Corpus-based empirical approach to professionalism: Identifying interactional roles and dispositions in professional codes of ethics

Kenneth C C KONG*, Phoenix W Y LAM, Winnie Cheng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although research on professional competence has has adopted a number of approaches that have highlighted the importance of practice and values in enacting a professional identity, there is currently no established framework for empirical investigations. Based on a discourse analytic framework, this paper demonstrates how ethical codes in a number of consulting professions (law, accountancy and engineering/surveying) can be analyzed empirically by focusing on the collocation patterns found in the genre. The analysis will focus on how professionals are expected to behave in relation to two identity components in their ideal conducts of behavior: identity roles (or identity shifts) and identity virtues (positive attributes associated with a particular role). The engineering profession is found to have a fairly even representation of most of the identity roles identified: provider to client, unspecified/general, professional peer, employer and professional association. The legal profession places greater emphasis on the roles of provider to client and professional peer, whereas accountancy professionals tend to represent their identity roles more generally, although the role of provider to client remains an important category. With regard to identity virtues, i.e., the ideal dispositions or values displayed, all three professions highlight the primacy of professional standards or competence, with integrity and responsibility also emphasized by some.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9771
Pages (from-to)3-28
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

User-Defined Keywords

  • Codes of ethics
  • Communicative competence
  • Corpus analysis
  • Identity roles
  • Identity virtues
  • Professional communication


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