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Dr Tamiryn Jones

Home country: South Africa

Year of enrolment: 2010

Graduation date: March 2013

Department: General Linguistics

Supervisor: Dr Simone Conradie

Co-supervisor: Dr Marcelyn Oostendorp

Dissertation title: Linguistic strategies used in the construction of performance assessment discourse in the South African workplace



This study investigates the construction of Performance Assessment Discourses in three companies in the Western Cape, South Africa. The specific interest of is in how Performance Assessment Interviews (PAIs) are performed in terms of content, form, structure and social practice, and how managers and employees experience and make sense of this organizational practice. The study further investigates how individuals express their membership to communities of practice (CofPs) within the workplace, and seeks to identify obstacles (boundaries) in terms of acquiring and maintaining membership. This study is conducted within the broader framework of discourse analysis (DA) and employs genre theory and small story analysis as analytical tools. The 31 participants in this study are managers and employees of three participating companies in the Western Cape. They are L1 speakers of Afrikaans, English, isiXhosa and isiZulu, and are representative of a wide range of employment levels (lower-level employees to top management). Each individual participated in either a one-on-one interview or in a focus group discussion, which were audio-recorded and transcribed. During these interviews and discussion groups, individuals frequently resorted telling small stories in order to explicate their feelings, perceptions and positions on certain matters. The data confirms that several generic features of PAIs are identifiable and across all three companies, but that some unique features are also reported. Furthermore, the analysis shows that Performance Assessments are sites of struggles as dominant and competing discourses emerge from the data. Additionally, the study reveals that acquiring membership to CofPs in a diverse workplace is a complex endeavour and that language plays a determining role in acquiring membership, as well as in the construction of workplace identities. In conclusion, this study argues for further linguistic research within professional setting in South Africa, and suggests that CofP theory be revised and further developed to be more descriptive of diverse communities.

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