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Review of  Communication in Global Corporations

Reviewer: Zsuzsanna Zsubrinszky
Book Title: Communication in Global Corporations
Book Author: Justyna Zajac
Publisher: Peter Lang AG
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Discourse Analysis
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 25.2267

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The volume investigates issues in professional email discourse conducted in Business English as a lingua franca (BELF) by specialists working in international teams within the field of project management. It discusses aspects of team language and team culture in professional international environments, taking into consideration the tenets of anthropocentric linguistics. Justyna Zając’s book is particularly useful for people who are already involved or perhaps will be involved in international projects. The book is divided into two parts: the first part (Chapters 1, 2 and 3) focuses on conventions applied by project team members, whereas the second part (Chapters 4 and 5) is devoted to the illocutionary acts relevant to communication during the execution of global projects. In the last chapter (Chapter 6), the author summarizes the main findings of her work.

Chapter 1, “Model of Specialist Communication. Anthropocentric Approach”, is oriented toward the different aspects of human communication (i.e., language, knowledge, culture) as defined by the anthropocentric linguist, Professor Franciszek Grucza (2010). He argues that human language does not exist independently of the social world, but rather it is an intrinsic part of it, or a set of operational rules that form the basis of which human beings produce, send, receive and understand information. Therefore, knowledge of these rules about the world, communication experience and culture are of vital importance. In the second part of the chapter, the characteristic features of specialist communication, such as the specialist and his knowledge of specialist language, culture, text, discourse and internal and external contexts, are elaborated. The author believes that the analysis of specialist communication should always begin with the observation of real specialists rather than with the formulation of general conclusions on communication. Consequently, the effectiveness of specialist communication depends on the skills of the specialists who display these skills in particular textual interactions.

Chapter 2, “Communication in Global Corporations”, provides theoretical models (e.g., Menz & Stahl, 2008; Mast, 2008) for studying specialist internal and external communication in global corporations, which are supplemented with intercultural and interlingual aspects. Zając points out that that in recent years, the companies’ staffing policies, their tight collaboration with the subsidiaries, as well as the directions, patterns and networks of their communication have all contributed to the success of various projects in Europe and Asia. In describing the process of corporate communication, the author suggests that specialists within a company form groups, which she calls ‘communities of practice’, where members communicate within formal and informal networks to achieve a certain goal. In doing so, they develop a common language, a ‘specialist polylect’, and they generate a shared culture, called a ’third culture’, which may constantly change due to technological development or engagement of new employees.

Chapter 3, “Communication in Global Virtual Teams”, describes electronic tools (e.g., email, communicator, audio/video conferencing) and Web 2.0 tools (e.g., wiki, discussion forums, microblogs), which enable members of global virtual teams to communicate in business contexts. There is no doubt about the influence of these technological advancements on modes of corporate communication; however, apart from the tools and techniques applied, it is argued that the success of a project very much depends on the communicative competencies of the project team members. Team language (‘polylect’) is reconstructed on the basis of the members’ basic idiolects (i.e., ethnic idiolects and English as a lingua franca idiolects), as well as their specialist idiolects (i.e., Business English as a lingua franca idiolects). While working together, team members also develop a so-called ‘team culture’, which can be considered as a collection of the members’ idiocultures.

Chapter 4, entitled “Email communication in Global Virtual Teams from a Linguistic Point of View”, presents the research methods and the main findings of the email texts subjected to analysis. The author first provides information about the company, named Global Company, which made authentic data available for the purposes of research, and then discusses the data collection procedure, the main characteristic features of specialist emails (i.e., informative and expressive speciality) and their discourse patterns. In analysing the emails, Zając uses a number of research methods: qualitative methods (e.g., interviews, analysis of specific situations), ethnographic research (i.e., the researcher being a member of the virtual team), Speech Act Theory (e.g., illocutionary acts, politeness), corpus-based analysis (i.e., creating a corpus of authentic emails), genre analysis (i.e., investigating the major genre-specific characteristics) and oral and written discourse analysis (e.g., initiating, closing, addressing, allocating and titling emails, as well as intertextuality in emails). In the last section of the chapter the author concentrates on selected illocutionary acts in the emails, namely, ordering, reminding, argumentation and politeness strategies like asking and thanking.

In Chapter 5, “Application”, Zając proposes possible ways to plan and prepare training sessions on specialist email communication, which should, in the first place, consider organisational and content-related issues, such as collecting authentic data, focusing on communicative difficulties, selecting various communicative activities, emphasising intercultural and interlingual features, providing detailed description of the project’s execution, and, last but not least, describing the formal, pragmatic and linguistic issues related to the emails in question. In the second part of the chapter, the author discusses the implications of her study for tertiary education. She argues that teachers in tertiary education should first gather professional experience before preparing curricula for subjects relating to professional, intercultural and interlingual communication.

The book closes with a brief summary of the preceding chapters, where Zając expresses her hope that she managed to contribute to the expansion and intensification of research on specialist communication in global virtual teams, especially those of continental Europe.


One of the major strengths of the book is that it provides a very thorough literature review of corporate communication, which will surely be valued by academics interested in communication at work. The transitions between chapters flow smoothly, thus enhancing the
information presented in previous chapters while inviting the reader to explore new aspects of communication in the business context. However, the proportion of theory and its application in practice seems to be a bit unbalanced. In addition, the huge amount of resources sometimes does not tend to follow a logical sequence. For instance, after the first three theory-driven units, in the fourth empirical chapter, Zając devotes another section to the theory of specialist email communication (see section 4.1.3.), which perhaps would have been better placed in the previous chapter.

As far as the methodology of the research is concerned, the explanation for the selection criteria for the emails does not appear to be clear: “Eventually I obtained the ‘emails from a selected project’, which can be labelled representative of the corporation in question” (p. 132). It is not quite clear on what basis these emails are representative of the corporation? Also, the data collection procedure and the participants (pp. 131-132) could have been given separate headings, and a sample analysis of an email would have been very useful for the reader. Another weakness of the volume is that in the summary sections (e.g., p. 56) and in some other places (e.g., Project management), the requirements of academic style are not fully met.

What makes Zając’s book stand out from previous research is the fact that it aims to formulate pedagogical implications for teaching specialist email communication in tertiary education. To sum up, despite the few weaknesses indicated above, the book makes important contributions to the field of corporate communication. It adds to the rather limited body of studies on email communication. This book is recommended for researchers who are interested in corporate communication, in general, and business email, in particular.


Grucza, F. (2010). Od lingwistyki wyrazu do lingwistyki tekstu I dyskursu: o wielości dróg rozwoju lingwistyki i kryteriów jego oceny. In: Aleksandra Waszczuk-Zin (ed.), Publikacja jubileuszowa III (z okazji 10-lecia Katedry Języków Specjalistycznych Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego). Lingwistyka stosowana ‒j

Mast, C. (2008). Unternehmenskommunikation. Ein Leitfaden. 3rd ed., Stuttgart: Lucius & Lucius.

Menz, F. & Stahl, H. K. (2008). Handbuch Stakeholderkommunikation. Grundlagen –Sprache − Praxisbeispiele. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag.
Zsuzsanna Zsubrinszky is Associate Professor of English Linguistics in the English Department at Budapest Business School, College of International Management and Business. Her research interests include discourse analysis, intercultural communication and English for Specific Purposes. She has published on business communication, intercultural communication and politeness issues in business emails.

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9783631636459
Pages: 252
Prices: U.S. $ 60.95
U.K. £ 37.40
Format: Electronic
ISBN-13: 9783653030976
Pages: 252
Prices: U.S. $ 60.95
U.K. £ 37.4