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Institution: French Research Group on Management & Language
Title: 12th GEM&L International Workshop on Management & Language
Location:Paris, France
Date:May 22 - 23, 2018
CFP Deadline:January 16, 2018

The impact of language on knowledge creating and sharing

Knowledge acquisition and transfer are vital to companies’ strategic development but they require an ability to collaborate successfully across professional, cultural and linguistic boundaries (Kogut & Zander, 1992; Hedlund, 1999; Buckley et al., 2005). Given its role in facilitating the flow of meaning, language has been called “the lubricant of the transfer of knowledge, values and experience from one source of common knowledge to others” (Holden, 2002). However, as Welch and Welch (2008) observe, language issues occupy a relatively small place in knowledge management (KM) research, perhaps due to the lack of attention to the impact of international contexts on KM in general. Ten years later, it can be argued that the link between language and cross-boundary knowledge transfer needs to be further articulated and explored. For this reason, the impact of language on knowledge creating, transferring and sharing has been chosen as the theme of the 12th GEM&L conference.  We suggest below some of the areas of inquiry which could be shared by the KM and language-oriented research communities, although they are by no means the only ones.

The interconnection between knowledge and language in fields such as organizational and international business studies (OS/IB) can be seen in the paradigmatic shift from a mechanical vision of meaning-making to one that sees meaning as co-produced in interaction with others and embedded in the context (Bakhtin, 1981; Hislop, 2013). An example of this trend is the growing body of research on the emergence of negotiated language practices which have been shown to enhance productive knowledge-sharing in ways that lingua franca practices cannot (Janssens et al, 2004; Steyaert et al., 2011 and Logemann and Piekkari, 2015). This work is consistent with knowledge management (KM) research which refers to knowledge as “knowing” to emphasize its dynamic, evolutive nature (Paraponaris and Sigal, 2015; Tsoukas, 2009). Cross-pollination between findings on negotiated language practices and those on knowing as a dynamic process (Renzl, 2005) offers interesting prospects for the advancement of research on cross-boundary collaboration. 

Both KM and language-sensitive researchers are seeking to better understand how tacit or socially-embedded knowledge can be communicated between heterogeneous groups (Collins, 2007; Nonaka, 1994; Polanyi, 1983; Hislop, 2013; Buckley et al., 2005). The notion of codified or explicit communication vs. socially-embedded tacit communication has been applied by researchers in both communities to categorize phenomenon such as companies’ language policies (Janssens, Lambert and Steyaert, 2004) and types of knowledge boundaries (Carlile, 2004). Their conclusions suggest that explicit and tacit communication are interwoven to varying degrees, and that the greater the sensitivity and adaptability to local conditions, the greater the ability to share tacit understanding.

Knowledge sharing is dependent on dialogical relations (Bakhtin, 1981; Tsoukas, 2009), but dialogical exchanges are threatened when people do not speak the same language. To address this issue, researchers have explored the “transformative power” (Brannen et al., 2014, p. 501) of translators and boundary-spanners in the knowledge-sharing process (Barner-Rasmussen et al., 2010; 2014; Tietze et al., 2017; Holden, 2002; Piekkari et al. 2014). Translation is a creative activity through which the original message is reinterpreted in the context of a new reality (Czarniawska and Sevón, 2005; Tietze et al., 2017), making it a vital part of cross-boundary knowledge transfer in monolingual, multilingual and professional communities. Even knowledge domains that we take to be expressible let’s say in English in an unproblematic way are indeed not, as exemplified by the findings of Evans (2004), Evans et al. (2015) and Baskerville et al. (2011) on the use of terms in international accounting.

The role of language as a tool in the mediating of meaning has been explored in OS literature (Engeström and Sannino, 2010; Orlikowski and Scott, 2008; Peirce, 1931; Lorino, 2014). Studies on boundary objects, for example, have yielded important insights into the way semi-universal, semi-localized objects such as maps, visual aids and symbols can help heterogeneous groups understand each other (Star and Griesemer, 1989; Carlile, 2002). Linking natural languages to knowledge through linguistic representations, terminology and languages for special purposes also offers interesting perspectives for collaboration between language-oriented scholars (Wüster, 1991; Picht, 2014; Sager, 1981; Felber, 1987; Lerat, 1995; Rey, 1979).

