Vocabularies of Organizing: How Language Links Culture, Cognition, and Action in Organizations

48 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2005

Date Written: October 2005

Abstract

Linking sociological theories of vocabularies and institutions with Neo-Whorfian perspectives from cognitive science, this paper develops a theoretical framework and propositions on how specialized vocabularies structure cognition and action in organizations. We propose that vocabularies of organizing are socially constructed systems of linguistic categories that provide organizational members with cultural systems to classify organizational practices. We identify five principles to capture vocabularies' effects: social construction, embodiment in organizational practices, modularity, theorization, and attentional selectivity. This perspective highlights the interrelationships between words and how cultural systems generate logics of action at the individual level and institutional logics at the macro-social level.

Keywords: Language, cognition, culture, organizing

Suggested Citation

Loewenstein, Jeffrey and Ocasio, William C., Vocabularies of Organizing: How Language Links Culture, Cognition, and Action in Organizations (October 2005). McCombs Working Paper No. OSSM-03-05, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=813344 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.813344

Jeffrey Loewenstein (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - Red McCombs School of Business ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States

William C. Ocasio

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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