Accounting for Interdiscursivity: Challenges to Professional Expertise

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Accounting for Interdiscursivity: Challenges to Professional Expertise

CHRISTOPHER N. CANDLIN

Accounting for Interdiscursivity:

Challenges to Professional Expertise

1. Preliminaries

The intimate connection between workplaces and their discourses is

now well established in the research literature. It has become

something of a commonplace to assert that workplaces are in some

sense held together by the communicative practices to which they give

rise, or even, more boldly, that such communicative practices

constitute the work of the workplaces themselves. As Sarangi and

Roberts observe: “workplaces are social institutions where resources

are produced and regulated, problems are solved, identities are played

out and professional knowledge is constituted” (1999: 1). That such

workplaces are not unitary in their discourse but frequently complex,

overlapping and with unclear and often confusing boundaries,

manifesting what Sarangi and Roberts (1999) refer to as discursive

hybridity, is similarly both recognised and well attested. As

Fairclough (1992: 97) observes:

As producers and interpreters combine discursive conventions, codes and

elements in new ways in innovatory discursive events, they are of course

cumulatively producing structural changes in the orders of discourse, and

rearticulating new orders of discourse, new discursive hegemonies. Such

structural changes may affect only the ‘local’ order of discourse of an

institution, or they may transcend institutions and affect the societal order of

discourse.

As one example of such shift and change both socio-culturally and

discursively, Candlin and Maley in their study of alternative dispute

resolution (ADR) (Candlin / Maley 1997) draw on the

conceptualisations of Kristeva (1986), Bakhtin (1986) and in


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particular Fairclough (1992) to identify what they refer to as the

interdiscursivity of mediator discourses. They define interdiscursivity

as follows:

[…] the use of elements from one discourse and social practice which carry

institutional and social meanings from other discourses and other social

practices. (Candlin / Maley 1997: 212)

and in their study relate such interdiscursivity in the manner of

Fairclough (1992) to what they see as the emerging confluence of

different prior and independently existing discourses within context of

the (then) newly evolving professional practices of ADR, namely that

of adjudication and that of counselling, to create what is in effect a

new professional discourse. As Carter (2004: 182-183) comments:

Candlin and Maley illustrate how those involved professionally in alternative

dispute resolution seek creatively to combine and fuse these two different

discourses into a new schema-refreshing discourse to meet the requirements

of a new social and institutional practice, in the process also creatively

evidencing the emergence of new orders of discourse.

The connection made here between social practices and

(inter)discourses is of course central; it is inherent in the quotation

from Sarangi and Roberts (1999) at the beginning of this chapter.

Both terms suggest a dynamic and active process. Note how their

emphasis is on the activity of such practices: ‘produced and

regulated’, ‘solved’, ‘played out’, ‘constituted’. Such an emphasis on

activity and process is itself by no means new. In a much referred to

article, Cicourel (1992: 307-308) suggests that we need to focus on

both the ‘processual’ as well as the ‘structural’ in any framework for

research into interaction:

The notion of interpenetrating […] communicative contexts seeks to place the

local mutual shaping of talk and context into a framework that incorporates

structural and processual aspects of social organization and reasoning during

interaction.

Such a framework necessarily invokes the requirement to provide

institutional and socio-cultural detail as a prerequisite for the analysis

of meaning, allowing us to argue with Cicourel that the relationship he


Accounting for Interdiscursivity

sees between verbal interaction and the ‘task in hand’ re-emphasises

the interdependence of language and other social practices. It not only

makes sense, therefore, to site and locate the study of such discourses

and such practices in the context of their local organisational

conditions, and their institutional histories – it is imperative that we do

so. As Cicourel writes at the outset of the cited chapter (1992: 294):

Verbal interaction is related to the task in hand. Language and other social

practices are interdependent. Knowing something about the ethnographic

setting, the perception of, and characteristics attributed to, others, and broader

and local organisational conditions becomes imperative for an understanding

of linguistic and non-linguistic aspects of communicative events.

Such an injunction serves only to underline the ethnographic and

socio-cognitive nature of any workplace discourse inquiry. What it

does as a particular example is to re-affirm a more general principle of

inquiry into human behaviour. As Douglas (1971: 11) observes:

Any scientific understanding of human action, at whatever level of ordering or

generality, must begin with and be built upon an understanding of the

everyday life of the members performing those actions.

