggest wait what would you suggest what was this English word? >
(8) M2: jerk off?
(9) M1: [jerk off ] (chuckles)
(10) M3: (laughing) sakytum Geduti (sneeringly, using a diminutive form of the first name of the person) nueik nusidžerkink nes kitaip tau blogai bus
<EN: you’d say Geduti go and jerk off or it will end up badly for you >
(11) M1: nu↓
<EN: yeah↓ >
The conflict with the partner company has lasted for more than a week, during which the #IT team have adjusted to the situation emotionally. They have developed a playful and ironic stance towards their partners’ requirements. Still, the newly received e-mail stating that damages to be paid by #IT should amount to several thousand makes them feel angry and irritated. Saulenis (M1) reacts to the news by uttering jerk off (turn 5), which he quietly mumbles to himself. The vulgar American slang phrase is immediately picked up by the other two interlocutors, and Domas (M3) incorporates it into the sneering jocular abuse Geduti nueik nusidžerkink <EN Geduti go and jerk off > addressed towards the person in charge of the partner company (turn 10). Using the diminutive form of the first name of the person (Geduti) enhances the comical effect of the utterance. The episode is accompanied by laughter and chuckles.
On the one hand, conflictual humour of this kind can be treated as an insult, as direct confrontation with the outside “enemy” (even though the “enemy” is not actually present). On the other hand, it serves as a supportive strategy for solidarity and cohesion of the #IT group. The described episode unites them and helps to de-toxify the atmosphere created by the conflictual situation. The given episode provides an example of how the all-male #IT group members affiliate with working-class masculinity, the one stereotypically associated with strong, aggressive, derogatory men, the ones that are “able to swear when they like” and “give and take a joke like a man” (Collinson, Hearn 1996: 68). Depending on the situation, they can be humorous and insulting, playful and degrading.
Conflictual situations are present in #COSM, the all-female group workplace setting, too. However, as it will be seen further, in #COSM, conflicts are handled quite differently.
4.2.2. Mixed speech for relational purposes in the all-female group (#COSM)
The four extracts of discourse containing mixed speech in #COSM group presented below illustrate the following characteristic activities of the group: gossiping about celebrities, gossiping about colleagues, expressing dissent and dissatisfaction, and conflictual humour. Neither of the two types of gossiping occurred in #IT, and, as it will be demonstrated further, conflictual humour in #COSM is of rather different nature, compared to the #IT group.
Gossiping about celebrities (Excerpt 7)
Gossiping about celebrities, movie stars and other topics is supposed to serve a relational function and strengthen social ties between members of the group, typically women (cf. Holmes 2006: 195). In the #COSM workplace, such conversations are infrequent, and the amount of off-task talk in this workplace is minimal.
(7) Context: Donalda (F1) and Guostė (F2) are gossiping about celebrities. This is a fragment from a longer gossiping sequence.
(1) F1: aš vakar išsiaiškinau kad aš xxx (a famous name) sesę xxx
<EN: yesterday I found out that I xxx the sister of >
(2) F2: ane?
<EN: really? >
(3) F1: aha (.) man ji visiškai skiriasi nuo jo
<EN: uh-huh (.) she is so much different from him >
(4) F2: ane (.) [faina?]
<EN: is she (.) [nice]? >
(5) F1: aš tau galiu parodyt jos nuotrauką tai pažiūrėk kokia (says it laughingly) (.) ant kiek jis stengiasi būt MISTERIS ŽAVUSIS (..) (both laugh) menininkė tiesiog (.) <...> xxx buvo menininkė tada nuvarė į rinkodarą
<EN: i can show you her photo just look at her (.) while he’s trying to be MISTER CHARMING(..) she’s an artist (.) <...> xxx she was an artist then became a marketing specialist >
(6) F2: tai irgi rinkodaristė?
<EN: so she’s in marketing? >
(7) F1: jinai šiaip reklamos agentūrose dirbo (.) po to kažkaip tai ŠNAI susimetė su dabar su tokiu (.) MENININKU
<EN: she worked for advertising agencies (.) then all of a sudden she got involved with an ARTIST>
(8) F2: aha
(9) F1: nusiskuto plaukus (.) ir bohemų bohema (.) tai žinok aš kai suvedžiau kad jie brolis ir sesuo galvoju (.) OOPS! (.) kai pradėjo krauti nuotraukas iš to apdovanojimo
<EN: shaved her head (.) very bohemian now (.) so when i realised that they are brother and sister i thought for myself OOPS! (.) seeing those photos from the celebration uploaded >
(10) F2: mmm (.)
