The Sociolinguistics Of Code And Style Choice In Malaysian Business Settings

This thesis reports an ethnographic study of the sociable meanings underlying code and style choice in the situated discourse of two business organisations in Malaysia. It explains the choice in these contexts against the broader contextual backdrop of English as the original normative code of Malaysian business, and Malay as the nationwide vocabulary and linqua franca.

The language of seminar presentations and training sessions, selected as a kind of formal talk event in such contexts, was analysed to determine if the norms governing English are in place and how these are interpreted in these contexts. A built-in theoretical framework, comprising the ethnography of communication with elements attracted from Accommodation Theory and the Markedness Style of code-switching, was employed to explain individual and institutional choices.

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In detailing choice, the study provides a contextualized model of the varietal range and stylistic continuum of Malaysian English (ME) predicated on the ethnographic evidence. It uncovers that ME is the unmarked choice in Malaysian business, rather than approximations to exonormative models, such as Standard General or British American English.

These varieties of standard English were, in truth, marked choices, even though the formality of the office configurations might have predicted normally. Neither was consistent adherence to standard English utilization there, despite the use of the register, nor defined functional norms of spoken English clearly. Instead, variability in speech forms was demonstrated and three types or variants of ME were evident clearly.

A subvariety which was determined as Educated Malaysian English (EME) was oriented to as the informed talk norm. But far more evident was a norm of communicativeness’ that was alluded to as a spot of research, by informants in the interview data. Another subvariety, determined as Colloquial Malaysian English (CME), was the familiar and solidarity code while the last subvariety identified was a broken’ or pidgin English.

ME was spoken in ethnically distinct ways, mainly in the prosody of the native languages of the audio speakers, as ethnolects. Malay was a designated code and the designated choice despite being the national vocabulary and linqua franca. However, Malay was marked only in relation to tacit organizational policy and its own use was not proscribed.

But its use had not been encouraged either. The study showed that style moving along the entire varietal range of ME, the use of a smooth blended code and code-switching into Malay, were more common means of speaking in these configurations than the use of normative recommended patterns. These challenges generally held notions and expectations regarding the use of English in Malaysian business settings. Such choices are explained as locally motivated pragmatic selections within the specific contexts of the workplace settings and with regards to the larger context of the Malaysian sociolinguistic situation.

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