The genre of the business meeting : a corpus-based study
The present study analyses a corpus of audio recordings of authentic business meetings. The recordings were made in a variety of companies in the UK, and also in Eire, Germany and Japan. The companies which provided the data vary considerably in terms of area of business and size. The meetings themselves differ in terms of number of speakers, the relationships of the speakers, and the purposes and topics discussed; throughout the thesis the influence of these factors on communication is discussed. Previous studies of the language used in business meetings have focussed on either specific aspects of one type of meeting, such as strategies in sales negotiations, or have attempted to describe the attributes of `the business meeting' based on arguably unrepresentative data. For example, frameworks purporting to describe the genre of the meeting have been based solely on internal, or intra-organisational, data. This study is unique in that it analyses and compares a wide range of both internal and external meetings. The main purpose of the thesis is to explore the corpus in order to construct a generic model which accounts for the recurrence and dynamism within the data. This involves quantitative and qualitative analysis at the level of lexicogrammatical choice, including pronouns, deontic-modal expressions, certain key words such as problem, issue and if, metaphors and idioms, and vague language. Various `higher level' factors are also explored, such as speaker goals, strategies, conflict, convergence, `face', turn-taking, and overall structure. Through applying different approaches, such as corpus linguistics, discourse analysis, conversation analysis, and genre analysis, to the same data, a more fine-grained understanding of the data is achieved, and the assumption that business meetings are demonstrably different from and yet related to everyday spoken English is explored. The results indicate that business meetings can be categorised as a distinct genre with recurrent aspects which speakers and listeners orient towards, recognisable to both participants and observers. The study also highlights consistent differences between internal and external meetings. There is also evidence for a probabilistic relationship between the genre and the language used therein.