The gossiping sequence in Excerpt 7 is initiated by Donalda (F1), the director and shareholder. Guostė (F2), her subordinate, either reacts in short minimal responses like uh-huh, mmm (turns 8 and 10) or asks short questions (turns 2, 4 and 6), which are needed to keep the conversation going. She is not very encouraging or supportive and does not seem to be really interested in the conversation. Donalda’s informal spoken style indicates that she expects to have a friendly off-task chat with her female colleague, whereas Guostė stays polite and reserved. The only instance of shared laughter (turn 5) does not sound genuine, is short and ends abruptly; Guostė has to react by producing laughter because Donalda’s previous suggestion tai pažiūrėk kokia <EN just look at her> invited it.
In turn 9, Donalda (F1) inserts an English colloquial interjection oops, used to express surprise at one’s own mistake or social blunder, and emphasises it with characteristic intonation. It is believed that oops is one of the words that are typical amongst women when they informally speak between themselves (cf. Vyšniauskienė 2014; Pinkevičienė 2017). Apparently, Donalda seeks to construct a collegiate peer relationship with Guostė by using it. However, she does not succeed. Guostė (F2) remains quite indifferent to her effort (turn 10).
The tone of communication in this extract cannot be attributed solely to hierarchical differences between Donalda and Guostė. It is known from other recordings that the relationship between these two women in #COSM is quite strained. Guostė often disagrees with Donalda’s decisions although she seldom openly expresses her disagreement.
Gossiping about colleagues (Excerpt 8)
Another type of gossip is presented in Excerpt 8. It is known from interviews with the main volunteer that in the company producing cosmetics, which #COSM department belongs to, there is fierce competition among women in managerial positions.
(8) Context: Guostė (F2) and Felicija (F4) talk about a newly employed woman in charge of another company department (previously, the position was held by a man).
(1) F2: Felicija! (..) kitaip dar pala (quietly) o tu matei tą naują prekybos vadovę?
<EN: Felicija! (..) wait have you seen that new sales manager? >
(2) F4: kur išrinko?
<EN: the one they chose? >
(3) F2: taip (.) mo:teris kažko:kia (in an enigmatic manner) (.)
<EN: yes (.) some woman>
(4) F4: ne (.) aš mačiau kieme
<EN: no (.) I saw her in the courtyard >
(5) F2: (starts whispering) nu ir kaip?
<EN: and? >
(6) F4: (whispers) xxx mo:teris xxx
<EN: xxx woman xxx >
(7) F2: tai dabar žinai koks vėl FAITAS vyks? (chuckles)
<EN: imagine what kind of FIGHT will be there >
Here Guostė (F2) and Felicija (F4) gossip about a newly appointed sales manager, a woman, in another department. Guostė is highly negative about the atmosphere in the company and anticipates a furious fight (turn 7). She employs an English equivalent of the word, which, as a code switch, emphasises its significance. The way she pronounces it (whispering and chuckling) signals that although she generally does not approve of the atmosphere in the company, to some extent she also enjoys the perspective of fierce competition. The whole conversation is carried out in half-whisper as it is very important for Guostė and Felicija that Donalda does not hear them. Gossip of such type, when absent others are being discussed, is considered passively aggressive behaviour typical of women working teams (cf. Mancl, Penington 2011).
Expressing dissent and dissatisfaction (Excerpt 9)
In situations of contest and disagreement, people at work generally try to avoid direct disagreeing. Commonly they use mitigation, negotiation and hedging. Such strategies are associated with more feminine approaches to handling conflicts (cf. a team meeting of six women in a government organisation in Holmes 2006: 141). When speaking to Donalda, Guostė sticks to these strategies too. However, when Donalda is absent, Guostė turns to very directly expressed criticism against some of Donalda’s decisions. Excerpt 9 provides an illustration of such Guostė’s behaviour.
(9) Context: Guostė (F2) and Gytautė (F3) talk about selling strategies; Guostė is highly critical about one particular selling strategy approved by Donalda. Donalda is not in the room.