Next, language-sensitive researchers can contribute to a deeper understanding of the link between knowledge sharing, social identity and trust (Barner-Rasmussen et al., 2007; 2011). Research has shown that people share ideas more willingly with members of their own social, cultural or professional group (Reiche et al., 2015; Gumperz, 1982; Kassis Henderson, 2010), but we also know that knowledge is increasingly shared between groups, reconfiguring old boundaries. What impact does the increasing fluidity of boundaries have on identity and therefore on knowledge sharing? Lauring (2008) has found for example that although language is indeed a shaper of identity, its impact on identity can depend more on the context of language use than on national origin. The plasticity of boundaries is also evident in the concepts of intersectionality (Zander et al., 2010) and multiple cultures (Soderberg and Holden, 2002), raising questions about the impact of double-identity holders on knowledge sharing. Scholars are also reexamining the direction of the flow of knowledge across boundaries, as demonstrated by Peltokorpi and Yamao’s (2017) study on reverse knowledge transfer between local subunits and company headquarters.

We also need to better understand the social processes at play in the formation of language clusters (Tange and Lauring, 2009), language communities (Girin, 1990), knowledge clusters (Wannenmacher, 2014; Ahmad and Widèn, 2015), knowledge boundaries (Paraponaris and Sigal, 2015; Peltokorpi, 2017) and communities of practice (Brown and Duguid, 1991; Lave and Wenger, 1991). In addition, as knowledge communities also reside in business and practice, we must learn more about the expectations of businesses concerning what language(s) should do, in order to address their needs. Ultimately, this raises the question of whom the knowledge is created for and why.

Finally, the dynamic approach to language and knowledge creation viewed as a social process of co-construction of meaning has important consequences for methodology. Methods such as participatory action research (PAR) and ethnographic research which call for the involvement of the researcher in ongoing organizational processes and direct observation of discursive interactions during knowledge sharing in the workplace may provide promising results (Bradbury-Huang, H., Reason, P., 2013; McIntyre, 2007). Participative Action Research is all the more appropriate for the advancement of scholarship on language and knowledge as it brings together the vision of researchers and practitioners as cross-boundary collaboration unfolds.

We welcome empirical, methodological and conceptual papers which aim at breaking new ground, and in particular, papers which examine the way language impacts knowledge sharing and creation, knowledge boundaries, communities of practice, boundary-spanning, cross-boundary communication, translation and mediation. Authors are encouraged to explore approaches to language issues within organizations, and to closely scrutinize business practices and activities. The areas of enquiry which may be explored include, but are not limited to, the questions listed below:

  • How is knowledge shared and created in the workplace?
  • What is the articulation between language, sharing and a generation of knowledge?
  • What is the impact of language clustering on knowledge sharing and creation?
  • To what extent is multilingual capacity a challenge or an opportunity for knowledge creation in multinational companies?
  • What is the role of language and knowledge in the production of sense-making (Weick, 1995) across boundaries?
  • How does language impact the intertwining of tacit and explicit knowledge?
  • Does the adoption of a lingua franca optimise the process of knowing?
  • How to better overcome language and knowledge boundaries in collaborative contexts?
  • What is the role of translation, mediating tools and other boundary objects in knowledge sharing and creation?
  • How can social identity and trust-building impact knowledge sharing in multilingual contexts?
  • How can studies on intersectionality and multiple identities advance our understanding of social interactions during knowledge sharing in multicultural/multilingual workplaces?
  • What are the challenges of academic knowledge production?
  • What about innovative research methods regarding knowledge sharing and production?
  • How can language-sensitive research contribute to knowledge management research?
  • Are the ethnological approach and the participatory action research adapted to qualitative research methods in knowledge and language-sensitive academic research?
  • To what extent can interdisciplinary research help produce new theory and practical applications in language and knowledge research? 


Ahmad, F., Widén, G. (2015). Language clustering and knowledge sharing in multilingual organizations: A social perspective on language, Journal of Information Science, 41 (4), 430-443.

Bakhtin, MM. (1981). The dialogic imagination. Holquist M. (Ed.), Emerson C. and Holquist M. (Trans.), University of Texas Press, Austin.

