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LANGUAGE AND THE EVOLUTION OF ACADEMIC FIELDS: THE CASE OF ORGANIZATION STUDIES

Thomas G. Cummings, Chailin Cummings

Abstract: LANGUAGE AND THE EVOLUTION OF ACADEMIC FIELDS: THE CASE OF ORGANIZATION STUDIES Abstract Considerable research has been directed at how academic fields evolve yet the language used to communicate knowledge has played a minor or passive role in understanding field development. We draw on studies from both linguistics and sociology to develop a conceptual framework that explains how language affects the institutional and social processes involved in the evolution of academic fields. We illustrate the framework with a case study of the evolution of organization studies (OS). It includes a textual analysis of the field’s communication of research knowledge to the academic community over a 50-year period; a review of the institutional and social processes that shaped the field’s research development; and an examination of how the words used to communicate OS knowledge affected those evolutionary processes. Because OS evolved mainly in professional business schools, it also creates knowledge for practitioners. We further explore how the language used to communicate OS knowledge to students and practitioners shaped the practice side of the field’s evolution. This linguistic perspective clarifies the growing divergence between OS’s research and practice sides and suggests how they might be strategically aligned for the field’s successful development.
Keywords: evolution / language / side / ACADEMIC FIELDS / linguistic / practitioners / shaped / social

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