(1) F3: <...> tiesiog aprašyme apie produktą
<EN: in the description of the product>
(2) F2: ne tai rašyk tiktai tas kurie yra (.) ką tiktai vakar kalbėjom (.) mes biškį NE TAIP čia traktuojam (.) pas mus (product title) ne LIMITED leidžia o TESTED (chuckles) edition
<EN: no only those that are available (.) we spoke about it yesterday (.) it’s NOT THE RIGHT WAY to do it (.) (product title) is not LIMITED it’s TESTED edition >
(3) F3: tested (laughs)
(4) F2: tipo we have all possibilities to choose! (laughingly and ironically)
<EN: as if we have all possibilities to choose!>
(5) F3: tai kai pradeda pirkti kaip Donalda komunikavo tai varom toliau ir
<EN: when people start to buy as Donalda said we go on with it and >
(6) F2: taip bet tai nėra gera praktika↓ nežinau aš vakar per prezentaciją xxx žinai turėjau savo pusę atlaikyt (.) ta prasme tu VIENĄ EFEKTYVIAUSIŲ brendo sujudinimo vartotojų dėmesio atkreipimo priemonių (.) sugadini↓ ir tai yra labai SHORT TERM laimėjimas (pronounces both ‘r’s in the American, rhotic way)
<EN: yeah but this is not a good practice↓ in the presentation yesterday xxx i had to stand up for myself (.) it means that one of the most effective means to turn the customers’ attention to revive the brand gets spoilt ↓ and this is a very SHORT TERM achievement>
In this case, Guostė (F2) is dissatisfied with the product marketing strategy Donalda (F1) seems to encourage. In fact, Donalda approves of the practice when the product that does not sell well is advertised as limited edition12 rather than regular one. This boosts the selling rates, but, according to Guostė, the effect does not last for long and the reputation of the company may get damaged. In the dialogue with Gytautė (F3), who is a newcomer in the workplace, Guostė (F2) employs a switch to English short term (turn 6) to give more weight to her claim. She pronounces it slowly and clearly in the American (rhotic) way, thus constructing an image of herself as highly professional in the field. Throughout the conversation, Guostė’s expertise in the field of marketing and her critical stance are constantly indexed by the usage of English: it can be seen in her ironic remark we have all possibilities to choose (turn 4) and some marketing terms (turns 2 and 6). In a way, Guostė tries to team up with Gytautė to plot against Donalda, and, discursively at least, she succeeds in doing it as Gytautė “mirrors” her English insertion tested and responds with laughing (turn 3).
Conflictual humour (Excerpt 10)
Similarly to the #IT team, in #COSM mixed speech can be applied in situations of disagreement or conflict with outsiders. Excerpt 10 provides an example of such mixed speech usage.
(10) Context: Guostė (F2) is trying to persuade Donalda (F1) to sign an agreement with new partners.
(1) F2: <...> bet aš manau kad mes privalom pasirašyt (.)aš bijau su tuo nauju prekės ženklu (.) bus labai sunku pavežti patiems <...>
<EN: but I think we should sign (.) I’m afraid we won’t cope with this new brand name alone <…>>
(2) F1: [mhm]<...> mes padarysim viską (.) taip nebrangiai (ironically)
<EN: [mhm] <...> we’ll make it all so cheap >
(3) F2: žinai bet mum tas taip nebrangiai neskamba (.) su (name of another company) kad kobrandintume (.) kobrandinimas Lietuvos rinkoje ir Baltijos šalyse <...> (names of three companies) tai vat trys tokie partneriai šiai dienai (.) kas yra fainiai (.) turėsiu aš su tuo amerikonu onsaito konferenciją (.) tai padariau visą business case marketing (.) business case tipo užduotį (.) kad tie amerikonai pagalvotų (.) kaip jie žiūrėtų į tą bendradarbiavimą
<EN: this cheap doesn’t sound good for us you know (.) if we co-brand with (name of another company) (.) this co-branding in the Lithuanian market and in the Baltics <…> (names of three companies) those would be the three partner companies (.) what is good i’m going to have an on-site conference with this American guy (.) so i’ve made a business case marketing like business case task (.) for those Americans to consider what they’d think of such cooperation>
(4) F1: būtų tikslinis pavyzdys Lietuvos rinkoje <...> bet susitarti tai pasirodo niekaip xxx paskaičiavom (.) jie daugiau kaip ir uždirba [dar tamposi (.) tipo duok jiem KONCEPTĄ (.) dar kažką tai]
<EN: it would be a nice objective to achieve in the Lithuanian market <...> but it looks we cannot reach an agreement xxx we’ve counted (.) they sort of earn more [and they’re putting it back all the time (.) give them a CONCEPT (.) something else]>
(5) F2: TAIP mes tokie geraširdžiai (.) <...> mes jau taip labai gražiai tiktai kai jiem duodi tokį SLEPĄ jie tada nu gerai gerai tipo apsiraminsim <..> nu gerai (.) kai būsim pasirašę sutartį jau tai aš jiems parodysiu (chuckles)
<EN: YES we’re so kind-hearted (.) <...> we’re so nice to them only if you give them a good SLAP then they ok ok we agree <…> (.) ok we’ll be goodies now (.) as only we sign the contract I will show them>
Here Guostė (F2) is doing her best to persuade Donalda (F1) to sign a contract of co-branding with another company. Guostė has been participating in the pre-contractual phase of negotiations with that company herself; besides, as a marketing specialist, she is in charge of the new brand name of products they are going to bring to market together. It is in her personal interest to ensure that the new brand name succeeds.
