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Discourse & Communication

Interdiscursivity in professional communication Vijay K. Bhatia DISCOURSE & COMMUNICATION 2010 4: 32 DOI: 10.1177/1750481309351208 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Interdiscursivity in professional communication

Discourse & Communication 21(1) 32–50 © The Author(s) 2010 Reprints and permission: http://www. DOI: 10.1177/1750481309351208

Vijay K. Bhatia City University of Hong Kong, China

Abstract In recent versions of professional genre analysis, context has assumed increasingly critical importance, thus redefining genre as a configuration of text-internal and text-external factors. The emphasis on text-external properties of genre has brought into focus the notion of interdiscursivity as distinct from intertextuality, which is primarily viewed as appropriation of text-internal resources. Drawing evidence from a number of professional contexts, this article explores the nature, function, and use of interdiscursivity in genre theory, defining interdiscursivity as a function of appropriation of generic resources across discursive, professional and cultural practices, which, it is claimed, is central to our understanding of the complexities of genres that are typically employed in professional, disciplinary, and institutional communication.

Keywords appropriation of generic resources, arbitration practices, corporate disclosure practices, interdiscursivity, professional discourse, text-external resources

Introduction Text and context have been assigned varying importance in the analysis of professional genres. In the early conceptualizations of genre (Bhatia, 1993; Swales, 1981, 1990) the focus was more centrally on text, and context played a relatively less important background role. However, in more recent versions of genre analysis (Bhatia, 2004, 2008a, 2008b; Swales, 1998) context has been assigned a more prominent role, thus redefining genre as a configuration of text-external and text-internal factors, highlighting, at the same time, two kinds of relationships involving texts and contexts. Interrelationships between and across texts, focusing primarily on text-internal properties, are viewed as intertextual in nature, whereas interactions across and between genres, resulting primarily Corresponding author: Vijay K. Bhatia, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China. Email: [email protected]

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from text-external factors, are seen as interdiscursive in nature. Intertextuality has been paid some attention in discourse and genre theory; interdiscursivity, however, has attracted relatively little attention, especially in genre theory. Drawing evidence from a number of professional settings, in particular from corporate disclosure practices, international commercial arbitration practices, and philanthropic fundraising practices, this article will explore the nature and function of interdiscursivity in genre theory, claiming that interdiscursivity is the function of appropriation of generic resources, primarily contextual in nature, focusing on specific relationships between and across discursive and professional practices as well as professional cultures. The article will thus argue that interdiscursivity is central to our understanding of the complexities of professional genres which are typically used in professional, disciplinary, institutional as well as workplace contexts. The article contains three main sections: the first section makes an attempt to identify and discuss interdiscursivity as a function of appropriation of generic resources across professional genres, practices and cultures; the second section illustrates interdiscursivity by referring to some of the relevant aspects of three majors studies from rather different professional contexts, that is, corporate disclosure documents, colonization of international commercial arbitration practices, and philanthropic fundraising and commercial advertising cultural practices; and the final section concludes by proposing the notion of Critical Genre Analysis to better handle the complex and dynamic appropriations and their implications for professional communication.

Interdiscursivity Bhatia (2004), in proposing a three space multidimensional and multi-perspective model for analysing written discourse, underpins the importance of context in genre theory. The three overlapping concepts of space, which includes textual, socio-pragmatic (incorporating both genre-based discursive and professional practices), and more generally, social, help a discourse analyst to focus more appropriately on one or more of these three dimensions of space to analyse and interpret professional discourse. However, when we focus on professional discourse, we find that most forms of professional discourse operate simultaneously within and across four somewhat different but overlapping levels in order to construct and interpret meanings in typical professional contexts. Drawing on this framework (Bhatia, 2004), these levels of realizations can be identified as textual, genre-specific, professional practice, and professional culture, which can be represented visually as in Figure 1. The interesting thing about professional communication is that what you see as the ultimate product is the text, which is made possible by a combination of very complex and dynamic range of resources, including those that in linguistic and earlier discourse analytical literature are viewed as lexico-grammatical, rhetorical, and organizational. Other contributors to the construction of professional artefacts are conventions of the genre in question, the understanding of the professional practice in which the genre is embedded, and the culture of the profession, discipline, or institution, which constrains the use of textual resources for a particular discursive practice. In other words, any instance of professional communication simultaneously operates and can be analysed at these four levels, as text, as representation of genre, as realization of professional practice, and as expectation of professional culture.

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Figure 1. Patterns of discourse realization in professional contexts

In another sense, this above-mentioned pattern realization of professional discourse also highlights two kinds of relationship helpful for analysis, one representing the textcontext relationship, and the other representing the discursive-professional practice relationship. These two kinds of relationship seem to be the function of text-internal and text-external semiotic resources and constraints. Text-internal resources have been wellresearched within discourse and genre analytical literature as mentioned earlier, sometimes highlighting the notion of ‘intertextuality’; however, text-external resources so far have not been treated in detail in genre theory. Text-external resources, as mentioned earlier, include the conventions that constrain generic constructs as well as professional practices, and perhaps more appropriately, specific disciplinary cultures that motivate these practices, both discursive as well as professional practices. A comprehensive analysis of any professional communication therefore needs to consider and integrate the use of all these semiotic resources, that is, textual and intertextual resources, generic conventions, professional practices, and professional cultures in the context of which the other three are invariably embedded. Any theory or framework that chooses to underemphasize any of these four aspects of language use is unlikely to offer a comprehensive and insightful understanding of a specific genre used as part of a professional activity to achieve specific professional, disciplinary, and institutional objectives. To take the discussion further, it seems increasingly more obvious now than ever before that textual as well as other semiotic resources and conventions at various levels of professional engagement are often appropriated and exploited for the construction and interpretation of discursive as well as disciplinary practices, thus establishing interesting interactive patterns of intertextuality and interdiscursivity. The concept of interdiscursivity, which is sometimes subsumed under intertextuality, is not entirely new and can be traced back to the works of Bakhtin (1986), Candlin and Maley (1997), Fairclough (1995), Foucault (1981), Kristeva (1980), and several others. However, these two

