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Review of  Handbook of Communication in Organisations and Professions

Reviewer: Pankaj Dwivedi
Book Title: Handbook of Communication in Organisations and Professions
Book Author: Christopher N. Candlin Srikant Sarangi
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 23.3898

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EDITOR: Candlin, Christopher N.; Sarangi, Srikant
TITLE: Handbook of Communication in Organisations and Professions
SERIES TITLE: Handbooks of Applied Linguistics (HAL -3) / Communication
Competence. Language and Communication Problems. Practical Solutions 3
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2011

Pankaj Dwivedi, Department of Humanities and Social sciences, IIT Ropar (India)


In the introduction, the series editors Karlfried Knapp and Gerd Antos explain
the main purpose (''linguistics for problem solving'') of the current volume in
particular and the series in general. The chapter briefly explores the relation,
scope, and future prospects of applied and theoretical linguistics. The
introduction ends with citing the main objectives and the criteria used for the
selection of the topics. Each chapter of the volume begins with an abstract and
all chapters include data and corpus extracts along with their transcriptions.

The volume is divided into four parts. The first part is the editorial
introduction by Srikant Sarangi and Christopher N. Candlin. It offers a broad
overview of professional and institutional discourse and other related themes.

The second part (chapters 1 to 3) focuses on the professional discourse of three
domains: healthcare, law, and organizational studies.

''Evidence and inference in macro-level and micro-level healthcare studies,'' by
Aaron V. Cicourel, compares the micro- and macro- perspectives on clinical
healthcare delivery and discusses their pros and cons, scope, and relevance in
the clinical decision-making process. The chapter explains how a micro-level
analysis of the interactive engagements can help macro-oriented, policy-related
research and explores the possibilities of collaborative research among
healthcare professionals, policy makers, and applied linguists.

''Applied linguistics in the legal arena'' by Roger W. Shuy is concerned with the
contributions that applied linguistics can make to the legal process. It
discusses the activities, scope, challenges, and future prospects of forensics

James R. Taylor in ''Communication is not neutral: 'Worldview' and the science of
organizational communication'' gives a historical and conceptual account of the
organizational discourses and interactional relationships of individuals in an
organizational set-up. The author examines the role of language in building up
bilateral and multilateral relations across various hierarchical levels in an
organizational set-up. The chapter concludes with the idea of using the
communicative transaction as the constitutive basis of organizations.

The contributions in the third and the largest part of the volume (from chapter
4 to 18) include detailed accounts of health and social care (4-10), law
(11-13), and specific professional and organizational studies of various fields
(13-18). The chapters present readers with an opportunity to find the
communicative/ linguistic /discursive parallels and critical themes across
different professional and organizational sites.

In ''Alignments and ‘facework’ in paediatric visits: Toward a social choreography
of multiparty talk’,'' the authors, Karin Aronsson and Camilla Rindstedt, concern
themselves with the overt and covert alignments and ‘disalignments’ that
doctors, patients and third-party members make with one another during treatment
and consultation in paediatric settings. The authors confirm these alignments
with the help of linguistic structures such as use and shift of address forms,
pronoun shift, collaborative 'we'-constructions, and directness vs. indirectness.

''Peering inside the black box: Lay and Professional reasoning surrounding
patient claims of adverse drug effects'' by ,Heidi E. Hamilton and Ashley M.
Bartell, also deals with healthcare communication. It shows an in-depth analysis
of language as well as of lay & professional reasoning used between patients and
doctors, respectively, pertaining to cases of adverse drug reactions.

''Institutional bodies and social selves: The discourse of medical examinations
in hospital settings,'' by Per Måseide, raises issues of the institutional,
moral, professional and social dilemmas of the medical staff arising due to a
patient’s dual identity as an object of their work as well as a social being.
It focuses on communicative strategies employed by the staff in working out
these dilemmas.

''Uncomfortable moments in speech-language therapy discourse,'' by Dana Kovarsky
and Irene Walsh, looks into interactional asymmetries found in the traditional
impairment-based therapy, which cause the occurrence of uncomfortable moments
such as threats to the professional face, positive rapport, or the social image
of a speech-language pathologist during therapy sessions with patients.
Reflecting on the possible drawbacks of the traditional model, the authors
recommend an alternative communicative practice.

In ''Speaking for another: Ethics-in-interaction in medical encounters,'' Ellen
Barton studies tensions between medical and ethical bases of the decision-making
process. It is found that doctors employ various communicative strategies (from
speaking for patients, self, profession, to third party members) and ethical
ends to help clients make an important medical decision. The author presents her
review research on two specific communicative events: end-of-life discussions
and offers to participate in medical trials of cancer medicine.