Barner-Rasmussen, W. & Björkman, I. (2007). Language Fluency, Socialization and Inter-Unit Relationships in Chinese and Finnish Subsidiaries. Management and Organization Review 3:1 105–128 doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8784.2007.00060.x

Barner-Rasmussen, W., Ehrnrooth, M., Koveshnikov, A. & Mäkelä, K. (2010), Functions, Resources and Types of Boundary Spanners Within the MNC, Academy of Management, Annual Meeting Proceedings, Montréal, Canada - August 6-10.

Barner-Rasmussen, W. & Aarnio, C. (2011). Shifting the faultlines of language: A quantitative functional-level exploration of language use in MNC subsidiaries, Journal of World Business, 46, 288–295.

Barner-Rasmussen, W., Ehrenrooth, M., Koveshnikov, A., and Mäkelä, K. (2014). Cultural and language skills as resources for boundary spanning within the MNC. Journal of International Business Studies, 45(7): 886-905.

Baskerville, R., & Evans, L. (2011). The Darkening Glass: Issues for Translation of IFRS, The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.

Bradbury-Huang, H., Reason, P. (2013). The Sage Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice, 2nd Revised edition. ed. SAGE Publications Ltd, London.

Brannen, M-Y., Piekkari, R., and Tietze, S. (2014). The multifaceted role of language in international business: Unpacking the forms, functions and features of a critical challenge to MNC theory and performance, Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 45, pp. 45, 495–507.

Brown, J. S.  and Duguid, P. (1991). Organizational Learning and Communities-of-Practice; Toward a Unified View of Working, Learning and Innovation,” Organization Science, Vol. 2, No. 1, 40–57 (1991).

Buckley, P-J., Carter, M-J., Clegg, J. & Hui T., (2005). Language and Social Knowledge in Foreign-Knowledge Transfer to China, Int. Studies of Mgt. & Org., vol. 35, no. 1, Spring, pp. 47–65.

Carlile, P. R. (2002) A Pragmatic View of Knowledge and Boundaries: Boundary Objects in New Product Development, Organization Science, 13 (4), pp. 442-455.

Carlile P.R. (2004) Transferring, translating, and transforming: an integrative framework for managing knowledge across boundaries. Organization Science, 15 (5), 555–568.

Collins H. (2007), Bicycling on the Moon: Collective Tacit Knowledge and Somatic-limit Tacit Knowledge, Organization Studies, 28(2), p.257-262.

Czarniawska, B. and G. Sevón (2005b). Translation Is a Vehicle, Imitation its Motor, and Fashion Sits at the Wheel. In: B. Czarniawska and G. Sevón (eds.), Global Ideas: How Ideas, Objects and Practices Travel in the Global Economy. Copenhagen: Liber and Copenhagen Business School.

Engeström, Y., & Sannino, A. (2010). Studies of expansive learning: Foundations, findings and future challenges. Educational Research Review, 5: 1-24.

Evans, L. (2004). Language, translation and the problem of international accounting communication, Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 17 (2), pp.  210

Evans, L., Baskerville, R. & Nara, K. (2015). Colliding Worlds: Issues Relating to Language Translation in Accounting and Some Lessons from Other Disciplines, ABACUS, Vol. 51, No. 1, 2

Felber, H. (1987), Manuel de terminologie. Paris. Unesco & Infoterm.

Girin J. (1990), « L'analyse empirique des situations de gestion : éléments de théorie et de méthodes », dans A.-C. Martinet (coordination), Epistémologies et Sciences de Gestion, Editions Economica, Paris, p. 141-181.

Gumperz J. (1982). Language and social identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Hedlund, G. (1999). The multinational corporation as a nearly recomposable system (NRS), Management International Review, 39, 5-44

Hislop, D. (2013). Knowledge Management in Organizations: A Critical Introduction, 3rd ed. OUP, Oxford.

Holden, N. (2002). Cross-cultural management: A knowledge perspective, Prentice Hall, p 228

Janssens M., Lambert J. and Steyeart C. (2004) Developing language strategies for international companies: the contribution of translation studies. Journal of World Business 39: 414–430.

