Chapter 10     Summary of Conclusions


This thesis has examined two hypotheses. The first hypothesis stated that the lexis of Business English is significantly different from that of general English; the second, that the lexis used in Business English teaching materials is significantly different from the lexis of ‘real-life’ business. Significant differences were found in both cases and these are summarised below.


10. 1  The lexis of Business English


1. In terms of pure frequency, Business English appears similar to general English, with only a small amount of business lexis appearing amongst the most frequent words. Moreover, these business-related words were also very low in actual frequency compared to the most frequent lexical items. This appearance of similarity, however, was dispelled when unusual frequency rather than actual frequency was used to determine the lexis of business. Thus, whilst Business English is largely surrounded by the same lexis as ‘everyday’ English, certain key business and sub-business lexis appears significantly more often in the business environment than out of it.


2. This key lexis is remarkably homogenous in nature, and can be encapsulated to a high degree within a limited number of semantic categories. These categories include business people, companies, institutions, money, business events, places of business, time, modes of communication and lexis concerned with technology. The key lexis of Business English was largely found to be positive, shallow, dynamic and non-emotive.


3. Business English can be seen as semantically divorced from lexis concerned with personal issues, society, family, house & home, personal activities, weekends and distinctly negative states. Words used to express deep, reflective and emotive states were found to occur significantly less.

4. Business lexis displayed semantic prosodic relations to these semantic sets. Additionally, individual words displayed unique semantic prosodic relations to other semantic groups and could display a positive or negative prosody. Thus, Business English consists of interrelated lexico-semantic groups that operate in an ordered manner, and clear patterns were shown to exist between the lexis and recurring groups of meaning. Lexical items pull some lexis towards them, whilst other lexis is pushed away, rather like the positive and negative sides of a magnet.


5. Business lexis displays business-specific semantic prosodies, and even words that have certain ‘global’ prosodies in everyday English take on certain ‘local’ semantic prosodies when operating in the business environment.


6. Analysis by semantic prosody showed that in the Business English environment there is a distinct narrowing of the collocational range of words. This is true both for business-related words and also for words that usually have very open-ended collocational ties. Thus both lexical and semantic range is narrowed in the Business English setting.


7. Colligational analysis of the lexis showed that whilst words of the same grammatical class will naturally have certain things in common, they can also differ widely in their grammatical patterning.


8. Business English displayed limited meanings. General English allows for all the meanings of a given word to be used, whereas the meanings expressed in the Business English environment were often found to be limited. Further, the most common senses of words used in general English often changed when in the Business English environment, to form business-specific uses.


9. In as much as meaning is tied to grammatical patterning, and Business English displays restricted meaning, Business English favours some grammatical patternings more than others. It cannot be said, however, that there is a unique grammar of Business English, but rather a tendency to use certain grammatical patternings more than others.


10. Of the words under analysis, all were multi-generic, occurring across a number of genres, but the words displayed marked differences in range of occurrence. Words could be placed in one of  four quadrants marked along two sliding scales: written-spoken and doing business-talking about business. Thus, Pickett’s (1988) concept of ‘knowing’ and ‘acting’ and the different language tied to them was confirmed. Additionally, this was found to be true at the level of individual words. This fact provides a framework for placement of business lexis that is only partially dependent on genre for positioning.


11. Lexical clusters of two to eight words were found to be both business-specific and unlikely to be used out of it, and also independent of business. The longer business-specific clusters were totally genre-specific, whilst the smaller clusters were more genre- independent and multi-functional. Shorter clusters were often part of longer clusters.


12. The clusters could also be placed into clear quadrants of usage on the written-spoken / doing-about axes.  This suggests that even the very short clusters of two and three words can be placed into specific positions and are not as genre-independent as was previously thought.


13. Analysis of the key key-words and their associates has shown clear patterning in the way that words associate with each other in the manner described by Scott (1997). Some words have very broad associative patterns, whilst others had very limited associations. In addition, some key business words under analysis displayed a reciprocity of non-occurrence, i.e. where one was found the other was not and vice versa.


