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Using a professional corpus for conceptual framing in corporate governance

Corpus driven linguistic research extracts the meaning of a concept from a corpus. This article demonstrates how a professional corpus helps business executives to understand the meaning and concepts of technical words used in the industry.

Different industries have their own technical words and phrases. For example, ‘Internal Audit’ is frequently used in finance and corporate governance. The one million words Hong Kong Corpus of Corporate Governance Reports (HKCCGR) consists of the corporate governance reports of 217 companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. These companies were carefully chosen to reflect the weighting of the four main sectors listed on the exchange (i.e. finance, utilities, property, and commercial and industrial). The researchers analysed the corporate governance reports and identified 25 moves.

The researchers used an automatic phraseology identification software called ‘concgram’ and identified the top 200 two-word concgrams from the HKCCGR. The phrase ‘Internal Audit’ has 1,861 instances, while ‘External Audit’ has only 571 instances.

By searching ‘Internal’ and ‘Audit’ on the concordance search interface on all the 25 sub-corpora on the HKCCGR website, the search result shows 741 instances of ‘Internal’ and ‘Audit’ in the eight sub-corpora. 416 instances are related to ‘internal control’, 306 instances are related to ‘board committees’, 9 instances are related to ‘introduction or corporate governance practices’, 7 instances are related to ‘external auditors’, and the last three instances are related to ‘shareholder or investor relations’, ‘employee policies, compensation and benefits’ and ‘social responsibility’ respectively. The number of instances returned from different sub-corpora indicates that ‘internal audit’ is an internal control process that is related to the board committees of a company. 

Further examination on the collocated word list of ‘internal audit’, the word ‘control’ has appeared 2,587 times, ‘system’ appeared 803 times, ‘audit’ appeared 793 times, ‘management’ appeared 498 times, ‘risk’ appeared 363 times, ‘effectiveness’ appeared 300 times. These results show that ‘internal audit’ in corporate governance is related to the control of the management system to audit the risk and effectiveness of the company.

A professional corpus is a useful resource to understand the meanings and usages of a profession-specific jargon and technical words. 


Remarks: Hong Kong Corpus of Corporate Governance Reports (HKCCGR) is hosted on the RCPCE Profession-specific Corpora at the Research Centre for Professional Communication in EnglishDepartment of EnglishThe Hong Kong Polytechnic University.