The Centre for the Research of Professional Language

The Centre for the Research of Professional Language is a linguistic research centre exploring professional language in English, German and Czech, with an emphasis on the changing characteristics of professional and expert discourse in the era of globalization.


Starting points for the research programme

In the current era of globalization, within a society often labelled the “knowledge society”, there is a constantly increasing need for professional and expert communication, not only in native languages, but also in foreign languages – primarily in English, but also, within the Central European context, in German. The members of the research team have worked together since 2011 as part of the Centre for the Research of Professional Language at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ostrava, and the research programme in which they are involved represents a response to the transformations which professional communication is currently undergoing. The perception of these changes, and the ways in which they are applied in practice, are of key importance for Czech researchers’ ability to present their work on the international stage. It is also essential to keep pace with these developments if researchers are to successfully communicate their work to a broad general public; professional discourse is increasingly viewed as a type of communication featuring not only experts and specialists at various levels, but also non-experts.

The dynamic transformation of professional discourse becomes even more evident if we focus on the non-linguistic, cultural context of such communication, and if we compare and contrast the characteristics of professional discourse in various cultural contexts. Such a comparison reveals various forms of interaction between two counterbalancing tendencies – the tendency towards globalization, and the tendency towards localization. On the one hand, genres are evolving by moving ever closer towards the norms established in the dominant cultures of contemporary global professional discourse. On the other hand, we can observe tendencies for these genres to preserve certain specific features of the “home” culture. In combination, these two tendencies lead to “glocalized” versions of new and developing genres (the term “glocalization” was first coined by translation theorists exploring approaches to translating advertising and promotional texts). A major role in this interplay of globalizing and localizing tendencies is played by the increasing strength of English as a global lingua franca.

The range of genres, and the internal structure of many genres, has been strongly influenced by the internet and the constant development of digital media – as well as being conditioned by society’s demand that institutions (including research institutions) should present their work and findings to the general public, promote themselves, and actively seek to recruit new staff. As a result, professional discourse has increasingly become influenced by persuasive elements or features that are typically associated with promotional discourse – elements which used to be largely extraneous to the world of professional and expert communication.

The internet, and other new technological developments, have made a major contribution to the development of multimodality in discourse. Verbal expression is not merely accompanied by visual and audiovisual elements; the individual modes in fact combine to form an integrated whole, and to co-create meanings (e.g. in internet presentations, conference presentations and lectures, etc.). The multimodal character of communication is of course nothing new; however, the past decade has seen a huge increase in the presence and importance of non-verbal modes in the genres of professional and institutional discourse.

Aims of the research programme

The research programme of the Centre for the Research of Professional Language draws on the specialization, research results and experience of the Centre’s individual members, while also responding to the trends outlined above – trends whose permeation into professional discourse has not yet been fully explored and described. There is a particular need for contrastive analyses capturing the cultural specificities of the new and developing genres.

The aims of the research are to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the changes affecting traditional genres of professional communication and to describe the development of selected new genres of professional discourse, with a particular focus on the roles and mutual interactions of verbal and non-verbal elements and the ways in which the advent of electronic media have influenced the structure and functions of the genres in question. One of the key objectives of the research is to carry out a broad-based intercultural comparison of parallel genres in the English-, German- and Czech-speaking contexts, which will provide Czech communicants with a thorough insight into intercultural differences within professional discourse.

The research focuses particularly on the following areas:

  1. Genres in academic discourse:
    • Conference presentations. The current form of conference presentations in most disciplines is a result of interaction between electronic presentations and the explanation given by the presenter; oral presentations are increasingly incorporating audience-focused techniques.
    • Academic articles. Analyses will focus e.g. on changes connected with the conventionalization of article in terms of their structure, communication strategies, and the role of non-verbal elements.
    • University textbooks. The research will focus on persuasive techniques in metadiscourse applied on various levels of language.
  2. Genres in popular scientific discourse:
    • Articles in the press (newspapers and magazines): the role of expert terminology and the use of emotionalizing strategies.
    • Television reports: the integration of verbal and non-verbal elements, techniques of presenting expert topics.
  3. Genres in new media:
    • Internet discussions and blogs hosted by experts and/or focusing on expert topics: specific aspects of interaction among experts and non-experts in a relatively anonymous environment.
    • Websites of scientific and educational institutions: the presentation of expert information to the general public, specific features of Facebook communication.
    • MOOCs (Massive open online courses) as emerging communicative platforms in the context of digital discourse and social networking sites based on the principle of participatory digital prosumer culture: exploring the situated dynamics of online identity work in MOOCs discussion fora.

Updated: 24. 02. 2020