14. Business English lexis is a structured and relatively homogenous whole. Little appears in the lexis of Business English by chance and it is framed by an infrastructure that grows out from the level of the word through collocation, clustering, colligation, semantic prosody, genre and on to a supra-generic ordering, until it meets general English.


15. Business English lexis is significantly different from general English. By saying this, a slightly stronger case for ESP is put forward than was found in the literature. Business English is not a special language per se, but the analysis in this thesis has shown that it is also more than simply general English added to by certain specialist terminology. It differed significantly at all levels of the analysis - lexically, semantically and to a certain extent, also grammatically. However, it should be remembered that it is only different in relative terms, and must also be seen as being embedded in large amount of ‘everyday’ language. Some lexis is chosen for common use in business, some lexis is rejected. Some words have special meanings and attached to these may be specific grammatical patterns that become favoured. Thus, business lexis should be seen as an autonomous state having its own idiosyncrasies and ways of doing things. Conversely, aspects of this autonomous state can even be recognised and adopted by the mother country of general English. However, in the final analysis, it still depends on that mother country for its existence.


10.2 The lexis of published Business English materials


There are significant differences between the lexis used in published materials and that used in real-life business situations. Whilst much of the same lexis is used in both, there are significant differences in terms of frequency, usage and complexity. The materials present a picture of the world of business that is restricted in terms of its lexis, grammatical patterning  and word clustering.


1. The lexis of published materials differs from that found in real life in several significant ways. The materials present a limited number of business situations, notably meetings, presentations, travel, entertaining and food, framed in the lexis of personal and interpersonal contact. Both negative and positive feelings are expressed and politeness is very highly stressed. The focus of the materials is on tangible objects and reference to states and qualities is limited. This is in contrast to the language found in the BEC where both negative and interpersonal language were used statistically less. The materials lack the substance of business. There was not enough pure business lexis or sub-business lexis found. In summary, the lexis found in the PMC was simpler, more concrete, less varied, more polite and much more focused on human interaction than that found in the BEC.


2. On the positive side, lexis in the materials formed very similar semantic groupings with which the lexis associated in terms of semantic prosody. However, although similar semantic groups were found, the overall amount of semantic groups found in the PMC was less than in the BEC, and the lexis in them was much less varied. Equally importantly, these semantic connections were not specifically stated, and were only implied in the materials.


3. Colligational patterning and grammar/meaning distinctions differed, sometimes markedly, between the lexis found in the PMC and the BEC. Differences in terms of prepositional usage, a concentration on limited aspects of grammatical collocation and a lack,  or much less varied use, of the lexis when it was used to form noun phrases were manifest in the materials. Personal aspects were over-stressed through high usage of possessive pronouns. In terms of grammar/meaning categories as defined by COBUILD, there was an over-representation of some meanings over others that did not match those found in the BEC. Additionally, some senses of words found in the BEC were completely missing from the PMC. Thus, by focusing on some meanings rather than others, a distorted picture of word meanings was given, and both typical and unique grammatical patterning noted in the BEC was overlooked.


5. Word clusters in the PMC indicated an over-emphasis on politeness, social situations, travel, and a high incidence of genre- and situation-specific clusters was in evidence. The latter was true even in the shorter, 3-word clusters, which differed markedly from those found in the BEC, where the clusters were much more genre-independent.

6. In all, the materials clearly presented the world of business as seen through the eyes of materials writers. Real life business is a much broader concept, containing a much more complex and lexically rich environment that is less polite, less personal and less concrete. Several recommendations for the improvement of materials can be found at the end of Chapter 9.


10.3 A final word


This has been a study both at the micro- and macro-level of Business English. It has drawn on traditions of British text linguistics, correlative register analysis and corpus linguistics. But just as important as any theoretical background or analysis carried out here is the computerised store of language created in the BEC. It has been an overriding aim of this project to create a resource for researchers of Business English to help further knowledge of an area that so far has received little attention. The BEC, together with the work done here on semantic prosody and colligation, provides a springboard for materials writers of the future to offer students a more relevant and accurate picture of the world of business lexis. Thus, rather than concluding in this last chapter of the thesis, this project has hopefully just begun.