My PhD years at the University of Gothenburg and this thesis has had mentorship from numerous outstanding individuals both from within the university and outside of it. It is to these individuals, including the Scandinavian and Asian respondents that took part in my study, that my heartfelt gratitude and thanks go out to, for without their help, this thesis would not have seen its ISBN number.
First and foremost I would like to thank my parents Rita and Adrian Cordeiro and my brother Kevin, who through my childhood and study career had always encouraged me to follow my heart and inquisitive mind in any direction this took me. My parents provided me with a loving home, one where an academic mind was celebrated, and Kevin’s sharp sense of humour has been a gift in my life. If we ever had a family motto that would have been – If there’s a will, there’s a way – a philosophy of life I have been carrying with me every day.
I grew up in the Republic of Singapore. The history of this city state is not older than that I have followed much of its development myself, from its modest situation after its separation from Malaysia in 1965 towards becoming a small but modern state, with its gross domestic product (GDP) per capita ranking among the highest in the world. Singapore has accomplished this and several other milestones without basically any natural resources. In fact, Singapore does not even have enough natural freshwater resources to sustain its own population. I could not help but ask myself, how did Singapore make all this possible?
Singapore is also multi-cultural and multi-religious, as such, there was often some kind of celebration going on somewhere. The cultural beliefs and obligations were legion. My school- and classmates were Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasians and Arabs etc., all living as far as I could tell, happily together.
As I grew up, I was surprised to understand that this was not always the case in many other places of the world. Here again, I could not help but ask, how does Singapore handle the multi-faceted social fabric of its society? Later, during my university years and while studying towards two separate Masters degrees I got to notice that there were many foreigners coming to Singapore to set up and run Asian market head offices. Among those were many Swedish organizations. It was obvious to me that these foreign companies were part of the what made Singapore a successful business hub.
Eventually my inquiring mind put me in contact with Jan-Erik Nilsson in Sweden who, being one of the founding fathers of the Swedish East Indiaman Gotheborg III ship project, had a lot of thoughts on this subject.
It was our discussions around the peaceful and profitable historical Swedish – Asian trade adventures of days gone by and its modern continuation in Singapore that eventually led to the beginnings of this PhD thesis. Through our long discussions the design for this research project grew, and an idea towards a proposal was founded. It was clear that if both our curiosities should be satisfied, this study would need to cover several disciplines while being solidly founded within the field of linguistics and the study of language in use.
To actualize the proposal, we needed to seek like-minded individuals to whom we could explain our enthusiasm for a research study situated in a cross-cultural working environment.
Through Jan-Erik Nilsson I was introduced to Professor Jens Allwood, who at the time was the Head of the Linguistics Department at the University of Gothenburg. He saw the potential in my proposed research idea. Through him, I found myself a place as a doctoral student at the University of Gothenburg, and could also gratefully acknowledge an initial funding for the first four years of my research through a grant from the Anna Ahrenberg Foundation.
After the data was collected in Singapore during 2004, in the form of 33 long interviews that spanned 49 hours and 260,178 transcribed words, I needed further insights in the characteristics of Swedish management abroad. Through Jens Allwood I was introduced to Professor Sten Jönsson, at the School of Business, Economics and Law of the University of Gothenburg.
In the early 2000 Sten Jönsson had been spearheading studies in the field of Swedish management at the Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI). My meetings with him were instrumental in confirming that there indeed was such a thing as a recognized Swedish management style and this helped focus my research to the field of Swedish management in Singapore as a comparative study of management styles.
As the thesis progressed, the sociolinguistic aspects of discourse analysis in the study came into light. During this stage in the thesis writing, I was lucky to have met Professor Sally Boyd, Dean of the Humanities Faculty at the University of Gothenburg, where I asked for her expertise and help. I am grateful for her steady encouragement and infinite attention to details that ensured the quality of my work and saw me through to the end of this project. Despite her busy schedule, she always found the time to discuss my ideas for this thesis, helping shape, mould and push the writing process forward and through to its completion.
The analysis phase of the research called for the application of a systemics functional linguistics (SFL) framework and critical discourse analysis (CDA). For expertise and help in this, I turned to Professor Joseph Foley, from the Graduate School of English at the University of Assumption, Bangkok, Thailand.
Joseph Foley is someone I have known and admired for a long time. I got to know him when he was the Head of the English Language and Literature Department at the National University of Singapore (NUS) during my years as a student there. He taught me during my undergraduate years, and he was my supervisor during my English Language Masters years at NUS. I would like to thank him in particular, for his help with limiting the scope of this PhD thesis to the most significant parts of the data, and for his help in formulating the linguistic framework for the discourse analysis chapters. I am grateful most of all for his confidence in me as well as his rock steady guidance. It would be no exaggeration to say that this study would not have been completed today without his encouragement and moral support.
All in all, I feel very privileged to have been allowed to get to know and learn from so many of the foremost specialists in their field during my research studies. I hope that they are not too unhappy about the fact that I could not stay within any one of their own favorite fields, but that my research interest made it necessary to consult with several specialists in many different areas of expertise, without me even knowing exactly what my next step would be.
Apart from being my intellectual sounding board and partner, my husband Jan-Erik Nilsson has been my emotional base when living and working in Sweden. I have written this dissertation with him by my side, bantering and exchanging ideas on a daily basis. If this work could open doors for us both, then I would gladly step through them with him.
Thank you all for your insights, guidance and support!
Cheryl Marie Cordeiro-Nilsson