2. Focus on purpose

In this chapter we propose some ways in which interdiscursivity in

professional communication can be explored, and indicate some of the

challenges such an exploration poses for researchers in applied

linguistics and professional communication in respect of their

methodologies. Recent publications, see for example the Special Issue

of the journal Research on Language and Social Interaction (Candlin

/ Candlin 2002) which focused on expert talk and risk in health care,

have argued the case that discursive performance can provide both

insights into, and warrants for, professional expertise. As they indicate

(Candlin / Candlin 2002: 126):

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[…] there is compelling evidence from a range of studies in health care and

other fields […] that certain discursive features and discursive strategies do

recur in discussions about the relation of discourse to the display of expert

behaviour. Such features and strategies are best seen as professional resources

that accompany or constitute actions, open to be drawn upon and linked to

particular displays of professional expertise. […] (A)mong these resources is

the ability of expert practitioners to manage interactions across distinct planes

of discourse – transactional and interactional – and more specifically, their

ability to manage complex recontextualisations intertextually and

interdiscursively […] by employing a variety of voices polyphonically […] as

the context and the expert’s shifting roles warrant.

Given the links claimed at the outset of this chapter between

discourses and social practices, such a close relationship would be

expected. Furthermore, if such practices are increasingly marked by

interdiscursivity, it is to that construct that we should address our

research attention in the context of professional communication. In

doing so it is the ways in which we interpret interdiscursivity which

then become important. As we noted in the reference to work on

ADR, discourses are regarded there in terms of what Foucault (and

Fairclough) designate as orders of discourse – that is to say

incorporating both discursive practices in a range of semiotic

realisations (seen in terms of performance and interpretation) and the

ideologically invested systems of belief and knowledge within

particular institutional orders, constructed and maintained by such

discursive practices. In attempting to provide an account of such

practices, not unnaturally, researchers coming from a linguistic and

textual analytical tradition have oriented themselves to the description

and analysis of their textualisations. In short, in the context of this

chapter, their focus has been on the intertextual indices of this

interdiscursivity. While such hugging of the textual ground is

important and indispensable, its elevation to the prime focus of

research into professional communication practices runs some risk.

Primarily, it runs the risk of failing to maintain the twin focus on

structure and process indicated earlier by Cicourel. The emphasis is all

too frequently on structure, with the consequent (and second) risk that

structure is released from the context of activity. The conditions of

production and reception of such texts – their links to activity and

practice – remain hidden, if ever recorded and noted. The third risk is

that our descriptions and analyses display only a researcher’s


Accounting for Interdiscursivity

perspective and we fail to carry with us the participants’ perspective in

a joint and hermeneutically focused research endeavour, where as

Sarangi and Candlin (2001) argue, activity and discourse are always

tightly linked. There is a further and fourth risk: that the myopia

induced by a close engagement with the lexico-grammar or the

generic structure elevates the text in question to a distinctive status

and we fail to see the potential for generalisation of our analysis

across a range of workplace communication sites and contexts.

To take stock for a moment: the picture is thus one where any

authenticatable (what Cicourel (1992) would call ‘ecologically valid’)

research into professional communication needs to acknowledge that

one is always in such contexts seeking to connect the macro of the

social formation with the micro of the interaction order through a

close exploration of the communication site. As Sarangi and Roberts

(1999: 16) remind us:

[…] the institutional order is held together not by particular forms of social

organization but by regulating discourses.

Thus, in conducting the analysis of discourse in such sites we are

always taking a position on the relationship between micro and macro

phenomena, we are always making assumptions about social

organization and social processes. Any analysis of text which aspires

to some explanatory rather than merely descriptive adequacy

presupposes an engagement with social action within the context of

the institution in question, and needs to take account of the distinctive

perspectives of the involved participants (including the researcher). At

the same time, our awareness of institutional dynamism in a changing

and unstable world makes hybridity and interdiscursivity not some

aberrant phenomenon, some momentary disorder, but what actually is

the discursive case. The task remains, then, as Harvey Sacks (1985)

noted some time ago, the ‘discovery of orderliness’ in a disorderly

world.

Currently, however, evidence for such management of

interdiscursivity, as indeed for professional communication more

generally, has very largely depended on the micro analysis of excerpts

of talk and/or on the generic structure of typical text-types drawn from

the encounter-types in question (Bhatia 2004), linked to lexico-

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grammatical analyses of the sample texts in question. Such an

approach raises problems in the context of dynamic hybridity, and for

several reasons. Firstly, it will be difficult to maintain that orderly

discreteness and integrity in terms of which we have come to identify

texts. Texts no longer fit into conveniently orderly and

unproblematically assigned discourses. Against such a backdrop, it

becomes clear that we may need to jettison some of the analytic

traditions and foci that we have typically inherited as linguists of text.

