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LINGUIST List 24.2738

Sun Jul 07 2013

Review: Applied Linguistics; Discourse Analysis: Schnurr (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 04-Apr-2013
From: Pankaj Dwivedi <pankajdiitrpr.ac.in>
Subject: Exploring Professional Communication
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-3762.html

AUTHOR: Stephanie Schnurr
TITLE: Exploring Professional Communication
SERIES TITLE: Series: Routledge Introductions to Applied Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Pankaj Dwivedi, Indian Institute of Technology Ropar

SUMMARY
This is the sixth book in Routledge's Introductions to Applied Linguistics
Series. The book consists of eight chapters and each except the eighth is
divided into three sections, A, B and C. Each deals with a specific area of
professional communication. In contrast to the usual theory-to-practice
approach, the chapters start by explaining problems (Section A), go through
possible interventions (Section B), and end with theoretical accounts and
implications (Section C).

The first chapter, “What is professional communication?,” explores the term
‘professional communication’ in its diverse and dynamic nature by illustrating
various authentic spoken and text samples. It shows how transactional and
relational accounts of professional communication occur and overlap during
‘frontstage’ and backstage encounters. Drawing on some previous works the
author strives to mark the similarities and differences between some similar
sounding words like institutional talk, professional discourse, workplace or
business discourse.

The second chapter, “Genres of Professional Communication”, deals with
categorization of different communicative events under the genre of what is
referred as professional communication. The chapter analyses the similarities
and differences found both in the forms and functions of discourses occurring
in the diverse professional contexts. It shows how the genres that are
typically used to perform specific functions may not only vary across
different workplaces but also across departments, working groups, age and
hierarchical layers. It is further said that over the long and natural course
of development, a genre can be modified or die, giving way to new genres. Or,
a new genre comes into being due to some innovation in the field of
communication technology or when a particular style becomes popular for some
unknown reason.

The third chapter, “Workplace culture”, explores the relationship between
professional communication and workplace culture, i.e., how language
contributes to shaping of a workplace culture. Emphasis is placed upon
distinctive ways that members of different workplaces adopt to communicate.
For example, use of slang can strictly be avoided at one workplace whereas
people think nothing unusual about it at another. These differences in
communicative practices are reflected not only in the ways people write emails
and faxes, speak with their super- and sub- ordinates or group members, but
also in the ways people lead, direct, intervene, dress, etc. The chapter
critically introduces main three approaches to workplace culture: Schein’s
model of different levels of cultural; Greet Hofstede and his colleagues’
‘collective programming of the mind’ approach and Lave and Wenger’s community
of practice (CofP) concept.

The fourth chapter, “culture and politeness at work”, is about the role of
national and workplace culture in professional encounters, though the main
focus is on the relationship between national culture and politeness. The
chapter starts by exploring whether culture is really an issue at work. In
multilingual and multicultural workplaces the concept of culture does not
carry so much weight as to influence the overall professional communicative
realities. Culture, of course, may well be a reason for miscommunication among
people, however. The chapter also draws attention to the fact that attempts to
explain differences in people’s behavior in a workplace solely by reference to
culture run the risk of overgeneralizing and stereotyping. Two main
theoretical frameworks, politeness theory and rapport management, have been
used to analyze the ways in which culture and politeness interrelate with
professional discourse.

The fifth chapter, “Identities at work”, discusses the ways and processes
through which identities are enacted, created and reflected in and through
professional communication. Language is one of the most crucial means on which
people draw on in order to construct and perform various identities. Concept
of identity, in general, in itself, is very fluid and relative in nature and
is established only against other identities. Therefore, individuals’ as well
organizations’ idea of self-perception and self-representation affect their
own and another’s respective identities in many ways. The author also briefly
discusses the social constructionism framework in exploring processes of
identity constructions in communicative interactions, followed by an
introduction to Bucholtz and Hall’s (2005) five principles of identity
construction in interaction. It is argued that identity should not be
considered a static attribute assigned to an individual or organization,
rather it should be conceptualized as performance which is dynamically
constructed by interlocutors in specific contexts.

The sixth chapter, “Gender”, shows that gender, apart from influencing other
workplace issues such as identity construction, leadership, negotiation,
decision making, etc., affects professional communicative behaviors in variety
of different ways. Its role, however, may be relatively hidden in the
background and hence not so obvious on first glance. Two specific ways in
which gender is enacted in the workplace are gendered speech styles and the
existence of certain gendered discourses.

Gender stereotypes may often be reflected in workplace discourse and could
have serious implications for the perception and treatment of both men and
women, though women are the most likely victims. The chapter also discusses
the role of critical discourse analysis (CDA) in investigating the relationship
between language, gender and workplace.

The seventh chapter, “Leadership”, focuses on the role that professional
communication plays in leadership performance. Communication makes indeed an
inevitable aspect of what is called doing leadership and most of the tasks
that leaders engage themselves in during their normal working are achieved
through it. From the applied linguistics framework, acts of leadership can
roughly be divided into two types of constellations: (1) asymmetrical
constellation where leader is in hierarchically higher position (2)
distributed, shared or co-leadership where everyone contributes like a member
of a group. The author opines that leadership should be defined as performance
which takes both transactional and relational behaviors into account. In the
end, the author argues for a discursive approach to the leadership, as it
places communication at the heart of leadership.

The eighth chapter, “Conclusion”, presents the book’s overall argument and
briefly overviews the entire content of the book for its usefulness in finding new
avenues for future research -- in particular for student projects. The chapter
aims to establish that research in the area of professional communication is
fruitful yet challenging and demands in-depth knowledge from other disciplines.

EVALUATION
This book is intended for more advanced students and scholars new to or
generally interested in the field of professional communication. It presents
an informative introduction to prominent theories, methodologies and research
fields within applied research in professional communication. It brings
together a number of useful chapters on a range of aspects of professional
communication. But most of the chapters focus on spoken professional
discourse. Since writing makes up an important part of workplace discourse,
it therefore should not be ignored (Gerson & Gerson, 2009). Similarly, the
impact of computer and other digital technologies on workplace communication
is apparent, though it is still less clearly understood. A chapter on this would
have made the book more useful.

All chapters are well-written and organized using a practice-to-theory
approach. Each chapter provides appropriate workplace communication samples
and other data that help readers develop a better understanding of the issues
and problems. For example, each chapter contains sample tasks for readers to
check whether they have developed a clear understanding of the theme or the
idea discussed. Answers and explanations to these tasks are available in the
‘Task commentaries’ section. The book contains a well-developed glossary of
technical terms, a list of references and some important notes on all of the
chapters. The book also provides a comprehensive list of readings that may be
helpful for readers working in the area of the professional communication.

This book can be utilized either as a means of keeping up to date on the
research or as a way of becoming more knowledgeable on a topic. It, in other
words, will appeal not only to those who already are familiar with ongoing
research in the area but also to those who are new to the subject. Overall the
book provides scholars working in the fields of communication studies,
technical and professional discourse, and other related organizational
processes with rich insights.

REFERENCES
Bucholtz, M. and Hall, K. (2005) Identity and Interaction: A Sociocultural
Linguistic Approach. Dicourse studies, 7(4-5), 585-614

Gerson, S.J. and Gerson, S.M. (2009) Technical Writing: Process and Product,
3rd ed. New Delhi: Pearson Publication.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Pankaj Dwivedi is a PhD scholar in the department of Humanities and Social
Sciences, IIT Ropar (India). His research interests lie in the areas of
technical communication and phonology.
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