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concepts have not been fully explored and sufficiently developed to investigate some of the complexities we find in discursive and professional practices within genre analytical literature. To make an initial distinction between these two related concepts we can safely begin by assuming that intertextuality refers to the use of prior texts transforming the past into the present often in relatively conventionalized and somewhat standardized ways. Interdiscursivity, on the other hand, refers to more innovative attempts to create various forms of hybrid and relatively novel constructs by appropriating or exploiting established conventions or resources associated with other genres and practices. Interdiscursivity thus accounts for a variety of discursive processes and professional practices, often resulting in ‘mixing’, ‘embedding’, and ‘bending’ of generic norms in professional contexts (Bhatia, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2004). More importantly for our discussion here, interdiscursivity can be viewed as appropriation of semiotic resources (which may include textual, semantic, socio-pragmatic, generic, and professional) across any two or more of these different levels, especially those of genre, professional practice and professional culture. Appropriations across texts thus give rise to intertextual relations, whereas appropriations across professional genres, practices, and cultures constitute interdiscursive relations. In order to develop a comprehensive and evidence-based awareness of the motives and intentions of such disciplinary and professional practices (Swales, 1998), one needs to look closely at the multiple discourses, actions, and voices that play a significant role in the formation of specific discursive practices within relevant institutional and organizational frameworks, in addition to the conventional systems of genres (Bazerman, 1994), often used to fulfil professional objectives of specific disciplinary or discourse communities. This is possible only within the notion of ‘interdiscursivity’ which is an important function of appropriation of text-external generic resources across professional genres and professional practices. In the foregoing, I have briefly referred to the use and appropriation of text-external semiotic resources to realize what I have called interdiscursivity. Before I proceed to discuss specific instances of interdiscursivity in professional genres, I would like to give more substance to what I mean by text-external semiotic resources crucial for interpreting interdiscursivity as appropriation of generic resources. These text-external resources primarily include three kinds of factors, which make a particular genre possible (Bhatia, 2004). 1) Discursive practices 2) Discursive procedures 3) Disciplinary cultures Discursive practices, on the one hand, are essentially the outcome of specific professional procedures, and on the other hand, are embedded in specific professional cultures. Discursive practices include factors such as the choice of a particular genre to achieve a specific objective and the appropriate and effective mode of communication associated with such a genre. Discursive procedures are factors associated with the characteristics of participants who are authorized to make a valid and appropriate contribution; participatory mechanism, which determines what kind of contribution a particular participant is

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allowed to make at what stage of the genre construction process; and the other contributing genres that have a valid and justifiable input to the document under construction. Both these factors, discursive practices and discursive procedures, inevitably take place within the context of the typical disciplinary and professional cultures to which a particular genre belongs. Disciplinary and professional cultures determine the boundaries of several kinds of constraints, such as generic norms and conventions, professional and disciplinary goals and objectives, and the questions of professional, disciplinary and organizational identities (see Bhatia, 2004). Coming to the issue of interdiscursivity as appropriation of generic resources, I propose that within the concept of genre and professional practice, one can see expert professional writers constantly operating within and across generic boundaries creating new but essentially related and/or hybrid (both mixed and embedded) forms to give expression to their ‘private intentions’ within socially accepted communicative practices and shared generic norms (Bhatia, 1994; Berkenkotter and Huckin, 1995; Fairclough, 1995). Interdiscursivity therefore is always across discursive events (may be genres, professional activities, or even more generally professional cultures). It is often based on shared generic or contextual characteristics across two or more discursive constructs and some understanding of these shared features is a necessary condition to an adequate understanding of the new construct. Interdiscursivity thus can be viewed as a function of appropriation of generic resources across three kinds of contextual and other text-external boundaries: • • •

Professional genres Professional practices Professional cultures

The concept of interdiscursivity as outlined here can be visually represented as in Figure 2.


