This book is a linguistic analysis of the English used in multinational companies, in particular the language used in organizational change and knowledge management seen from the discursive perspective of internal company communications, at a variety of levels—corporate to organization, managers to employees and between peers. The study uses a corpus of self-compiled specialist company materials collected from a global leader in organizational consulting, based in North America. The data include audio-conferencing recordings, web-casts, in-service training sessions and e-newsletters. Using an integrated, multi-layered methodological approach, including indispensable ethnographic input from the company itself, the investigation draws on a wide range of descriptive and explanatory conceptual frameworks. Multi-faceted, blended techniques are also accompanied by an interdisciplinary research partnership with organizational studies and management experts. The “stories” reported here illuminate the role of language in changing organizational relationships, evolving knowledge dissemination instrumentalities and the ongoing construal of corporate culture in response to pressing global realities. The book reflects the current concern of discourse scholars to extend the scope of their descriptions in order to arrive at an integrated account of language and professional practices. At the same time, this entails a widening of analytical scope, applying new methods and approaches to the data being treated. Classic linguistic frameworks, such as Halliday’s Systemic Functional Grammar (1994), are systematically complemented with newly-developing models and theories in areas such as metaphor studies, visual media analysis, relevance, inference and sense-making accounts, relational pragmatics and cognitively-grounded explanations of linguistic usage, in order to provide much-extended explanatory power, in the Chomskian sense, to the findings. The choice of the word stories in the title does not carry any connotation of falseness or mendacity—on the contrary it is recognition of the essential depth of subjectivity of experience, and the role of personalized interpretations and evaluations of participant stance, positionings and “voices” in the creation of roles and identities. Storytelling and narration create single and collective meanings and understandings of organizational practices, story acting as a generalized mega-metaphor for inter-relational practices. Throughout the development of the book, different corporate stories are recounted with varying characters and protagonists, plots and themes, events and time frames, and final evaluative coda. The intrinsically persuasive nature of the narratives emerges, as language is used to create a positive organizational self-image, a healthy corporate culture and a solid relationship with all “place-holders” in the organization. Relationship-building is tracked between top corporate members and management; executives, managers and the workforce; and between employees on a peer-to-peer basis. Linguistic indexicality is the focus of the investigation into the shape these different, but overlapping, stories take. The book is of value not only to linguists and analysts of business discourse but also to experts in organization studies and practitioners in business education who are interested in relating organizational performance to company communication practices.
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