To take just one illustration, as Sarangi and Roberts (1999) note,

medical doctors in General Practice in the context of the appraisal of

their professional and communicative competencies are expected

deftly to display in assessment role-plays three identities: what the

authors refer to as the professional, the institutional and the personal,

each of which roles is associated with a particular discourse, albeit

characteristically hybridised and interdiscursive. As a further example

in that paper they point to medical record-keeping as a classic site of

engagement in which two acts of identity are required of the medical

practitioner: that of demonstrating professionalism by the way in

which the patient consultation is conducted, the taking of an

appropriate history, the patient-centered conduct of an examination

and the associated explanation of appropriate management practices,

and the exercising of institutional responsibility by the maintaining of

correct and appropriate records of the encounter. Both these identities

may well not gibe, and as Fairclough points out in his discussion we

referred to earlier on orders of discourse, may be in conflict and

sharply contested. Barrett’s (1999) analysis of how cases in psychiatry

are recorded is a further example of such institutional interdiscursivity,

as is the analysis of doctor-patient interaction in the

context of HIV and AIDS (Moore / Candlin / Plum 2001) where both

doctors and patients are engaged in continually aligning themselves

with discursively differential interpretations of the meaning of the key

construct viral load. The point to make here is that rather than each of

these identities (or discourses) being somehow separately and

distinctively identifiable and coded (textualised), all discourses are

concurrently in play at one and the same time. Navigating a route

through these discourses becomes a challenge not only to the

communicative resources of the professional workers; it is clearly one


Accounting for Interdiscursivity

for the researchers as well, especially if they are methodologically

locked into textual description as a primary mode of analysis.

An alternative, complementary, and so far under-exploited

focus is one which directs itself at the ways professional workers

deploy a range of interdiscursive resources (strategies) in response to

the demands of particular critical moments in the workplace sites in

which they are engaged. Such an orientation to strategy in

professional communication is of value for three reasons: one, that it

allows for an accommodation between more conversational analytical

and more genre focused studies, since strategy engages with both

interaction and with structure and frame; two, because it will provide

a point of reference against which to permit interesting interprofessional

and intra-professional comparisons across different

encounter types; three, because such a focus on strategy lends itself to

supporting two key applied linguistic principles: the accommodation

of distinctive participant perspectives (Sarangi / Candlin 2001) and the

applicability of research findings to issues of practical relevance, in

particular the delivery of professional development programs directed

at enhancing professional expertise. Indeed, as one defining

characteristic of such expertise we may come to identify the strategic

management of interdiscursivity across and within professional

boundaries.

3. Focus on strategy

Introducing the construct of strategy, and in particular the strategic

management of interdiscursivity, presupposes that we have come to an

awareness of what constitutes the place and role of strategy itself in

the exploration of professional communication. What is clear so far is

that the term ‘strategy’ is being used in two ways: first, that discourses

and their semiotic realisations are themselves strategic in nature in

that they are linked to purposeful practices constituting the ‘work’ of

the institution, and, second, that they both also serve, strategically, to

advance the overall goals of the institution. There is, however, a third

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and more local way in which strategy is used and it is this that we

propose to focus on in this section of the paper.

As one example of such a local use of the term, let us provide a

brief summary account from an early study of Family Planning

Counselling talk (Candlin / Lucas 1986). The setting is a community

public welfare clinic, although sponsored by a religious organisation,

and frequented by many, often indigent, welfare clients. Attending the

family planning Counselling sessions in this centre there were a good

number of teenagers seeking advice, sometimes in relation to

terminations of pregnancy. The Counsellor, by virtue of the ethics and

regulations of her profession, was precluded from giving advice (since

Counsellors may not make evaluative judgements); furthermore, she

was also institutionally forbidden to do so as such matters were the

prerogatives of licensed physicians in that community. Yet, her clients

nevertheless sought advice. What was to be done? The recourse of the

Counsellor was to couch her remarks about actions, such as smoking,

which might affect the health of the unborn child, as anecdotal stories

of her experience, personal to her and her family, about how such

practices could have negative effects. Thus the message was being

delivered, but without compromising either her professional position,

or transgressing her institutional authority. In fact, as the study shows,

Counsellors had recourse to a number of these person-focussed

strategies and used them to telling and expert effect.