Appropriation of Generic Resources ACROSS

Professional Genres

Genre A

Professional Practices

Genre B

Practice A

Practice B

Professional Cultures

Culture A

Figure 2. Interdiscursivity in professional contexts

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Culture B



In principle, both Intertextuality and Interdiscursivity can be viewed as tactical appropriations of all forms of semiotic resources across texts, genres, social practices, and cultures. From the point of view of genre theory, especially in the context of professional communication, it is necessary to distinguish them further. Appropriations across textinternal resources are intertextual in nature, as they operate within what we refer to as ‘textual space’; however, a vast majority of appropriations take place across text-external semiotic resources at other levels of professional, institutional, and disciplinary discourses, such as genres, professional, institutional, and disciplinary practices, and professional, institutional, and disciplinary cultures to meet socially shared professional, institutional, and disciplinary expectations and objectives, and sometimes to achieve ‘private intentions’. These latter forms of appropriations that operate in what can be viewed as ‘socio-pragmatic space’ are essentially interdiscursive in nature. It may be pointed out that often these appropriations, whether text-internal or text-external, discursively operate simultaneously at all levels of discourse to realise the intended meaning. In what follows, therefore, I would like to take specific instances of interdiscursivity from a variety of professional contexts not only to illustrate that it operates at all levels, generic, professional practice, and professional culture, but also to claim that it not only allows a more rigorous and comprehensive analysis of genres in and as professional practice, but at the same time also encourages evidenced-based studies of professional and institutional practices and cultures through the genres they often use. I would like to take up instances of interdiscursivity from three rather different professional contexts, all of which result from an appropriation of generic resources across two different genres, practices and/or cultures in and across professional contexts, to argue for a critical study of professional genres.


Professional, institutional and disciplinary genres

Professional, institutional and disciplinary practices

Professional, institutional, and disciplinary cultures

Corporate disclosure genres

Colonization of arbitration practices

Marketing and fundraising cultures

Figure 3. Illustrations–interdiscursivity

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Let me give more substance to this notion of interdiscursivity as appropriation of generic resources by taking up instances from specific professional contexts. My first illustration comes from corporate disclosure practices.

Interdiscursivity: illustrations Corporate annual reports1. The illustration is based on a project focusing on 15 Hong Kong Stock Exchange listed companies, in which an attempt was made to critically examine corporate disclosure practices through corporate disclosure genres. The focus in this article is not on what the companies did or did not disclose in a particular year, but more importantly, on the hidden intentions and motivations for such practices. A critical aspect of the investigation thus was not simply to focus on the use of linguistic resources that often make it possible for corporate writers to persuade and convince a varied audience of stakeholders, in particular minority shareholders, to accept their accounts, estimates, and projections of the future performance of the corporation in question, but also to demystify corporate disclosure practices in the prevailing competitive corporate culture of sustaining shareholders’ interest and investment in the corporation. The companies were categorized into three main groups based on their performance during the 1998 to 2005 period. They were categorized on the basis of their good, moderate, or poor performance. The selection of the corpus, in particular, the performance of companies as revealed in corporate periodic and annual reports and several other documents, was made in consultation with specialists in business and finance, keeping in mind their overall turnover, progress during the specified period, and return on equity, in addition to various other indicators. The main corpus for a multidimensional as well as multiperspective genre analysis (Bhatia, 2004) consisted of corporate disclosure documents, which included annual and other periodical performance reports, press releases by these companies about their performance, and other communications from management to (minority) shareholders. These comprised sections of annual and other interim reports, press releases by these companies, earnings/results announcements, shareholder circulars, notes from general meetings, transcripts/slides from speeches/presentations, and a number of other corporate publications such as the company newsletters. In addition to this primary corpus, there was an additional corpus of secondary data, which included newspaper reports on corporate performance, journal articles highlighting or reviewing the performance of these companies, assessments of the performance of these companies by rating agencies, such as Standard and Poor’s, and other financial institutions, such as the Monetary Authority of Hong Kong, etc. The main function of the secondary data, which is primarily drawn from newspapers, magazine articles, and through internet websites of rating agencies and institutions, incorporating assessments, reviews, and evaluations of performance by outside rating agencies, was to provide additional informed third-party perspectives on the performance of these companies. Besides this secondary corpus, the project also sought perceptions of participants and specialists in corporate disclosure practices, which included not only accountants and public relations experts, but also expert members of the rating agencies as well as experienced minority shareholders through semi-structured interviews. However, in this article I

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would like to consider the form, function, and value attached to only one kind of corporate genre, that is, the annual report. Corporate annual reports have long been considered the pulse of corporate realities. Their main purpose is to inform their shareholders about the performance and health of the company, specifically its successes and failures, current problems, and prospects for its future development. However, corporate annual reports and other disclosure documents seem to be changing in their function from ‘informing and reporting’ to increasingly ‘promoting’ the companies by a strategic underplaying of corporate weaknesses, often ‘bending’ the norms of corporate disclosure genres. One of the interesting findings of the analysis was that the annual report was a typical combination of at least four interesting but different discourses included in the same document, all of which, partly because of the interdiscursive relations between them and partly through the expert use of specific lexico-syntactic as well as socio-pragmatic resources, are cleverly exploited to ‘bend’ the norms and conventions of ‘reporting’ to promote a positive image of the company, even in adverse and challenging economic circumstances. The companies through these annual reports often seem to negotiate the tension between the need to underplay a relatively weak corporate performance and to project the expectations of good performance (speculation about the future outlook), especially in contexts when uncertainties about future economic and corporate growth and performance threaten encouraging prospects in the coming years. In addition, they also need to conform to the legal requirements of disclosure of information for the benefit of corporate stakeholders. So essentially they need to handle four different kinds of discourses within the same genre of what is conventionally known as a corporate annual report. The four kinds of discourses are: • • • •

Accounting discourse, which forms a major part of the Annual Reports, duly endorsed, certified by public accountants. Discourse of economics, in the form of what is conventionally known as the financial review section of the report. Public relations discourse, in the form of the chairman’s letter to shareholders, for which public accounting firms do not take any responsibility. Legal discourse, which forms a major part of disclaimers, often necessary to comprehend the full implications of the information disclosed in the report.

