A critical genre study of written professional discourse

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A critical genre study of written professional discourse

 

Author: Ip, Chuen-ching
Title: A critical genre study of written professional discourse
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2010
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Construction industry -- Records and correspondence
English language -- Business English
Department: Dept. of English
Pages: xv, 627 p. : ill. ; 30 cm.
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2425028
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/6041
Abstract: Quantity surveyors are experts in the management of construction costs and contracts in the real estate and construction industry. They belong to a professional discourse community and use language as a form of discursive and social practice to manifest their professional knowledge and relationships with others in the context of their profession legitimized by their professional institutions, as well as the consumerism and managerialism inherent in their work organizations. These institutional forces shape the forms and meanings of their language use. The present study aims to investigate the discursive behavior and competence of quantity surveyors in Hong Kong by means of a critical genre analysis of a corpus of English workplace letters (the Hong Kong Quantity Surveying (QS) Corpus) produced by a group of eight quantity surveyors working in a government office. These professional letters are written and read during the project life that involved consultancy agreements and building contracts, and are mainly addressed to quantity surveying consultancy firms, tenderers and contractors. While quantity surveyors are usually considered to be concerned more with their disciplinary and professional practices than discursive practices, and linguistic analysts are inclined to focus on textual characteristics, this study pays equal attention to both the professional and linguistic resources and practices. This study also discusses the use of a range of communicative and linguistic strategies adopted by quantity surveyors to achieve both context-dependent communicative goals and the transformation of professional and organizational ideologies. This research goal is achieved by using Bhatia's (2004) multidimensional and multi-perspective framework to analyze the genre of Quantity Surveying letters from "textual", "socio-cognitive", "ethnographic" and "socio-critical" perspectives, while Biber's (1988 and 1995) multidimensional analyzes of variation in English, a corpus-based empirical approach, is complementarily employed in this study to retrieve linguistic data from the QS Corpus for analysis, interpretation and explanation.
Analysis of the QS Corpus shows that the communicative purposes in the quantity surveying discourses are primarily directive, procedural, checking and monitoring. The directive and procedural discourses are related to the delivery of prerogatives and guidelines which are routine in nature, and many of their communicative letters are standardized, whereas the checking and monitoring discourses are concerned with expressing evaluations and comments which are spontaneous. The QS letters are found to be highly informative, interactive, and written in formal, firm and direct language to encode messages, and their move patterns are formulaic. Each move has its own content and style to fulfill specific communicative functions with characteristic language use. However, the lexico-grammar and textualization of the moves vary across communicative purposes. The QS letters also have a dense level of intertextual and interdiscursive resources which are strategically employed by the letter writers to accomplish specific communicative goals. This study finds that the quantity surveyors intimate the norms and beliefs of the government office in their language use and gradually cultivate the expectations of conventionalized genres. The quantity surveyors understand the role they play in societal discourse, and strategically transform their professional and organizational ideologies through linguistic manipulations. This research contributes to studying professional communication in real-life contexts, particularly in the quantity surveying profession which has not yet been researched. It has successfully integrated the study of register-specific linguistic features (Biber, 1988 and 1995) and critical genre analysis (Bhatia, 2004). The findings will inform novice and expert professionals' and students’ understanding of "the conventionalized patterns of knowledge, beliefs and experiences" (Bhatia, 1993: 183) of the quantity surveying community in genre construction and comprehension, offer them an agenda for continued development, and most importantly, raise their awareness of the importance of "discursive competence" (Bhatia, 2004: 144) in workplace communication.

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