Donalda (F1), as a shareholder, is not satisfied with the financing conditions in the contract because, according to her, jie daugiau kaip ir uždirba <EN they sort of earn more> (turn 4). In addition, she claims that they are fussy and difficult to deal with. To express her dissatisfaction, she inserts the English word konceptą <EN concept> (turn 4). Meanwhile Guostė depicts a tempting prospect prospect of future co-branding using several English business terms (turn 3) and throughout the conversation discursively unites with Donalda by using the inclusive pronouns we and us: mes privalom pasirašyti <EN we should sign>; bet mum tas taip nebrangia neskamba <EN this cheap doesn’t sound good for us>; mes tokie geraširdžiai <EN we’re so kind-hearted> (turns 1, 3 and 5). She makes the opposition between us and them even stronger by humorously inserting an English word slepą <EN slap> (turn 5) to demonstrate to Donalda that she is always ready to defend their own company’s interests. Although Guostė sounds rather informal, she carefully guides the conversation manoeuvring herself out of a difficult situation. With the English insertion slepą <EN slap> she also constructs herself as a competitive and assertive businesswoman. Compared to the jocular insults in English used by #IT team in the conflictual situation (cf. Excerpt 6), Guostė’s switch to English is less offensive although not less ironic or powerful.
The study of the two single-gendered occupational communities of practice, an all-male group #IT and an all-female group #COSM, focused on how mixed speech is employed in professional and relational activities that participants turn to in their everyday workplace interactions. The study has shown that mixed speech indeed contributes to the workplace in-group styles and identity work.
Two patterns of mixed speech usage have been observed: the first one, the interwoven flow of mixed speech, which is an overall mixed stylistic strategy of the group, is unmarked and first and foremost indexes belonging to the group; the second one, situationally and locally significant switches to another language, is discourse-related and coveys the meanings emerging in a certain situation. The switches of the second type, as a rule, are marked and made stand out of the flow of discourse by particular prosodic or paralinguistic features.
Although the in-group norms in the two CofPs are created for similar functions and social meanings, locally, the linguistic resources are used in different ways. While the all-male #IT team’s mixed style contains both English and Russian incorporated into otherwise Lithuanian speech, the all-female #COSM group’s mixed speech style is restricted to only English as an additional linguistic resource inserted into Lithuanian. It is observed as well that English and Russian resources index different social meanings.
First, in both cases, English-Lithuanian mixed speech indexes professionalism. Both CofPs employ English specialized terminology associated with their professional activity (IT terms and marketing or beauty industry terms, respectively) to index their knowledge, competence and expertise. In purely professional contexts, the other aspects of speaker identity are minimized because it is professionalism that matters most.
Second, interactions for relational purposes, quite dissimilarly, are more diverse, both in their form and social meaning. The #IT team draws on both Russian and English. Their style includes swearing, playful teasing, competitive or supportive humour, and jocular insults, all of which build a highly informal in-group style and serve as supportive and cooperative strategies to enhance the team’s cohesion and solidarity. Those activities, depending on the context, can also be associated with masculinity, toughness, direct aggressiveness, and effective leadership. The #COSM team, drawing on only English as an additional linguistic resource, may turn to gossiping about celebrities or colleagues, which could be possibly associated with building rapport as well as passive aggressiveness. Yet most of the time, this team’s mixed speech styles in relational dimension are to do with expressing assertiveness, indirect confrontation, critical stance, disagreement, irony, and dissent. No swearing was found in this group’s speech, which could be tentatively perceived as a feminine strategy in controlled environments, as indicated by other researchers and stereotypically characteristic of the general Lithuanian conservative culture.