Obviously, the most important section of the annual report consists of the accounting information, which, in most parts, is nothing more than the numbers displayed in the form of tables, graphs, and calculations of various kinds. In addition, these numbers are certified by public accountants to be true and honest representations of the profits and losses of the corporation in question. The discourse of economics, on the other hand, offers a review of the company’s performance based on the numbers certified by the public accountants, but this section is not certified by the public accountants. This section is often written by someone in the corporation who specializes in financial management, and they generally offer their view on the performance of the company, apparently on the basis of the information included in the accounting section, to which there are often references in support of the review.

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However, there may not always be any explicit relationship between the two forms of discourse. They are positioned in the same interdiscursive space, perhaps to give the impression that one is a true representation of the other, and hence not necessarily an authoritative interpretation of the other. This strategic appropriation of interdiscursive space creates an unmistakable impression in the mind of uninitiated readers, particularly the minority shareholders, who really do not understand the complexity of numbers in the accounting discourse, that the one they understand better is a seeming interpretation of the one that is beyond their capacity to interpret. If we can take one more step beyond these two business discourses and consider the third form of discourse, which most readers can understand, we confront the Chairman’s statement, which, in reality, is nothing more than public relations discourse, giving the predictions and projections based on the company performance in the reporting year. Once again, it can be considered at least twice removed from the reality of the accounting discourse, but it is generally believed to be based on the certified numbers given elsewhere in the annual report. So the implication from the most technical (accounting) discourse, which is accessible only to insiders, is strategically appropriated to construct the discourse of finance (sometimes called ‘management’s analysis and discussion’), which is relatively more accessible than the former, and both of these are further appropriated to construct the discourse of public relations (Chairman’s Letter or Statement), which is easily accessible to insiders as well as to outsiders. Let me give some very brief illustrations of what I have suggested.

Accounting discourse We have audited the accompanying financial statements of PCCW Limited (the ‘Company’) and its subsidiaries (the ‘Group’) as at and for the year ended December 31, 2003, set out on pages 71 to 129, which have been prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in Hong Kong . . . It is our responsibility to form an independent opinion, based on our audit, on those statements and to report our opinion solely to you, as a body, in accordance with section 141 of the Hong Kong Companies Ordinance, and for no other purpose. We do not assume responsibility towards or accept liability to any other person for the contents of this report . . . In our opinion the financial statements give a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the Company and of the Group as at December 31, 2003 and of the loss and cash flows of the Group for the year then ended and have been properly prepared in accordance with the Hong Kong Companies Ordinance. (Name of the company Annual Report 2003)

These few paragraphs constitute the only textual material we find as part of the accounting discourse. These paragraphs contain preliminary information and not what is often associated with substantive information on corporate disclosures. The rest of the pages contain statistical information consisting of numbers in tabular forms and displays of various other kinds, a section of which is given in Table 1.

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Bhatia Table 1. Non-current assets




Fixed assets Properties held for/under development Goodwill Intangible assets Interest in jointly controlled companies Interest in associates Investments Net lease payments receivable Other non-current assets

18 19 20 21 3(c) & 23 24 25 35

21,540 3774 933 1350 33 488 638 377 390

23,280 4357 1304 1738 3505 1127 908 475 467

As compared with this typical accounting information, let me present the second kind of discourse, which may be called the discourse of finance, often given different names in different corporate disclosure annual reports. This one has been called ‘management discussion and analysis’.

Discourse of finance: Management discussion and analysis The increase in revenue was primarily due to the successful pre-sales of Residence XXX project, with revenue of HHH million . . .; continuing growth in broadband Internet access business; and increased revenue from the IT business in mainland China. Competition in the Hong Kong telecommunications market continued to be substantial. The increase in revenue was partially offset by a reduction in revenue from certain traditional telecommunications services primarily due to a reduction in the overall number of direct exchange lines in service operated by the Group, and the significant downward pricing pressure in the traditional local data and international telecommunications markets. (Name of the company Annual Report 2003)

As we may see, this discourse is different from the former in that it is more of a discussion and analysis of facts and figures, which form a substantial part of the accounting discourse. Since the two are put together and there are frequent references to accounting information, the readers get an unforgettable impression of the finance one being the interpretation of the accounting information. This recontextualization of the accounting information, as many discourse analysts have noted, may not be a consistent and true representation of the statistical information and may often lead to varying interpretations, but the reader is less likely to question such recontextualization of information if the two sections share the same socio-pragmatic space. In this case, therefore, interdiscursivity across the two rather different discourses comes from appropriation of sociopragmatic space. Let us make the picture a bit more complex by bringing in yet another form of discourse from the annual report genre, that is, the discourse of public relations.