Kassis Henderson, J. (2010), The Implications of language boundaries on the development of trust in international management teams, in Saunders M. N. K., Skinner D., Dietz G. (Eds), Organizational Trust: A Cultural Perspective, Cambridge Companions to Management, Cambridge University Press, pp 358-382.

Kočurek, R. (1982). La langue française de la technique et de la science. Wiesbaden. Brandstetter.

Kogut, B. & Zander, U. (1992). Knowledge of the firm, combinative capabiliites, and the replication of technology, Organization science, 3 (3), 383-397

Lauring, J. (2008).  Rethinking Social Identity Theory in International Encounters: Language Use as a Negotiated Object for Identity Making, International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management, Vol 8(3): 343–361.

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Lerat, P. (1995). Les langues spécialisées. Paris. PUF.

Logemann, M., and Piekkari, R. (2015). Localize or local lies? The power of language and translation in the multinational corporation. Critical perspectives on international business, 11(1): 30-53.

Lorino, P. (2014). ‘Charles Sanders Peirce’, in The Oxford Handbook. of Process Philosophy and Organization Studies, Helin, J. et al. (Eds.), Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 143-165.

McIntyre, A. (2007). Participatory Action Research, 1 edition. ed. SAGE Publications, Inc, Los Angeles.

Nonaka, I. (1994), A dynamic theory or organisational knowledge creation, Organisation Science, Vol. 5 No.1, pp.14-37.

Orlikowski, W. J. and Scott, S. V. (2008). Chapter 10: Sociomateriality: Challenging the Separation of Technology, Work and Organization, The Academy of Management Annals, Vol. 2, No. 1, 433-474,

Paraponaris, C. Sigal, M. (2015), "From knowledge to knowing, from boundaries to boundary construction", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 19, No. 5.

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Peltokorpi, V. (2017), Absorptive capacity in foreign subsidiaries; The effects of language-sensitive recruitment, language training, and inter-unit knowledge transfer, International Business review 26, 119-129

Peltokorpi, V. & Yamao, S. (2017). Corporate language proficiency in reverse knowledge transfer: A moderated mediation model of shared vision and communication frequency, Journal of World Business, 52, 404-416

Piekkari, R., Welch, D., Welch, L. (2014). Language in international business: The multilingual reality of global business expansion. Cheltenham, UK & Northampton MA, USA: Edward Elgar.

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Polanyi, M. (1983). The Tacit Dimension. Peter Smith, Gloucester, Mass.

Reiche, B. S., Harzing, A-W. K. and Pudelko, M. (2015). Why and How Does Shared Language Affect Subsidiary Knowledge Inflows? A Social Identity Perspective, Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 46, Issue 5, pp. 1-24

Renzl, B. (2005). Language as a vehicle of knowing: the role of language and meaning in constructing knowledge. Knowledge Management Research & Practice (2007) 5, 44–53.

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Sager, J., Dungworth, D. and McDonald, P. (1981). English Special Languages. Wiesbaden. Brandstetter.

Soderberg, A.M. and Holden, N., (2002). Rethinking cross cultural management in a globalizing business world, International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 2(1), pp. 103-121.

Steyaert, C., Ostendorp, A. and Gaibrois, C. (2011). Multilingual organizations as ‘linguascapes’: Negotiating the position of English through discursive practices. Journal of World Business, 46: 270-278.

Tange H., Lauring J. (2009). Language management and social interaction within the multilingual workplace, Journal of Communication Management; 13(3): 218–232.

Tietze S., Tansley C. and Helienek E. (2017). The Translator as Agent in Talent Management Knowledge Transfer. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, vol. 17(1), 151-169.