At the time of the study, there were rather few analytical

methodologies which seemed, taken singly, to offer an explanatory –

as apart from a purely descriptive – resource. Textual description

would have provided an account of the extensively modalised

utterances of the Counsellor; genre analysis in terms of moves would

have permitted some insight into the staged nature of the encounter;

conversational analysis would have offered a local and contiguous

interpretation of the exchanges of the participants and how responses

could be, as it were, ‘heard’ and made locally relevant; but none

seemed to offer an explanation of how the Counsellor expertly

negotiated the pragmatic space as a kind of discursive continuum

between the poles of information-giving on the one hand and contraindicating

of harmful actions on the other, with the illocutionary force

of ‘providing advice’ where no advice was, in fact, ever explicitly

given, for the professional reasons alluded to above. Certainly,


Accounting for Interdiscursivity

Levinson’s (1979) construct of the ‘activity type’ was of considerable

value, emphasising as it does the prototypicality of particular

discursive events, yet acknowledging their potential for local

variability. Further, his emphasis on ‘activity-specific rules of

inference’ (1979: 393) seemed to match closely how we as researchers

were approaching the data, and, conceivably, so were the participants:

(T)ypes of activity, social episodes if one prefers, play a central role in

language usage. They do this in two ways especially: on the one hand, they

constrain what will count as an allowable contribution to each activity; and on

the other hand, they help to determine how what one says will be ‘taken’ –

that is, what kinds of inferences will be made from what is said.

We saw such a statement as readily helpful, especially as the reference

to ‘allowable contribution’ reflected our understanding of the macro

institutional constraints on Counsellor explicitness in terms of the

giving of advice, and the reference to ‘inferences’ seemed to capture

how we were going about our approach to understanding the data.

Indeed, it was the significant absence of explicit advice-giving in the

face of both clients’ requests and the circumstances attending their

visit to the Counsellor, which first marked the contributions of the

Counsellor as significant. Yet, despite the helpfulness of the

Levinsonian analysis, assisted by his adducing of Goffman’s (1969)

construct of ‘footing’ enabling a link to be made between changes of

participant role within the process of the activity and realisations in

the text, it seemed that to label the activity type as ‘counselling’ was

insufficiently explanatory. It was as if there was a lack of fit between

a classification of the event type (activity type) and discursive

processes that occurred, so to speak, within the activity. Counselling,

as an activity type, might consist of a form of discourse we could call

‘counselling’. But, Counselling was not restricted to ‘counselling’;

indeed, as we have said, our Counsellor eschewed ‘counselling’, if by

that we mean providing supportive advice, suggesting ways and

means, as it were therapeutically communicating modes of

ameliorative behaviour. Indeed, Counselling could, and does, involve

a range of different forms of discourse. Moreover, there is no

restriction to Counselling for many of these forms of discourse. There

is a rich interdiscursivity here to be explored. At the time of the study

it seemed to us that while these forms of discourse were latent, our

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focus was more on how the Counsellor appeared to have at her

disposal a number of what we termed at the time ‘strategies’ on which

she could draw, as a kind of repertoire, and that such ‘strategies’ were

frequently purposefully sequenced. For example, in relation to contraindicated

behaviour such as smoking while pregnant, the Counsellor

might begin by alluding in a reported third party way to some Other

whose pregnancy had been put at risk by such behaviour. If the

Counsellor determined that such an oblique reference appeared not to

be having the desired effect (in terms of client response), a more direct

(yet still quite indirect) allusion might be made to the Counsellor’s

own experience, or to that of Others closer in social and personal

characteristics to the client. The delicate management of indirectness

and obliqueness revealed, to our view, a highly expert practitionercommunicator.

It has to be said, as an aside, that in debriefing sessions

with the Counsellor, she deprecated any particular expertise, regarding

what she did as ‘normal’, ‘conversational’ and not particularly

premeditatedly purposeful.

Recently, in an informative and influential paper on this topic,

Sarangi (2000) has proposed that we establish a category he terms

discourse type which has the property of occurrence within particular

activity types, but which, like the ‘counselling’ example above, can

and frequently does, occur across activity types. Like our example

above, such discourse types – Sarangi nominates advising and

informing as two such – not only recur in different distinctive activity

types but display what he refers to as (internal) ‘sequential structures’.

He offers as an example Heritage and Sefi’s (1992: 13) analysis of

[…] five steps which constitute an advice-giving [where advice giving is such

a discourse type: CNC] sequence in encounters between (HV’s) and new

parents:

step 1: Initial inquiry by HV

step 2: Potential problem-implicating response by Mother

step 3: Focusing inquiry into the problem by HV

step 4: Response detailing

step 5: Advice giving

Sarangi also points out (entirely in keeping with the comments above

about ‘counselling’ in Counselling) that such a stepped sequence can


Accounting for Interdiscursivity

be varied in a number of ways, and that it may be easily disrupted in

practice.