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Public relations discourse Dear Fellow Shareholders, Conditions in the telecommunications business globally and regionally were certainly difficult in 2003, while Hong Kong’s own economic, political, competition and public health issues presented (name of the company) with a particularly challenging environment. Despite this, the Company has emerged stronger and better placed to increase shareholder value. It is pleasing to report that prospects for 2004 are encouraging. An economic recovery appears to be gathering pace in Hong Kong, and trading conditions have improved globally. China’s economy continues its robust growth, while CEPA (Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement) promises stronger economic ties between Hong Kong and mainland China. With this in mind, the Company’s presence in mainland China continues to expand. (Name of the company Annual Report 2003)

This discourse, of course, is a further recontextualization of the earlier discourses, and is meant to reassure stakeholders that everything about the performance of the company is fine and the future seems even better than the past. There are a few references to facts and figures, which form an integral part of the two earlier discourses, and most of the estimations and predictions are based on impressions and hopes of the chairman or the chief executive. The three discourses, which are taken from the same annual report of a public listed company in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, are placed in a particular order within the socio-pragmatic space of the same genre, co-constructing the intended meaning and serving a rather typical corporate objective of informing stakeholders as well as public monitoring authorities about the performance of the company in the preceding years while at the same time giving a rather positive impression of the company’s performance to its shareholders in order not to disturb the ‘sentiment of the investors’ or precipitate an undesirable downward trend in share price movement. It is interesting to note that the three discourses are rather different in accessibility to its intended readership, particularly to outsiders like the minority shareholders as against the insiders, that is, specialists such as institutional investors, financial experts, and business managers. The three discourses also vary considerably in terms of the technicality as well as complexity of the information, but the most interesting aspect of such reports is that it is the technically complex accounting discourse that has the maximum amount of credibility, in that it is this discourse which is certified by the public accounting firms. As the discourses become less technical, they become less credible as they are based on the interpretations of the certified accounting discourse. As a senior public accountant points out: The accountant’s job is to note any inconsistency in the company reports and . . . to go through the banking mechanism of the management . . . Accountants are not responsible for the forecasting of the company’s future.

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So the certification by a public accounting firms lends a strong measure of credibility to the disclosures, whereas the public relations discourse is a typical PR job. A senior public relations manager interviewed about her involvement in the chairman’s letter in the annual report candidly pointed out: . . . the Chairman’s Statement in a company report (is) the PR’s job . . . At times when profit is not so good, her role as a PR manager is to manage the sentiments of the public and the shareholders so as not to make any dramatic share price movement. This involves management of tone and manner of writing the reports as well as meeting the expectations of the Management.

The three discourses thus tend to serve two very different purposes: the accounting discourse tends to report accurately and factually on the basis of financial evidence of past corporate performance, whereas the chairman’s letter is meant to promote a positive image of the company to its shareholders and other stakeholders in order to sustain their confidence in future corporate performance. Both these discourses are products of two very different corporate practices: one is centrally located in the conventional and legally required practice of auditing corporate results, and the other is an instance of marketing and public relations practice. They also use very different textual resources and rhetorical strategies: one uses numerical data consistent with audit and accountancy practices, whereas the other makes use of promotional as well as forecasting rhetorical strategies. However, it is interesting to note that the two discourses are strategically placed in the same document, that is, the annual report, thus establishing an interesting interdiscursive relationship between these two different corporate genres. The real motivation for placing the two discourses within the boundaries of the same corporate annual report is that such textual proximity is likely to lend marketing and public relations discourse the same factual reliability and hence credibility that is often presupposed from the use of numerical data. The public relations discourse, on its own, is likely to be viewed by the intended audience of (minority) shareholders as a promotional effort, but when it is placed in the discoursal context of the accounting discourse, which is often viewed as more evidencebased, factual and therefore reliable, is likely to raise the legitimate presupposition that it may be drawing its conclusions from the accounting numbers that are certified by a public authority accepted by the controlling government agencies. Many of the minority shareholders, whose numbers have increased considerably in recent years, often lack expertise and even linguistic skills to fully understand the implications of the accounting discourse in the annual report, but when they see the chairman’s letter to shareholders in the same report, which is ‘assumed’ to be based on the accounting data, they are likely to take at least some of the predictions and speculative statements in the letter rather more seriously than otherwise. Since the public relations (i.e. promotional) discourse signed by the chairman of the company projecting a positive image of the company is placed in the context of the other two discourses, one assumes that this one is also truly based on the other two, which may not always be the case. However, this strategic exploitation of the socio-pragmatic space within the genre of annual corporate reports somehow tends to lend further support to the estimations, predictions, and conclusions presented in the report. Nevertheless, Stock Exchanges and other public monitoring bodies everywhere have listing rules

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which contain specific provisions to protect minority shareholders so that they are given sufficient information from proper ongoing disclosures to make informed decisions on their investments. Baker and McKenzie, in their April 2002 ‘Corporate Alert’, cite an interesting case from Australia, GPG (Australia Trading) Pty Ltd v GIO Australia Holdings Ltd, where a shareholder successfully sued GIO for losses for publishing a misleading or deceptive notice in relation to corporate disclosures. Corporations, on their part, guard against any possible (intended or unintended) overestimations, unsupported predictions, or speculative statements in their PR discourses, and even elsewhere in the financial management discourse sections that the annual report often includes, through yet another form of discourse popularly known as a legal disclaimer, of which the following is a typical example.

Legal discourse (disclaimer) This annual report may contain forward-looking statements. You can identify these statements by the fact that they do not relate strictly to historical or current facts and may include words such as ‘anticipate’, ‘believe’, ‘intend’, ‘plan’, ‘expect’ or similar words. Although the company believes it has been prudent in its plans and assumptions, there is no assurance that any indicated result will be realized. The company disclaims any intention or obligation to update forward looking statements.

