Volume 17, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0957-6851
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9838
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This study compared language choices made by Vietnamese speakers in a circuit-board manufacturing company in California with utterances constructed for similar situations by Vietnamese speakers in Hanoi, Vietnam. Particular attention was paid to how both groups of speakers signaled social relationships during talk at work, primarily through their selection or omission of Vietnamese address forms and other honorific markers. The California supervisor and assistant, during high-pressure problem-solving events, bypassed the use of kinship terms and, instead, chose non-honorific terms and other markers of informality, thus invoking a normative frame of teamwork and open debate about courses of action that pervade the contemporary American workplace. Excerpts of videotaped interactions between these California workers were shown to the Hanoi participants, after which they were asked to imagine a context in Hanoi similar to the one that they observed. Their constructed utterances were found to contain a variety of address forms — mostly personal names and kinship terms — along with other honorific and politeness forms. The Hanoi participants tended to incorporate these forms even within the economy of talk found in high-pressure moments. In including these forms, they highlighted the hierarchical relationship between the interlocutors as elder and younger, superior and subordinate. Their inclusion of these expressions reflects a cultural norm: the salience of maintaining interpersonal relationships in the workplace, which are managed elegantly through the Vietnamese person-reference system. The findings in this study suggest evidence of a shift in the norms of language use by Vietnamese immigrants living and working in the United States.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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