Now, a good deal of work in healthcare contexts especially, but

more widely, for example in ADR mediations, lawyer-client

conferencing, intercultural business negotiations, workplace enterprise

bargaining etc, has provided additional examples of such motivated

but locally variable sequencing. Our concern is that it is unhelpful

from an explanatory perspective to regard such ‘steps’ as some kind of

generic moves since that merely labels them as part of a structure; it

fails to capture that ‘processual requirement’, that Cicourel (1992)

refers to, and which we highlighted earlier. Sarangi (2000: 15) comes

close to our concern where he writes:

In divorce mediation, as Greatbatch and Dingwall (1999) suggest, the

mediators design their speaking turn in ways which allow them to refrain from

(i) directly giving opinions and (ii) overtly displaying affiliation or

disaffiliation. In other words it is through strategic (my italics) turn design

that the professionals are able to maintain a neutralistic stance.

Shades of the Counsellor, one might say. Rather than ‘steps’, then, it

would seem that we might reasonably regard such actions as Heritage

and Sefi’s ‘steps’ and Greatbatch and Dingwall’s ‘speaking turns’ as

the third type of locally managed and locally effective strategy we

alluded to earlier. There would then be a neat and nested arrangement

among activity types, discourse types, strategies, and their particular

textualisations or semioticisations.

As a kind of summary, our motivation to explore strategy in

that early Counselling study arose from a feeling that although activity

types and how they are interpreted, are central to the understanding of

the discourses of the workplace, there is a sense in which they might

be seen as too static, still oriented towards description rather than to

interpretation and explanation (Fairclough 1992). Perhaps also, we

felt, such models did not get close enough to the actual relationship

between social practices and discourses that we have been

emphasizing here. Although this was not Levinson’s intention,

perhaps they failed to allow for enough flexibility in how an activity is

indeed structured. More especially, they may not give enough

emphasis to the particular purposes of participants and the actions that

participants performed in respect of such purposes within the activity

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type. What was required, we came to realize, was an exploration of

how these different constructs were interdiscursively held in a kind of

creative tension, and how unpacking this interdiscursivity could lead

to a more explanatory understanding of the communicative processes

central to the research site.

Professional workplaces are, of course, classic sites for such

studies. As Iedema and Scheeres (2003: 3) indicate in their study of

talking about knowing and doing work:

This discursive work occurs in the main, in meeting rooms where newly

formed teams explain, describe and perform a range of related new literacy

tasks.

And again, Iedema and Scheeres (2003: 25)

As workers shift from doing work to talking work, the work of discourse

analysts is shifting from examining ‘language in a practical context’ to

engaging with enactments and management of the workplace itself,

manifested through language and other semiotic modes.

As we have indicated, characteristic of these talk-actions is the

deployment of a resource of strategies – how the communication is

done – which cluster in association with particular social practices and

their associated discourse types within particular workplace activity

types. Many examples suggest themselves: packaging information is a

strategy in the provision of the discourse type ‘advice’ within the

activity type of Counselling, as we have seen in the example from

Candlin and Lucas (1986) and, more recently, in Silverman (1997);

deployment of indirectness as a strategy in the discourse type of

‘maintaining neutrality’ within the activity type of ADR (Candlin /

Maley 1997); interdiscursivity management as a strategy in the

discourse type of ‘achieving professional goals’ within the activity

type of lawyer-client conferencing (Maley / Candlin / Koster /

Crichton 1995), the encouragement of extended turns by patients as a

strategy in the discourse type of ‘displaying expertise’ within the

activity type of palliative medicine consultations (Sarangi / Finlay:

personal communication)

As a more extended example, a medical consultation can be

seen as an activity type, within which are contained a range of


Accounting for Interdiscursivity

particular and setting – located professional practices involving a

range of characteristic discourse types such as history-taking, troubles

talk, instructing, counselling, advising, promotional talk,

interrogation and where each of these discourse types is realised

through a range of often overlapping and hybridised strategies – such

as talking plainly, talking obliquely, giving face and deference,

justifying actions, thinking aloud, imagining situations, reporting

problems, complaining about third parties, envisaging outcomes etc.

In turn, these goal-focused, purposive strategies are realised by

particular choices of language and other semiotic modes from the

participants’ communicative resources with the objective of achieving

particular professional, institutional and/or personal goals in specific

contexts.

In this way, then, and as we suggest above, we can imagine a

nested arrangement in which activity types with their focus on setting

are realised through particular practices with their associated

discourse types, themselves focused on forms of talk, which in turn

draw strategically on a range of communicative resources, i.e. what

people actually perform. These strategies are then realised by actual

usages of language or in other semiotic modes: what they actually say,

write, display, do. Of course, there is no one-to-one relationship here,

although it may turn out to be the case, as Sarangi (2000) indicates,

that particular activity types typically are linked to sets of discourse

types and that they, in turn, in the context of this or that event, draw

on preferred selections of communication strategies. We have already

alluded to the fact that such discourse types and such strategies may

cut across activity types, much in the way that Fairclough (1992)

points to the increasing ‘conversationalisation’ of discourses in a

range of activity types and their settings. What is important for our

argument is that interdiscursivity occurs across and within activity

types, discourse types, and strategies, and is realized in

intertextualities of various kinds.