Jointly authored by Srikant Sarangi, Lucy Brookes-Howell, Kristina Bennert and
Angus Clarke, ''Psychological and sociological frames in genetic counseling for
predictive testing'' discusses the interactional process used to deal with
psychosocial concerns of clients in genetic counseling sessions within a
psychological and a ‘sociomoral’ frame, and up to what extent shifts between
these two frames can display clients' coping strategies. The chapter explores
how counselors’ consideration for personal feelings, inter-personal relations,
attached obligations and responsibilities of the clients during counseling can
help the clients make their decisions.

''Theoretical vocabularies and moral negotiation in child welfare: The saga of
the Evie and Seb,'' by Susan White and David Wastell, studies the social,
interactional, and rhetorical processes involved in professional sense-making in
situations which are morally contentious or ambiguous. It is shown that moral
judgments are primarily accomplished through mutual institutional discussions.
The authors considerably draw on folk and vernacular moral logic, moral
attributions of blame- and credit-worthiness, etc., which intersect with the
theoretical vocabularies in complex ways.

''Interrogation and evidence: Questioning sequences in courtroom discourse and
police interviews,'' by Sandra Harris, focuses on questioning strategies adopted
by lawyers and police while interrogating defendants and suspects, respectively.
The author also briefly discusses problems and issues that arise within legal
settings due to asymmetric distributions of power and knowledge, conflicting
judicial goals, and the typical legal criteria of eliciting information in the
interrogation process.

''Judging by what you’re saying: Judges’ questioning of lawyers as interactive
interpretation,'' by Pamela Hobbs, continues the topic of legal discourse. The
chapter shows how judges pose questions to the lawyers to demonstrate their
pragmatic and subjective knowledge, to resolve the possible conflict of opinions
and interpretations, and to check lawyers’ confidence in their own arguments
from the legal standpoint during courtroom discussions.

Giuliana Garzone in ''Professional discourses in contact: Interpreters in the
legal and medical settings'' attends to dialogue interpreting in the professions
of healthcare and law. The chapter postulates that given the constant variation
in the position and the role of the interpreters along with differing
institutional idiosyncrasies, the process of interpretation can be affected and
may result in loss of message and miscommunication. The chapter also shows how
syntactic, semantic, pragmatic, and terminological differences may occur due to
different interpreting techniques, professional competence, and institutional

The chapter ''Enabling bids: Occupational practice and ‘multi-modal’ interaction
in auctions of fine art and antiques'' by Christian Heath and Paul Luff deals
with the use and importance of processes of social interaction, organized
turn-takings, and non-verbal and paralinguistic cues to escalate the prices of
goods on sale and to create competition among bidders for higher bidding in

''Argumentation across web-based organizational discourses: The case of climate
change,'' by Graham Smart, studies how argumentation across networks of texts
produced by various professional organizations as they engage in debating issue
of climate-change leads to two opposing different discourse coalitions and how
representations of science are used for rhetorical effect within this
argumentation. The author proposes a methodological model, which he claims can
be used to empirically explore the collective formation of argumentation within
and across organizations engaged in any public debate on controversial social

''E-messaging in the corporate sector: Tensions between technological affordances
and rapport management,'' by Maria do Carmo Leite de Oliveira, explores how
e-mail messaging, primarily intended to ease the process of internal
communication at a workplace, may threaten mutual trust and weaken proximity
among employees. Consequently, an inappropriate balance between organizational
practices and professional, personal, and social goals at a workplace may result.

''Gatekeeping discourse in employment interviews,'' by Celia Roberts, studies how
the competency-based selection procedure, in employment interviews, which is
primarily designed to provide for the objective assessment and equal opportunity
to the candidates, can actually disadvantage them and construct various types of
linguistic, cultural, and psychological impediment. The importance of
candidate’s alignment with their interviewers’ communicative background and
preferences is also shown.

''The gatekeeping encounter as a social form and as a site for facework,'' by
Frederick Erickson, continues with the role of gatekeeping in discourse
analysis. The chapter focuses on discourse strategies (indirectness,
persuasiveness, tactfulness, positive self-presentation etc.) employed by
gatekeepers and the ‘gatekept’ to maintain each other’s face while securing the
best interests of the institution as well as their own. It is discussed how
co-membership between a gatekeeper and a ‘gatekept’ facilitates the discourse
process and helps in the face-threatening instances.

The fourth and last part of the volume (from chapter 19 to 26) presents
contributions that applied linguistics (especially discourse analysis) has made
to various professional fields. Contributions come from both applied linguists
and professional practitioners. ''Appreciating the power of the narratives in
healthcare: A tool for understanding organizational complexity and values,''
authored by Amanda Taylor, Orit Karnieli-Miller, Thomas Inui, Steven Ivy, and
Richard Frankel, examines how narratives/storytelling can be used as an
effective tool to understand how core values of the employees operate, i.e.,
align, misalign, or conflict with, organizational values in professional
set-ups, especially when employees face some challenging situations which might
require them to perform beyond their organizational role.

