Business Discourse (2nd edition): Relevant for ESPers Worldwide!

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

As ESPers, we have the responsibility to learn as much as we can about how people communicate. By researching and learning about professional communication and reflecting on our teaching practices, we empower ourselves to create learning experiences for our students. Through such learning experiences, we empower our students to communicate for the purpose of achieving their specific goals. In sum, we promote leadership communication worldwide (when leadership is conceptualized as influencing others to achieve a vision/goal).

Accordingly, when I come across a resource that can empower ESPers worldwide, I want to share it with ESPers worldwide! Check out the following:

Bargiela-Chiappini, F., Nickerson, C., & Planken, B. (2013). Business discourse (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

The book is divided into four parts:

  • Part I – The field of business discourse
  • Part II – Applying business discourse research
  • Part III – Researching business discourse
  • Part IV – Resources

In Part I of the volume, the authors ask “What is business discourse?” The first part of their answer to that question is as follows:

Business discourse is all about how people communicate in talk or writing in commercial organizations in order to get their work done. In this book, we will view business discourse as social action in business contexts. We will discuss the work of researchers (and practitioners) primarily interested in the investigation of spoken and written communication in general and language in particular in business settings, most often in corporate settings. We will be looking at (a) what business discourse research has told us about how people in business organizations achieve their organizational and personal goals using language, (b) how the findings of that research have been applied in teaching and training materials, and (c) how to go about doing business discourse research. (p. 3)

In my field of work, all of the above is relevant. My students are adult professionals and undergraduates (who aim to become leaders).

In a 2011 plenary address first published by Cambridge University Press in 2012, Nickerson talks about the “key areas that…will—and perhaps should—continue to shape our research efforts in the future and provide us with a basis for our teaching.” Her comments on the last of these key areas are quoted below:

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we should develop closer ties with the sort of people working in business and industry that our students aspire to become – it is only through listening to them that we will understand the communication knowledge and skills that will ultimately lead to professional competence. (p. 5)

One way to understand such professionals is through our own research; e.g., in my case, semi-structured interviews in an investigation of the conceptualization of leadership. Another way is to read the research publications of others such as Bargiela-Chiappini, Nickerson, and Planken (2013) above.

Candlin and Hall (editors of the Research and Practice in Applied Linguistics series in which the volume above appears) write in the General Editors’ Preface:

The overall objective of the series is to illustrate the message that in Applied Linguistics there can be no good professional practice that isn’t based on good research, and there can be no good research that isn’t informed by practice.

In my experience, it is a very good idea to listen to the advice of Candlin, in particular. Bargiela-Chiappini, Nickerson, and Planken (2013) agree when they write:

One scholar…who has made a sustained and distinctive contribution to both LSP and discourse scholarship in the last four decades is Christopher Candlin (e.g., Candlin & Crichton, 2011a). In collaboration with Srikant Sarangi he has proposed a cross-disciplinary understanding of ‘communication’ in organizational and professional settings, which blends insights from applied linguistics (specifically LSP) and communications studies, (cf. Candlin & Sarangi, 2011; Sarangi & Candlin, 2011). With Jonathan Crichton, he also introduced and applied a multiperspectival model of discursive practices that combines textual and semiotic analyses with interpretive and ethnographic approaches (Candlin, 1997, 2006; Candlin and Crichton, 2011b, in press, in press; see also: Crichton, 2003, 2010). (p.6)

If you want to learn more about such interdisciplinary and multiperspectival research of business discourse, Bargiela-Chiappini, Nickerson, and Planken (2013) is a wonderful resource!

It is indeed an exciting time to be involved in ESP research and practice. Check out Business discourse (2nd ed.), and continue to grow academically and professionally as an ESPer!

All the best,


About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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