Communication Accommodation and Organizational Identity and Image: A Study Of Hong Kong Firms' Organizational Legitimacy in Mainland China

Project: Research

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Research on internationalization or international diversification has recognized that firms operating in foreign countries face the liability of foreignness. To overcome such liability, firms must possess firm-specific advantage. Additionally, attaining organizational legitimacy in the host country also mitigates the liability of foreignness. Organizational legitimacy is defined as the acceptance of the organization by its environment, and is considered critical for organizational survival and success. Research has examined many factors that affect legitimacy; however, the role of language has remained unexplored. Interaction and interchange between corporate language and national language represent a critical challenge to international strategy and business theory and practice. Corporate language often reflects the language environment in a firm’s home country, but its use may converge/diverge with a host country’s language. Given that language serves as a primary means for a firm to present itself to its host country, and for the host country to make sense of the firm, we view corporate language as an important component in determining a firm’s legitimacy in a host country. Accordingly, our primary research question is to examine whether or not language convergence in a firm’s official documents would affect its legitimacy in the host country. We premise our arguments on communication accommodation theory in sociolinguistic research, which suggests that in accommodation a party may adapt his/her language during interactions in a complimentary manner in order to seek social approval from the other party or to promote cooperativeness between them, because such convergence in language will elicit a favorable perception and opinion. Such accommodation is especially relevant and useful for gaining legitimacy when one party intends to influence or convince the other party who has more resources and power or enjoy higher status. Drawing on insights from the study of organizational identity and image, we further posit that a firm’s organizational identity would affect its likelihood of accommodating its language use for others, and a firm’s organizational image would influence the relationship between communication accommodation and organizational legitimacy. Our research context is Hong Kong firms in mainland China. We are interested in examining if and how Hong Kong firms accommodate their language content and style for mainland China. The subtle relationships and perceptions between Hong Kong and mainland China offer an ideal, interesting study context for studying communication accommodation behaviors, including the interplay between corporate language and national language, on Hong Kong firms’ attainment of organizational legitimacy in mainland China.


Project number9041964
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/1430/06/17