Language clustering and knowledge sharing in multilingual organizations: A social perspective on language

Farhan Ahmad*, Gunilla Widén

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    Knowledge sharing is a product of the collaborative and supportive environment shaped by socialization and informal communication between employees. Under the pressure of globalization and business internationalization, workforces have become increasingly diverse, particularly in terms of language. This has implications for knowledge sharing. It has been observed that employees tend to gravitate towards their own language communities, leading to language clustering (language-based grouping), which affects informal communication and knowledge mobility in organizations negatively. Although the existence of such clusters has been reported in many previous studies, we do not clearly understand how and why language brings these clusters into being and what kind of implications this has for knowledge sharing. This paper draws upon the theory of the semiotic processes of linguistic differentiation taken from linguistic anthropology to provide a theoretical framework capable of explaining the dynamics of language creating language clusters. Unlike previous knowledge management studies, which largely focus on the instrumental aspect of language, this paper adopts a social perspective on language. It is argued that, to deal with language clustering, we have to explore the dynamics operating behind it in detail. This will not only allow us to understand its implications for knowledge sharing but will also be helpful in devising potent knowledge management initiatives in multilingual workplaces.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)430-443
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of Information Science
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


    • Knowledge management
    • knowledge sharing
    • language
    • language clustering
    • language diversity
    • multilingual organizations

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Information Systems
    • Library and Information Sciences


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