Another example here is more explicit and detailed. The Website may contain statements, estimates or projections that constitute ‘forward looking statements’. Generally, the words ‘believe,’ ‘expect,’ ‘intend,’ ‘estimate,’ ‘anticipate,’ ‘will,’ and similar expressions identify forward-looking statements, which generally are not historical in nature. Forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from XXX’s historical experience and our present expectations or projections. These risks include, but are not limited to, our ability to finance expansion plans, share repurchase programs and general operating activities; changes in the non-alcoholic beverages business environment, including actions of competitors and changes in consumer preferences; regulatory and legal changes; fluctuations in the cost and availability of raw materials; interest rate and currency fluctuations; changes in economic and political conditions; our ability to penetrate developing and emerging markets; the effectiveness of our advertising and marketing programs; litigation uncertainties; adverse weather conditions; and other risks discussed in XXX’s filings with The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong (SEHK), including our Annual Report, which filings are available from the SEHK. You should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date they are made. XXX undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements.

Yet another example is: Some of the materials herein may contain projections or other forward-looking statements regarding future events or the future business or financial performance of YYY. Such projections or forward-looking statements are inherently subject to risks and uncertainties.

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Actual results may differ materially from the results predicted or projected, if any, and reported results should not be considered or taken as an indication of future performance. More information about potential risks and uncertainties that could affect our business and financial performance is contained in the most recent Form 20F filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Although the projections and forward-looking statements are considered to be accurate at the time they are made available, they are provided for your information only without warranty of any kind and subject to the above disclaimer. YYY assumes no duty to confirm, correct, update or revise such projections or forward looking statements.

Thus, whatever is claimed in the corporate disclosure documents and on their websites is systematically disclaimed through typical legal statements of this kind. If readers, especially minority shareholders, are unaware of the content of such disclaimers and tend to read the predictions, projections, and other speculative claims made through the annual report without disclosing the detailed investment risks, they can be and often are shocked by the corporate results in succeeding years. This rather brief account of corporate disclosure practices clearly underpins the importance of corporate practices in the study of corporate genres. A purely textual or discoursal study of lexico-grammatical, semantico-pragmatic, and rhetorical or discourse organization is unlikely to reveal the intricacies of the construction, interpretation, use, and especially exploitation of these corporate genres in achieving their corporate objectives within the requirements of disclosure practices imposed by corporate governance bodies and rating agencies. In order to fully appreciate and understand the complete implications of such discursive practices, in particular to investigate how these corporate players ‘bend’ generic norms and conventions to communicate modest or weak corporate performance without undermining investor confidence in their company, one needs to combine the analysis of professional discourses with the disciplinary practices of the professions in question. The data analysed implies that although it did not directly involve appropriation of generic resources across two genres, by placing public relations discourse within the socio-pragmatic space of the accounting discourse the readers are encouraged to draw positive implications from this interdiscursive proximity. The study also indicates that it is possible to study a specific professional practice; for example, how corporate leaders strategically meet the statutory requirements of periodical disclosures of corporate performance without undermining investor confidence at difficult times, by studying the discourses in and of corporate disclosure practices as these disclosure practices are constituted by a relevant set of professional discourses and genres in both on-stage and off-stage contexts (Goffman, 1959). The financial review is, in one sense, a recontextualization of a ‘convenient’ selection of the accounting discourse meant for those corporate stakeholders who do not have either enough expertise or time to understand the full implications of the accounting discourse. There is an expectation that this section of economic discourse will take into account the main features of the annual report, and there is also an expectation that there will be an adequate degree of referential help available for the reader to go through relevant sections of related textual and numerical information.

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I will now take up, though very briefly (for the availability of limited space), two more instances of interdiscursivity as appropriation across professional practices and professional cultures, which I have discussed elsewhere (see Bhatia, 2004, 2008a, 2008b).

Colonization of arbitration practices2 The second illustration comes from international commercial arbitration practice. Arbitration is intended to be an efficient, economical, and effective alternative to litigation for settling disputes, almost entirely based on the free will of the parties. In actual practice, however, parties do not hesitate to go for litigation when the outcome does not favour them. To better protect their interests, the parties often have to recourse to legal experts rather than non-legal experts as arbitrators, which has the effect of making arbitration similar to litigation, often encouraging the importation of typical litigation processes and procedures into arbitration practices. This leads to an increasing mixture of discourses as arbitration becomes, as it were, ‘colonized’ by litigation practices, threatening the integrity of arbitration practice to resolve disputes outside of the courts, and thus going contrary to the spirit of arbitration as a non-legal practice. Commercial arbitration practice thus provides an excellent context for the study of interdiscursivity where two rather different professional practices, litigation (which has been well-established for a long time), and arbitration (which is relatively new and is struggling to get established as an alternative to litigation), create a perfect environment for the ‘appropriation of generic resources’. Although interdiscursivity in this context is not directly the result of interaction between two genres or discourses, but more interestingly between two rather different professional practices, that is, litigation and arbitration, where one seeks to undermine the ‘integrity’ of the other. This interdiscursive appropriation is also common in the whole range of genre system (Bazerman, 1994) typically associated with arbitration practice. In order to investigate the ‘integrity’ of international arbitration practices, it is not enough to look at language in use as either text, or even as genre, but one may need to go beyond these textual constructs to professional practice. In particular, one needs to determine the extent to which arbitration interdiscursively ‘appropriates’ generic resources, especially the conventions from litigation, particularly in terms of the intentions, purposes, processes, procedures, and the shared expertise expected on the part of the participants involved. Most of these factors can be studied on the basis of the discourses employed by the participants, in addition to other sets of complementary textual, narrative, and discoursal data. To provide an evidence-based exploration of the integrity of arbitration practice therefore, one needs to adopt a multi-perspective and multidimensional analytical framework (Bhatia, 2004), which involves an integration of three data sets: an examination of the intertextual relationships amongst documents recording discursive practices typically selected from arbitration and litigation practices; narratives of experience drawn from key practitioners within these institutional cultures and tested against the experiences of other community members; and selective analyses of critical moments in the discourses of arbitration practices in selected sites of engagement. This kind of study is, once again, consistent with what Goffman (1959) suggests through his theatrical metaphor as front-stage interactions, which include documentation

