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Accounting is popularly referred
to as the language of business because accountants use financial information as
a communication tool to aid in management decisions (Johnson, 2002). Like any
evolving language, accounting as a language has seen many changes which has
been discussed and researched extensively over the years. According to Evans
(2010), prior literature on accounting as a language is limited. This is
because authors such as Yamey (1961) et al as listed in this article focused on
accounting terminologies and its introduction in English, linguistic theories,
and the origin of words rather than stating the reasons and motivations behind
the change in accounting language. Evans (2010) on the other hand draws out
three points to aid in bridging this research gap on accounting as a
language.  The points include; the reasons for and the mechanisms
of language change, accounting as a language for specific purpose, and
lastly, the motivations behind language change and innovative ways to improve
language change in accounting such as the origin and conditions surrounding the
changes in accounting language. The author also used theoretical concepts to
discuss in detail accounting as a changing language.

To begin with, what are the
reasons for and mechanisms for language change? Evans (2010) draws on Thomson
(2006) to establish the view that, language change occurs when there is contact
with other languages and cultures. An example cited by Evans (2010) from the
works of Parker (1989) suggests that, some Italian words such as capital
(replacing stock) and cash (replacing money) found in English language books on
double-entry accounting were adapted between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries,
as early authors including English authors came into contact with Italians and
other Europeans. The contact with other cultures results in language change to
often take the form of  either “borrowing”
or “loan translation” as cited by Evans (2010) with reference to Thomson, 2006
; Grzega, 2003, Matthews, 1997; et al. Thus, the adaptation of foreign concepts
and ideas can cause either a semantic change, where an existing word is applied
to a new concept (Matthews, 1997; Grzega, 2003) or new word being created from
the material offered by the speaker’s language (Grzega, 2003). In my opinion,
language like culture is dynamic and language can be influential due to the
speaker’s ability to communicate effectively. Good and effective communication
makes it easy for other cultures to adapt a particular language. It is upon
adaptation that words could have an equivalent meaning or a slightly different
meaning such as the word Sushi which has taken on a slightly different meaning
in English from that in their respective original language as cited by Evans
(2010; with reference to Traught, 2006).

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Secondly, Evans (2010) argues
that, accounting like any other profession is a language of specific purpose
thus accounting professionals depend on specialized terms to communicate
effectively. With reference to Crystal (2003, p.174), Evans argues that, there
are registers or jargons that facilitate communication among professional
groups which help to define the identity of these groups. Examples of such
accounting jargons as defined by the New York State Society of Certified Public
Accountants include; Accrual, Accumulated depreciation, Asset turnover,
Callable, First In First Out, etc. Furthermore, accounting professionals are
encouraged to use everyday language when communicating with non-accountants
because, these jargons or registered words will be interpreted differently amongst
other groups. In effect, professional groups should know when to use
“specialized vocabulary” or everyday language as an effective tool for
communication. Evans (2010) with reference to Abbott (1988, p.61) places
emphasis on the importance stating publicly the terminologies of a professional
group. According to the above named authors, this helps to publicly extend and
support the authority and status of professionals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To conclude, it can be said that,
the theories and concepts discussed by Evans (2010) contributes extensively to
literature on accounting as a changing language. The concept of motivations,
mechanism and the idea of finding innovative ways to improve accounting
language is a modern approach to bridging the gap in prior literature. In my
opinion, an innovative way to improve accounting as a language is to foremost
view accounting as a medium of communication just like every language. This
means, the communication process must be done effectively and efficiently using
clear and precise words. Due to this, further research should be done on
effective communication in accounting. This is because, accounting is a
continuous communication process and for accountants to meet the expectation of
decision makers in the company, they must communicate any accounting
information effectively using clear and accurate terms or words (Johnson,
2002).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference list

 

Publication- “If Accounting is the Language of Business, Why
Aren’t We Communicating”

Published in the UVSC School of Business Journal,
Volume 1, Winter 2002

 

 

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