Setting out strategy as a category in professional (and other)

communication begs a number of researchable questions concerning

such a category and its deployment. Such questions include:

• What is the nature of such strategic resources in professional

discourse?

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• What is their source?

• How are they drawn upon or co-constructed in critical moments

in given sites?

• What is their relationship to work and action in particular sites?

• How pervasive are they across discourse types and activity types?

• How are they realized textually and semiotically?

• How are they recognised as significant and by whom?

• What role does their deployment play in underpinning

professional expertise?

4. Focus on research

We have claimed at the outset of this chapter that coping with the

challenges of interdiscursivity is a characteristic of professional

expertise. We further came to the conclusion that in order to explore

and attempt to explain such interdiscursivity and such expertise it was

inadequate only, or even primarily, to focus our attention on the

descriptive features of text. In making this claim, and directing our

attention towards activity type, discourse type and, in particular,

strategy, we do not, of course, avoid the need to carefully describe

realizations multi-modally, and in any case semiotically, and not

merely linguistically. One might then begin this focus on research

with the assertion that given this stance, interdiscursively managed

communication requires an interdiscursive methodology, one that

employs a range of methodologies in a multiply-focused study of the

available data – such a data set being understood as not merely what

was, or significantly was not, articulated or displayed, but also what

drew in as relevant data participant narrative, institutional and

organizational analysis, both in the context of the historical as well as

the immediate, and involving micro and macro perspectives.

Candlin (1997: xii) makes the following claim in this context:

[…] what emerges is a requirement for […] a complex interdiscursivity of

analysis, matching the interplay between the micro and the macro, the actual

and the historical, the ethnographic and the ethnomethodological, the


Accounting for Interdiscursivity

interactively sociolinguistic and the discoursal, and to acknowledge the need

to offer explanations of why rather than merely descriptions of how. The issue,

then […] arises of how to capture these distinct methodological discourses

within a workable program of research, not merely harmonizing the different

discourses but actively making use of their distinct epistemologies and modes

of practice to enrich and expand a grounded analysis.

What questions and what challenges does such a research into

interdiscursivity pose? We can identify (at least) the following:

• What is the nature and source of the interdiscursively significant

features within the professional discourse?

• How are they realized linguistically and semiotically?

• How do actors manage such interdiscursive features strategically

within the discourse in given sites of engagement and at

particular critical moments?

• How are such features valued in the order of discourse in

question and in particular sites?

• How are such features related to work and action? Does their

display constitute such work and action or accompany it in some

way?

• How are these significant features absorbed and transformed

within new discourse types in particular activity types?

From what has already been hinted at, addressing these linked but

varyingly focused questions, all central to the study of professional

discourse in the context of located action, will require a considerable

broadening of our research planning. A recent Special Issue of

Applied Linguistics (Sarangi / Candlin 2003) discusses this matter of

research planning in some detail and suggest that such planning will

need to include:

• Textual and semiotic analyses of discursive performances on site;

• Interpretive, ethnographic and grounded studies of professional

and organizational practices (Smart 1998, 2006);

• Accumulated accounts of expertise by ratified members of the

communities of practice in question (S. Candlin 2003);

• First-hand accounts of interpretations of experience by actively

involved members.

Such performances and accounts will be located within particular

domains – say, healthcare, law, business and management, social

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work, organizations and bureaucracies, and within these in specific

sites; for example, in the domain of healthcare we may contrast the

typical face-to-face professional encounter with the less familiar ITmediated

tele-consultation. Within these we may identify as foci of

research the activity types, discourse types and strategies we have

already referred to. We may also, in any comparative study, involve

the nature and importance accorded to evidence in such sites, to the

maintenance of professional neutrality, the quality of professional and

lay reasoning and argument, or the role of communication in the

appraisal and assessment of professional practice.

Any research model which will be adequate in relation to the

questions and challenges raised so far will need to address a number

of issues: firstly, how to situate discursive practices, texts and

accounts within a model which is inclusive of all relevant features of

discourse; secondly, how to accommodate the distinctive perspectives

and relevancies appropriate to all participants, both ‘motivational’ and

‘practical’, as Sarangi and Candlin (2001) argue; thirdly, how to make

a connection between the macro-sociological focus on the testing of

theory, underpinned by large-scale quantitative analysis and micro

interactional analysis, emphasising qualitative and grounded,

participant-centered accounts; and finally, how to incorporate these

descriptive methodologies into a useful, workable, and accountable

system. One such model framework has been made available by the

sociologist and social theorist Derek Layder in a number of recent

publications (1993, 1997) under the general title of a resource map for

research, the essentials of which we sketch in what follows.