In comparison to the #IT group, the absence of Russian resources in the #COSM group’s speech can be explained by the general indexicality of Russian resources as part of informal speech of Lithuanians, as noted elsewhere and as seen in other contexts of my study, in which mixing with Russian indexes informality and solidarity. In the #COSM group, the asymmetry in power between the women in managerial positions is evident, and the relational aspect of communication seldom prevails; besides, some members of the group have joined it relatively recently, which possibly adds to the absence of Russian.
Moreover, apart from profession, gender and power, there is a diversity of other situational factors that may have predetermined the linguistic choices observed in the two studied groups. Those choices can have been influenced by the “tone” of the particular community of practice, the workplace culture of the whole organisation, the relationship between those who are talking, their personalities, their life experiences, differences in authority, the task at hand, and other factors. These different aspects of speaker social identity are heavily implicated in each other and not equally salient at any particular moment in time; they are brought to surface at different moments of interaction.
This study has some methodological issues that must be taken into consideration when interpreting the results. First, the analysis is based mainly on listening to audio recordings and reading their transcripts. Although the recordings and transcripts were thoroughly examined, due to large amounts of data some non-verbal aspects of the encounters might have been missed. Besides, some ethnographic information about certain events or routines might have been lacking even though, whenever possible, the volunteers were asked for their help to interpret situational contexts and thus compensate for the lack of visual information. Only two of the four researched CofPs are presented in this study; however, the interpretation of the findings is based on the observations in all of them. Still, four localised contexts empirically are not sufficient to generalise the results beyond this study. Thus, the study has implications for further research, meaning that if more workplaces were examined in this way, perhaps some more valid generalizations in terms of gender, professionalism, occupational roles, or other aspects of speaker identity enacted via mixed speech could be made.
Workplace settings, a comparatively new sociolinguistic area of inquiry, have seldom been looked into from the perspective of mixed linguistic resources and their social meanings. It is hoped that, in this sense, the study has furthered our understanding of under-researched and hard to access workplace contexts as well as enriched the range of potential indexical meanings of adults’ mixed speech.
I thank my informants and volunteers in the two work environments who agreed to participate in the research and allowed their workplace interactions to be recorded.
(.) = a short pause
(..) = a longer pause
<...> = omitted utterance or passage
[nnn] = overlapping speech
xxx = unintelligible speech
? = an utterance which appears to be a question
! = an utterance which appears to be an exclamation
↑↓ = pitch rise or fall
: = a long vowel sound
(nnn) = additional information (such as laughing or a particular tone of voice, additional background information)
DVIEJŲ = uttered with emphasis
brendas, stoprocentnai = morphologically or/and phonetically adapted elements of English and Russian
live talk, это видно = not adapted elements of English and Russian
F = female participant
M = male participant
<EN: nnn > = translation into English
(SwRU) = a swear word of Russian origin
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Įteikta 2022 m. kovo mėn.
1 For more information about LWP, see https://www.wgtn.ac.nz/lals/centres-and-institutes/language-in-the-workplace/research.
2 There were three binaries used: “front-stage” (controlled) talk vs. “back-stage” (uncontrolled) talk, task-oriented vs. off-task (relational) talk, and symmetrical vs. asymmetrical talk in terms of power and status of the interlocutors (for details, see Pinkevičienė 2017).
3 Prosody here includes intonation, stress, changes in loudness, variation of vowel length, pausing and tempo (Gumperz 1982).
4 Such emphasized instances are capitalized in transcripts.
5 An online video advertisement that plays before the start of a video.
6 Beauty balm.
7 The total number of different people or households exposed to a medium.
8 A heading or advertisement appearing on a web page in the form of a bar, column, or box.
9 Both v pechku (в печку) and kakoi to pazor (какой-то позор) are quotes from a Soviet-time film based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s novella “The Heart of a Dog”.
10 RGB color value (red, green, blue): an IT term.
11 Vulgar slang ‘masturbate’.
12 The term “Special Edition” or “Limited Edition” when used in marketing management, intends to give the product something new and previously unseen in the regular edition. Limited Edition marketing strategy carries a sense of immediacy and exclusivity as the products would only be available for a short time and/or in limited numbers.