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Review Board

Nathalie Aichhorn, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria

Jo Angouri, University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Anita Auer, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Christophe Barmeyer, University of Passau, Germany

Wilhelm Barner-Rasmussen, Åbo Akademi University, Finnland

Betty Beeler, ESC-Saint Etienne, France

Mary-Yoko Brannen, Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria, Canada

Jean-François Chanlat, Université Dauphine, Paris, France

Agnieszka Chidlow, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

Linda Cohen, ESCP-Europe, France

Eric Davoine, FSES - University of Freiburg, Switzerland

Peter Daly, EDHEC, France

Dardo de Vecchi, Kedge Business School, France

Valérie Delavigne, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, France

Claudine Gaibrois, Universität St. Gallen, Switzerland

Anne-Wil Harzing, Middlesex University, London, United Kingdom

Pamela J. Hinds, Stanford University, USA

Nigel Holden, Leeds University Business School, United Kingdom

David Holford, UQAM, Canada

Patrizia Hoyer, Universität St. Gallen, Switzerland

Marjana Johansson, University of Essex, United Kingdom

Anne Kankaanranta, Aalto University School of Business, Finland

Helena Karjalainen, Ecole de management de Normandie, France

Jane Kassis-Henderson, ESCP-Europe, France

Alex Klinge, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Hélène Langinier, EM-Strasbourg, France

Philippe Lecomte, Toulouse Business School, France

Myriam Leibbrand, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria

Patrick Leroyer, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

Dorte Lønsmann, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Leena Louhiala-Salminen, Aalto University School of Business, Finland

Gerlinde Mautner, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria

Ulrike Mayrhofer, Université Lyon 3, France

Terry Mughan, Royal Roads University, Victoria BC, Canada

Florence Oloff, University of Basel, Switzerland

Rebecca Piekkari, Aalto University School of Business, Finland

Pamela Rogerson-Revell, University of Leicester, United Kingdom 

Doris Schedlitzki, University of the West of England, United Kingdom 

Susan Carol Schneider, University of Geneva, Switzerland

Martyna Sliwa, University of Essex, United Kingdom

Helen Spencer-Oatey, University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Helene Tenzer, University of Tübingen, Germany

Susanne Tietze, Keele University, Keele Management School, Staffordshire, United Kingdom

Geneviève Tréguer-Felten, CNRS, France

Mary Vigier, Groupe ESC Clermont- Auvergne, France

Denice Welch, University of Melbourne, Australia

Lawrence Welch, University of Melbourne, Australia

Sachiko Yamao, University of Melbourne, Australia

Patchareerat Yanaprasart, University of Basel, Switzerland

Lena Zander, Uppsala University, Sweden

Ling Eleanor Zhang, Royal Holloway University of London, United Kingdom

Mette Zølner, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark


Guidelines for authors

The short paper should indicate the key theoretical, methodological and empirical questions addressed in the paper, the conceptual field(s) informing the paper, if applicable the data set used in the paper and the major theoretical and empirical contributions of the paper. All submissions must be original and should not have been previously accepted for publication.

First page with author’s name, affiliation, e-mail and postal address.

Text of the proposal: in .doc(x), anonymous, justified, 2.5 cm margins throughout.

Title: Times New Roman, bold, size 16.

Other titles: Times New Roman, bold, size 12.

Short paper (around 3000 words, excluding references) with 8 – 10 keywords. Text: Times New Roman, size 12. Authors are required to precede their short paper with a short abstract (around 10 lines) to be included in the final programme.


Format for references:

  • Austin, J. L. (1962). How to Do Things with Words. Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press.
  • Steyaert, C., Ostendorp, A., & Gaibrois, C. (2011).  Multilingual organizations as 'linguascapes': Negotiating the position of English through discursive practices, Journal of World Business, 46(3): 270-278.

Proposals in French or in English in Word format to be uploaded on the GEM&L website, www.geml.eu  by 16 January, 2018

All submissions will be subjected to a double blind competitive review process on the basis of originality, rigor and relevance with members of the Scientific Committee serving as reviewers.
No author information or other identifying information should appear anywhere in the submission.

Please note that the conference will host a doctoral session, which will offer PhD students the possibility of discussing their doctoral thesis project with research fellows and to be advised by the most prominent senior scholars in this field of research. The review process of PhD students’ papers is subjected to the same rules as for regular papers.

All authors will be informed about the outcome of the review process no later than 15 March, 2018.


At least one author of each paper must register for the conference and present the paper. A final paper is not required before the conference.

For any information concerning the conference, please contact: scientifique@geml.eu


Short paper:                                                         16 January, 2018

Notice of acceptance:                                         15 March, 2018


For registration information go to:  www.geml.eu

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