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such as primary interactional data and final documents such as arbitration award cases, as well as participant interactions, wherever possible, and back-stage interactions which include colleague–colleague discussions, preparation notes, impressions and views informally expressed through interviews, and focus groups. Of course, these ‘stages’ are not always clear-cut; their boundaries can be frequently blurred. However, it is possible to take advantage of such blurring by reflexively seeking confirmation of the communicative characteristics of critical moments in the arbitration process by testing practitioner hypotheses against other practitioners’ experiences and against the actualities of interaction in key sites. This corroborating reflexivity becomes crucial as one investigates the contested degree to which, in given arbitration contexts and sites, interdiscursivities between the arbitrational and the litigational become manifest. In analysing such areas of interdiscursivity, although the evidence comes from the use of language and discourse, the focus is on the study of arbitration practice, in particular on the extent to which arbitration practice is influenced by what is popularly known as litigation practice. The work is still in progress, but the initial indications seem to confirm our belief that there is quite a strong influence of litigation practice over arbitration practice creating an interdiscursive mix of discourses from two different contexts.

Interdiscursive appropriation across marketing and fundraising cultures3 The third and final illustration is from the study of fundraising practices. Philanthropic fundraising and commercial advertising are embedded in very different professional cultures and ideologies, but they appear to have remarkable surface-level similarities (see Bhatia, 2000, 2004, for a detailed discussion of this). Both discursive activities primarily aim at capital-raising, though in one, the objective is to accumulate profit for corporate purposes, whereas in the second, the objective is to raise money for social and welfare purposes, which is essentially a non-profit activity. In most cases of philanthropic fundraising the main driving force is the mission of the organization or the fundraising agency, which is primarily used as a strategy to mobilize fundraising. In the case of corporate advertising, on the contrary, the mission is to maximize profits, either for individual or corporate purposes. Even in companies where explicit mission statements are publicized, the real intention invariably is capital growth, profit-enhancement, and corporate success. In the case of philanthropic fundraising there is always a cause for which fundraising is undertaken and that cause very often is the mission. In either case, the cause is always taken to be more important than the mission. In the case of corporate advertising, however, profit maximization is the mission and the cause, if any. The two sets of social actions (Miller, 1984) thus differ significantly in terms of the motivating factors that make them successful. In the case of corporate advertising, it is the resources and expertise accessible in the form of a business proposition that will convince the audience about the potential strength and eventual success of the activity, whereas in the case of philanthropic fundraising, it is more a case of selfless motivation, social responsibility and an urge to take moral action that will ensure the eventual success of the enterprise. Philanthropic fundraising is essentially viewed as a form of moral action, whereas corporate advertising is seen as a business proposition. However, in spite

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of these fundamental differences in the professional cultures of these two social actions, one may find remarkable overlap in the use of lexico-grammatical and rhetorical resources in the two forms of discursive actions. One of the most fundamental features of philanthropic fundraising, which differentiates it from much of corporate advertising, is the assumption that society has selfinterest in the establishment and maintenance of community values. Corporations and other business organizations are also sometimes tempted to go beyond their profit motivation to sponsor or contribute to fundraising in the hope that it will bring them community recognition and hence give them advantage over their competitors. However, this raises a number of interesting issues from the point of view of appropriation of generic resources and development in genres in the context of philanthropic fundraising discourse. Some of these include the relationship between the discourse of fundraising and corporate advertising, and the nature and extent of appropriation of rhetorical and linguistic devices to achieve fundraising objectives, which further raise a more general issue of the implications of this territorial invasion for the integrity of fundraising discourse. Although there are rhetorical similarities between corporate advertisements and philanthropic fundraising discourse, there are a number of significant factors that give fundraising genres their very distinctive generic integrity, including ‘community participation’ (Payton et al., 1991: 4) within a ‘framework of social consciousness’ (Schervish, 1997) primarily undertaken as voluntary action, the whole practice essentially undertaken with a non-competitiveness stance. These characteristics are all embedded in a ‘culture of giving’ within which all fundraising activities take place. However, fundraising discursive practices are being increasingly influenced by the corporate culture of marketing and advertising, as evidenced in the appropriation of semiotic resources.