''Family support and home visiting: Understanding communication, 'good practice'
and interactional skills,'' by Stef Slembrouck and Christopher Hall, looks at the
communication between professionals and clients in home visits by health and
social-care professionals. The chapter includes a literature review on
professional communication practices explaining why a particular communicative
practice may be considered good or bad. It also analyzes the professional client
communication within a discourse analytic framework and elucidates how the
professional and the discourse analytic approach can draw insights from each
other. It also includes a study in which professionals attempt to examine their
own communicative skills in the client interaction process.

''Crossing the boundary between finance and law: The collaborative
'problematisation’ of professional learning in a postgraduate classroom,'' by
Alan Jones and Sheelagh McCracken, describes the role played by an applied
linguist in facilitating the process of inter-professional learning:
inter-professional meaning making of the technical vocabulary and other
linguistic structures. The chapter describes how an academic lawyer and an
applied linguist collaboratively identified a problem and developed teaching and
learning materials for postgraduate level finance professionals to understand
the linguistic and discursive aspects of the discourse of a finance law course.

''Analytic Challenges in studying professional learning,'' by David Middleton,
shows the use of communicative analysis to assess multi-agency, work-based
professional learning and use of an analytic protocol for cross-site analysis of
the communicative action. The author describes how communicative action can tell
a lot about professionals’ understanding of their work practices, their
perspectives, knowledge states, distinctions concerning the practice, etc.

''Applying linguistic research to real world problems: The social meaning of talk
in work place interaction,'' by Janet Holmes, Angela Joe, Meredith Marra,
Jonathan Newton, Nicky Riddiford and Bernadette Vine, gives important insights
to those working in the fields such as applied sociolinguistics or
sociopragmatics. The chapter explores how linguists can effectively involve
lay-people not only in the process of learning but also in developing the course
materials and in identifying the research areas of mutual concern. The chapter
shows how collaboration with the workplaces and use of authentic data in course
materials can improve the teaching and learning process.

''Changes in professional identity: Nursing roles and practices,'' by Sally
Candlin, describes how shifting of roles and identities that nurses take upon as
part of their professional requirements poses considerable complexity for the
process discourse analysis. The chapter also delineates how such roles are
constituted through performance of particular discourses. For a discourse
analyst to understand these all different roles and identities, he/she must
understand the institutional or professional settings/contexts where these roles
are set.

''Crossing the practitioner –researcher boundary: Working with another discipline
to examine one’s practice,'' by Angus Clarke, explains the benefits and the
disadvantages that are incurred when an applied linguist and a professional
collaborate (especially in long-term collaborations). The author makes it clear
that successful collaboration requires substantial investment of effort on
various levels by both parties, otherwise things may go awry.

''The linguist in the witness box,'' by Malcolm Coulthard, mainly looks at the
problems that linguists face as expert witnesses and at how jury and lawyers
align or misalign themselves when presented with some opinion based on
linguistic evidence. The chapter compares the two most common approaches that
are used in interpreting linguistic evidence: semantic vs. statistical
approaches to linguistic data.


The volume succeeds in demonstrating how applied linguistics can significantly
contribute to dealing with the real world organizational issues. Part one (the
editorial section) in particular succeeds in explaining the purpose and the
scope of the volume. However, I think its scope is narrower than the use of the
term ''communication'' in the title indicates. The term ''communication'' comprises
four dimensions: speaking, listening, reading, and writing, whereas most of the
chapters of the volume take only spoken discourse into account. Writing makes an
essential part of the organizational communication process and therefore should
not be ignored (Gerson & Gerson, 2009).

As most of the studies in the volume use the discourse analytic approach, an
introductory chapter on the topic might have been helpful for those who are
not from the field. About ten chapters examine their topics from the perspective
of a profession rather than from the perspective of communication, which may
sometimes be less accessible to readers purely from a linguistics or
communication studies background. The volume has given more weight than required
to the chapters focusing on communication in health, social- care, and legal
settings. Other fields, such as tourism, engineering, the hospitality industry
could easily have been included. I think that The Sage Handbook of
Organizational Discourse (2004) makes a more balanced contribution in this
regard. Another problem might be that in certain cases (chapters 10 and 16), the
data that are discussed were collected a long time ago, which puts a question on
the relevance of the findings for more contemporary settings of the organizations.

Overall, however, the volume provides scholars working in the fields of applied
and theoretical linguistics, language and communication studies, technical and
professional discourse, and those interested in the sociological aspects of
language use with rich insights into organizational processes in which language
has a role to play.


Gerson, S.J. and S.M. Gerson (2009): Technical Writing: Process and Product, 3rd
Ed. New Delhi: Pearson.
Grant, D, C. Hardy, C. Oswick, and L. Putnam (2004): The Sage Handbook of
Organizational Discourse. London: Sage Publications.
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.