In this cartography, Layder sets out four research elements,

each of which is interconnected with the others, and each of which has

a particular, and equally connectable, research focus. Layder (1997:

132ff) argues that none of the elements is prime, and research may

begin with any, providing that all are severally and differentially

addressed. From the interplay of the data arising from each element,

theory ‘emerges’. We take it this is the basis of his construct of

‘adaptive theory’.

It is significant also that the four research elements: context,

setting, situated activity, self are all set within a frame of history,

although we need to note that in Layder’s conception, all elements, as

social processes, have their own time-space frames. Interactions


Accounting for Interdiscursivity

among persons, for example, operate within a different time-space

perspective than do changes in social institutions, although both may

influence the conduct and practices of the other, and these differences

are significant.

Layder first (though importantly not necessarily as prime)

identifies context as that element which implicates the macro social

organization, the values, traditions, forms of social and economic

organization and power relations within the social formation, and

illustrates these in terms of what he terms “legally sanctioned forms of

ownership, control and distribution: interlocking directorships, state

intervention” (1993: 71). Layder’s second element, that of setting,

focuses on the intermediate social organization, categorized as workrelated

and non-work related. Important to setting is what Layder

identifies as its already established character, that is the social and

institutional structure and practices within which a particular situated

activity occurs. If settings are in Layder’s terms established – although

we should be cautious here not to equate establishment with stability,

as such stability will be highly relative across and within social

formations, and certainly relative to sectors of the population – then

Layder’s third element of situated activity involves a focus on that

face-to-face, or mediated social activity involving what he calls

“symbolic communication by skilled, intentional participants

implicated in the contexts and settings” (1993: 71). Note here how

Layder explicitly draws on the discursive turn in sociological research

referring to “emergent meanings, understandings and definitions of

the situation as these affect and are affected by contexts and settings,

and the subjective dispositions of individuals” (1993: 71). The

message is plain: the appraisal of discourse in action requires a clearly

defined program of sociolinguistic and discourse analytical study of a

range of differentiated encounters, and one which goes beyond what

may otherwise be a reductionist reliance on uttered text. But

description is not enough. As we have argued for earlier, description

needs to be accompanied by interpretive, ethnomethodological

accounts of the meaning-making of individuals in interaction in

particular situated activities, emphasising the members’ resources that

can be brought to bear, or are prevented from being brought to bear,

on the communicative challenges of the moment. However, even such

a focus on interpretation will not adequately include and bring to bear

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Christopher N. Candlin

in and of itself Layder’s elements of context and setting, and certainly

not the overarching construct of history. The significance of context

and setting only emerges from the talk and writings of the

participants, from their narratives when set against socio-historical

accounts and studies of organizational change, shifts in national

policies, analyses of decision-making over time. Including this

dimension, as Layder argues one must, moves the research agenda

from description and interpretation to what one can call critical

explanation. Finally, in Layder’s resource map, what is the

significance for the researcher of his fourth element, the self? If we

see self, with Layder, as invoking identity within the context of social

experience, what he refers to as the ‘unique psychobiography of the

individual’ (1993: 71) located within the time-space of a life career,

then the struggle between the individuality and the collectivity of the

self as at once body, mind and person is revealed.

Layder is, of course, writing as a social theorist and sociologist,

not as someone directly connected to the analysis of professional

discourse. It is not at all difficult, however, to map onto Layder’s

resource map discourse analytical practices which are familiar to those

concerned with professional communication. Conversational analysis

focusing on charting interaction, and interactional sociolinguistics

focusing on participant interpretation and inferencing can be readily

married to, say, systemic-functional grammatical and prosodic

analyses of textualisations, whether they be drawn from spoken,

written or otherwise semiotically realized modalities. From our

perspective, what Layder’s model research framework calls for is the

discursive and textual analysis of identified texts, linked to an

ethnographically motivated dimension which draws on qualitative

evidence from participants’ narratives and accounts, in response to the

siting of such texts in terms of their conditions of production and

reception. Following our argument throughout in this chapter, such

accounts will need to be set within an appraisal of the socio-historical

and institutional-organizational conditions under which particular

social practices arise and are privileged in various ways, and under the

constraints imposed, by which particular discursive practices – for

example, topic introduction and control, and speaker/writer

participation rights more generally – are either promoted or

proscribed. What seems important to us is that the perspectives of this


Accounting for Interdiscursivity

research are not prioritised: entry is possible in a variety of ways and

drawing on different but complementary discourses of research. What

is central is maintaining the mutuality and the integrity of the

perspectives. In this way, distinct research discourses evoke each

other and permit an inbuilt corroborating and warranting of the data

produced by the workings of the research discourses associated with

each perspective. Most obviously, of course, what it foregrounds is the

need for the broadly textual analysis and the broadly contextual

analysis to inform each other as emergent discursive practices with

institutional significance in the process of the research, allowing both

for ongoing corroboration of the candidate interpretations arrived at so

far and the impetus to further text collection and analysis.

