Questioning in simulated accountant-client consultations: Exploring implications for ESP teaching

Anne Burns, Stephen Moore*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The field of accountancy plays a vital role in the financial health of modern-day economies. It also attracts very large numbers of students, many for whom English is not their first language, who train in a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate programs at English-medium universities. Yet, surprisingly, the discourse of accountants has been under-reported in the ESP literature (Burns & Moore, 2007a). This paper reports research investigating spoken accounting discourse derived from simulated accountant-client consultations. It draws on the work of Drew and Heritage (1992), in which questioning is identified as a key discursive feature in institutional talk, and also the more recent work reported in Heritage and Maynard (2006), in which the complexity of the formulation of questions and responses is revealed in doctor-patient consultations. The paper discusses the use of simulations in cases where access to actual workplace settings by ESP teachers is unattainable, as well as the usefulness of the interactional data these simulations generate. The paper reports a questioning typology, derived from the data, showing six typical question types found in advice-giving simulated encounters in accountant-client taxation-based consultations: information; clarification; client-specified; backchannel; discourse-related; and interpersonal. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of this research for ESP teaching.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-337
Number of pages16
JournalEnglish for Specific Purposes
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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