Conclusions In this article I have made an attempt to explore the nature and function of interdiscursivity as appropriation of text-external resources in genre theory, claiming that it is central to the understanding of professional genres and practices, thus arguing for a move towards critical genre analysis (see also Bhatia, 2008a, 2008b). Focusing on genre-based professional, corporate and institutional actions, this article has also made an attempt to examine the interrelationship between discursive practices (constructing, interpreting, and using professional genres) and professional practices (managing professional activities such as corporate disclosures, public relations, negotiating investor confidence, selling corporate performance, conducting arbitration negotiations, raising funds for philanthropic purposes, etc.) in typical professional, corporate, and institutional contexts. At a more theoretical level, the article underpins the importance of interdiscursivity in genre analysis, highlighting the notion of a tension between ‘generic integrity’ (Bhatia, 1993, 1995, 2004) and ‘appropriation of generic resources’ (Bhatia, 1997, 2004) in professional discourse. The article argues for a critical study of discursive activities of professional cultures by focusing on ‘interdiscursivity’ as interaction between discursive and professional practices in the context of specific professional, corporate, and institutional cultures, which I would like to characterize as a move towards critical genre analysis.

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Bhatia Notes

1. Research to be reported in this article was supported by the RGC CERG grant from The Government of HKSAR [Project No. 9041056 (CityU 1454/05H)] on Genre-bending in corporate disclosure documents. 2. The work described in this part of the article was supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Government of HKSAR [Project No. 9041191 (CityU 1501/06H)] on International Commercial Arbitration Practice: A Discourse Analytical Study. 3. The work reported in this section is supported by the Indiana Center for Intercultural Communication, and the Centre on Philanthropy at Indiana University (USA).

References Bakhtin, M.M. (1986) Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Austin: University of Texas Press. Bazerman, C. (1994) ‘Systems of Genres and the Enhancement of Social Intentions’, in A. Freedman and P. Medway (eds) Genre and New Rhetoric, pp. 79-101. London: Taylor & Francis. Berkenkotter, C. and Huckin, T.N. (1995) Genre Knowledge in Disciplinary Communication: Cognition/Culture/Power. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Bhatia, V.K. (1993) Analysing Genre – Language Use in Professional Settings. London: Longman. Bhatia, V.K. (1995) ‘Genre-mixing in Professional Communication: The Case of ‘‘Private Intentions’’ v. ‘‘Socially Recognised Purposes’”, in P. Bruthiaux, T. Boswood and B. Bertha (eds) Explorations in English for Professional Communication, pp. 1–19. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong. Bhatia, V.K. (1997) ‘Genre-Mixing in Academic Introductions’, English for Specific Purposes 16(3): 181–96. Bhatia, V.K. (2000) ‘Discourse of Philanthropic Fundraising’, New Directions in Philanthropic Fundraising 22: 95–110. Bhatia, V.K. (2004) Worlds of Written Discourse: A Genre-Based View. London: Continuum International. Bhatia, V.K. (2008a) ‘Genre Analysis, ESP and Professional Practice’, English for Specific Purposes 27: 161–74. Bhatia, V.K. (2008b) ‘Towards Critical Genre Analysis’, in V.K. Bhatia, J. Flowerdew and R. Jones (eds) Advances in Discourse Studies, pp. 166-77. London: Routledge. Candlin, C.N. and Maley, Y. (1997) ‘Intertextuality and Interdiscursivity in the Discourse of Alternative Dispute Resolution’, in B.-L. Gunnarsson, P. Linnel and B. Nordberg (eds) The Construction of Professional Discourse, pp. 201–22. London: Longman. Fairclough, N. (1995) Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. London: Longman. Foucault, M. (1981) The Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Pantheon Books. Goffman, E. (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday. Kristeva, J. (1980) ‘Word, Dialogue and Novel’, in J. Kristeva (ed.) Desire in Language, pp. 64–91. Oxford: Blackwell. Miller, C.R. (1984) ‘Genre as Social Action’, Quarterly Journal of Speech 70: 157-78. Payton, R.L., Rosso, H.A. and Tempel, E.R. (1991) ‘Taking Fund Raising Seriously: An Agenda’, in D. Burlingame and L. Hulse (eds.) Taking Fund Raising Seriously: Advancing the Profession and Practice of Fund Raising, pp. 3-17. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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Schervish, P.G. (1997) ‘What We Know and What We Need to Learn about Donor Motivation’, in D.F. Burlingame (ed.) Critical Issues in Fund Raising, pp. 110-137. New York: Wiley. Swales, J.M. (1981) ‘Aspects of Article Introductions’, Aston ESP Research Report, LSU, University of Aston in Birmingham, UK. Swales, J.M. (1990) Genre Analysis, English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Swales, J.M. (1998) Other Floors Other Voices: A Textography of a Small University Building. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Author biography Vijay Bhatia is a Professor in the Department of English. His research interests are: genre analysis of academic and professional discourses, including legal, business, newspaper and advertising; ESP and professional communication; simplification of legal and other public documents; and cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary variations in academic and professional genres. Some of his recent research projects include ‘Analyzing Genrebending in Corporate Disclosure Documents’, and ‘International Arbitration Practice: A Discourse Analytical Study’. Two of his books, Analysing Genre: Language Use in Professional Settings and Worlds of Written Discourse: A Genre-based View, are widely used by scholars interested in genre theory and practice.

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