So far so good, one might say. There are, however, a number of

challenges lying in wait in accounting for such a multi-perspectived

methodology. In the final section of this chapter we identify a number

of these as a kind of agenda-setting device for research planning.

5. Challenges to research accountability

We may characterise these under a number of headings, all of which

reflect the interdiscursivity we have been highlighting, albeit now

directed at research.

• Competing identities

Here we focus on the extent of context-specific knowledge required,

the degree to which researchers are equipped to recognise such

knowledge, and, in some sense, the extent of mutuality of experience

expected of the researcher in order to achieve an understanding, for

example, of the personal, institutional and professional discourses

outlined by Sarangi and Roberts (1999).

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• Motivational relevancies

Christopher N. Candlin

Here we focus on the discussion offered by Sarangi and Candlin

(2001) on the choice of two methodological positions: one where

analyst and participant are assumed to bring distinctive perspectives

on the data, very much in the objectivist, scientific mode of inquiry,

leading, as they say, analysts to impose or transform the ‘observed’

into a form of order; or the second, where analysts and participants are

held to view the world in the same way, through the same lens, using

the same coding devices, very much in the hermeneutic, ethnomethodological

mode of inquiry.

• Operationalisation

Here we focus on how to achieve that methodological integration

implied by the discussion earlier on research, how to achieve what

Miles and Huberman (1994) call for when they say that any coding

process has to be both systematic and inductive, connecting (in the

terms of this chapter) description, interpretation and explanation.

• Authentication

Here we focus on the work of researchers in organisational discourse

studies, notably Iedema (2003), Grant / Iedema (2005), Reed (2000),

Putnam / Fairhurst (2001), where considerable concerns have been

raised against inadequately sited and located text and discourse

analysis, leading to what has been termed ‘linguistic instrumentalism’,

in essence implying that there are problems of authentication of

discourse-based research where language is seen as the origin, logic

and source of organizational practices. Hindmarsh and Pilnick’s work

(2002) into what they refer to as ‘the tacit order of teamwork’

resonates with Hak’s chapter in Sarangi / Roberts (1999) where he

cautions against ‘talk bias’ in research into health care, both studies

resonating with the call ‘to bring work back in’ to studies of

professional and organisational communication. Professional practice


Accounting for Interdiscursivity

is not always explicitly available in terms of text and talk, leaving

researchers to depend on the insights of the practitioner to inform the

data analysis, a factor referred to by Sarangi (2002: 122) as ‘the

analyst’s paradox’.

• Categorisation

Here we focus on how the categorisations employed by discourse

analysts and researchers gibe, and to what degree, if they do, with the

quite typical categorisations employed by professional workers as part

of their membership and of the ‘belonging’ of their working worlds.

Given that such categorisations are profession-specific and

instrumental, it will be important to seek some mutuality with those of

the researcher/analyst.

• Commitment to practical relevance

Here we focus on the extent to which research can meet the challenge

of practical relevance (Sarangi / Roberts 1999), which is essential to

maintaining a productive reflexivity between research and practice.

Such a challenge is closely related to Cicourel’s (1992) call for

‘ecological validity’ in research. What it does is to challenge the

researcher to be committed to the research site rather than to his or her

research tradition, striving for the co-participation referred to in the

discussion of motivational relevancies earlier.

• The challenge of practical action

Finally, among these various challenges, we focus on what is perhaps

the most difficult, and potentially the most contentious of all. As S.

Candlin (2003: 386) refers to succinctly:

One of the issues articulated in discussion of research studies […] relates to

the ‘So what?’ question. This question is often followed by others: What

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Christopher N. Candlin

practical application will the research have? How will it impact on the

research site? Does it have the potential to improve situations?

What we believe beyond doubt is that acknowledging the demands of

accountability in research implies achieving an appropriate degree of

partnership which goes beyond the consultative, but that such

mutuality places considerable demands on the research process and on

its members. These demands are part of a more general set of

constraints of an ethical, practical and ideologically-invested kind that

may work against a full achievement of the ecological validity

Cicourel seeks, and which, when acknowledged fully, may reveal

greater limitations on the possibility of such partnerships than

Cicourel’s sites suggest.

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