Multilingualism in the workplace : communicative practices between store owners and assistants in Chinese shops in Cape Town

Thompson, Miche Chanelle (2018-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Since the introduction of representative government in 1994, South Africa has seen a significant influx of Asian and African migrant workers, and their presence in South Africa has become part of the diverse population of most towns and cities. Most of these newcomers find employment in the informal sector, doing unskilled labour in areas such as construction, transport, agriculture, domestic work, hospitality or, as is particularly relevant to this study, various forms of trade. One community that has become well-known for success in establishing such trade occupations and managing them profitably, is the one of Chinese origin. This is illustrated in the sizable number of new informal shopping centres in South Africa settled specifically by groups of Chinese traders, known as China Towns. The established pattern is that these traders employ African migrants or local unemployed people as shop assistants. This makes China Town a multilingual and multicultural hub, no matter where it is located. The study reported here investigates patterns and strategies of business communication in a China Town centre near Cape Town in the Western Cape. The variety of first languages of the various role players, predominantly Mandarin Chinese among shop owners, and Lingala, French, Swahili, Edu, and isiXhosa among shop assistants, emphasises the communicative dependence of this community on a lingua franca. In conformity with the rest of South Africa, this community relies on English as a workplace language, even though they speak different “Englishes” with varying levels of proficiency. The study therefore undertakes to explicate the ways store owners of Chinese migrant origin and their store assistants of African migrant origin draw on their linguistic repertoires to communicate in the workplace where English is the lingua franca. This study is a Linguistic Ethnography in which Conversation Analysis, Discourse Analysis, and Critical Discourse Analysis are used to obtain different and integrated perspectives on informal workplace communication. To analyse the intersection between language and the social context within which the communication occurs, this study draws on Gumperz’s (2001) Interactional Sociolinguistic approach to the analysis of discourse and conversation. This approach is significantly contextual and focuses on “situations of speaking” by using ethnographic methods of inquiry. Conversation analysis addresses the micro-specifics of how participants conduct workplace communication; and discourse analysis is used to interrogate the forms and strategies of talk that “articulate” the power relations between shop owners and assistants. Through audio-recorded spoken interaction of the participants throughout the work day as the primary source of data, aligned with field notes and observations, this study illustrates the creative forms of language that emerge in a grassroots multilingual workplace. Communication between the shop owners and their assistants is shown to portray the kind of language contact phenomena that typically develop in informal workplaces where there is an apparent need for a common trade language. Specifically, the study illustrates the forms of language and the communicative strategies that develop in a communicative context where various non-mutually intelligible languages are present.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Sedert verteenwoordigende regering in 1994 ingestel is, het Suid-Afrika ‘n buitengewone invloei van immigrante werkers uit sowel Asië as Afrika beleef. Hulle teenwoordigheid het deel van die diversiteit van die bevolking in Suid-Afrikaanse stede en dorpe geword. Die meeste van hierdie nuwelinge werk in die informele sektor, waar groot getalle van hulle ongeskoolde arbeid doen in werksomgewings soos konstruksie, vervoer, landbou, huishouding, die gasvryheidsbedryf of, soos veral in hierdie studie relevant is, in verskeie vorme van handel. Een gemeenskap wat bekend geword het vir hulle sukses in die bestuur van sulke handelsondernemings en die winsgewende bestuur daarvan, is dié van Sjinese oorsprong. Dit is merkbaar in die beduidende aantal informele winkelsentrums in Suid-Afrika wat spesifiek deur groepe Sjinese handelaars gevestig is. Hierdie sentrums, wat ook as China Towns bekend staan, maak dikwels gebruik van migrante uit Afrika of plaaslike werkloses as winkelassistente. Dit maak China Town ‘n multi-kulturele werkplek, ongeag waar dit geleë is. Hierdie studie ondersoek patrone en strategieë van besigheidskommunikasie in ‘n China Townsentrum naby Kaapstad in die Westelike Provinsie. Die verskeidenheid tale wat die onderskeie rolspelers as eerstetaal aangee, hoofsaaklik Mandaryns by winkeleienaars, en Lingala, Frans, Swahili, Edu en Xhosa by winkelassistente, beklemtoon hoe afhanklik hierdie gemeenskap in alledaagse kommunikasie is van ‘n lingua franca. In ooreenstemming met die oorgrote meerderheid in Suid-Afrika, is die taal van die werkplek Engels, alhoewel verskillende variante van Engels met verskillende vlakke van taalvaardigheid gebruik word. Hierdie studie is onderneem om lig te werp op hoe Sjinese winkeleienaars van migrante-herkoms en hulle Afrikataalsprekende winkelassistente, ook grootliks van migrante-herkoms, in die werkplek vir kommunikasie steun op hul linguïstiese repertoires, met Engels as die lingua franca. Die studie is ‘n linguïstiese etnografie waar gespreksanalise, diskoersanalise en kritiese diskoersanalise gebruik word om verskillende perspektiewe op informele werkplekkommunikasie te bekom, en dit te integreer. Om die breuklyn waar tale en die sosiale konteks bymekaarkom en die kommunikasie wat daar plaasvind te analiseer, gebruik hierdie studie Gumperz (2001) se interaksioneel-sosiolinguïstiese benadering tot diskoersanalise en kommunikasie. Hierdie benadering beskou die kommunikasie-konteks as ‘n onontbeerlike element van betekenisskepping, en fokus op gespreksituasies deur etnografiese metodes in gesproke taalondersoek aan te wend. Gespreksanalise spreek die mikro-elemente van deelnemers se kommunikasie in die werkplek aan; diskoersanalise word gebruik om die taalvorme en verwante strategieë van gesprekke tussen winkeleienaars en winkelassistente te ondersoek, met spesifieke aandag aan hoe dit gebruik word om onderlinge magsverhoudinge te vestig en in stand te hou. Stemopnames van die verbale interaksie tussen deelnemers gedurende hul werkdag is die primêre bron van data. Deur dit in verband te bring met veldaantekeninge en die navorser se volgehoue waarneming, illustreer hierdie studie die kreatiewe taalvorme wat op grondvlak ontstaan in ‘n veeltalige werkplek. Die kommunikasie wat tussen winkeleienaars en hul winkelassistente waargeneem en ook vasgevang is, beeld iets uit van die soort taalkontakverskynsels wat tipies ontwikkel in informele veeltalige werkplekke waar daar ‘n behoefte bestaan aan ‘n gemeenskaplike handelstaal. Die studie illustreer spesifiek die taalvorme en kommunikasiestrategieë wat ontwikkel in ‘n kommukasiekonteks waar verskeie onderling onverstaanbare tale tussen sprekers teenwoordig is.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/105034
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