Analysing discourse variation in professional contexts

Authored by: Vijay Bhatia

The Routledge Handbook of Language and Professional Communication

Print publication date:  February  2014
Online publication date:  February  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415676199
eBook ISBN: 9781315851686
Adobe ISBN: 9781317916437


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Much of research in English for Specific Purposes (ESP), and to some extent in professional communication, has been inspired by descriptions of discourse variation in academic and professional contexts. Although professional communication represents the development that integrates ESP and Business Communication as two main areas of study (see Bhatia and Bhatia 2011), with ESP drawing its inspiration from applied linguistics, and Business Communication from communication theory, both of them have come to benefit from the outcomes of analysis of various forms of academic and disciplinary discourses within the various frameworks of discourse analysis, in particular from genre analysis. In more recent years critical discourse and genre analytical frameworks have also started influencing the current thinking in organisational communication, management communication, and corporate communication, all of which are often grouped under professional communication (see Chia 2000; Boje, Oswick and Ford 2004; Grant et al. 2004; Bhatia 2007). In the early sixties, only ESP relied heavily on descriptions of discourse variation, and none of the other areas of professional communication took studies in discourse and genre analysis seriously, relying on various communication theories instead. The focus in these individually somewhat diverse areas of professional communication was primarily on text-external factors, including context, whereas in ESP the focus was on text-internal aspects, such as lexico-grammar and rhetorical organisation. However, in more recent years, the focus in all areas of professional communication has been shifting towards disciplinary variations in professional and academic discourses and practices in addition to various theories of communication, thus integrating text-internal as well as text-external factors in professional communication. In this chapter I would like to introduce some of the key developments in the field of discourse and genre analysis and their applications to various forms of professional communication, which can be represented as shown in Figure 1.1.

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