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The Language of Failure: Verbal Accounts in Financial Reports

Sandell, Niklas LU and Svensson, Peter LU (2012) In Working Paper Series
Abstract
The natural language that accompanies the accounting language in financial reports is not only a biased representation of the company, but also, we argue, a response to explicit as well as implicit external demands, expectations and accusations. Drawing on the notion of accounts, i.e. statements or responses that neutralizes critique caused by performance not meeting expectations, we analyze the natural language in financial reports. The taxonomy of accounts includes ‘excuses’, ‘justifications’, ‘concessions’, ‘refusals’, ‘mystifications’, ‘silence’ and ‘refocusing’. In analyzing financial reports with the use of account theory, both individual actions and structurally anchored financial report discourse is approached. Our results suggest... (More)
The natural language that accompanies the accounting language in financial reports is not only a biased representation of the company, but also, we argue, a response to explicit as well as implicit external demands, expectations and accusations. Drawing on the notion of accounts, i.e. statements or responses that neutralizes critique caused by performance not meeting expectations, we analyze the natural language in financial reports. The taxonomy of accounts includes ‘excuses’, ‘justifications’, ‘concessions’, ‘refusals’, ‘mystifications’, ‘silence’ and ‘refocusing’. In analyzing financial reports with the use of account theory, both individual actions and structurally anchored financial report discourse is approached. Our results suggest there being three general types of accounts in financial reports: (i) legally required accounts required by law or standard (ii) institutionalized accounts not formally regulated but commonly accepted, and (iii) ad hoc accounts that are unique for the individual company or situation. The theory of account giving in situations of evaluations and critique helps us to discern the fine-grained anatomy of financial reports by means of which impressions are managed, legitimacy is uphold and conversations between companies and their public is maintained. The accounts presented in financial reports can, we argue, be understood as a way of maintaining the order of communication that has in effect been threatened by the account situation. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Working Paper
publication status
published
subject
keywords
financial reports, failure, discourse, accounts, accounting, language, performativity
in
Working Paper Series
pages
24 pages
publisher
Lund Institute of Economic Research
ISSN
1103-3010
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
16bf7b73-2897-42c0-9b8e-df170f82a893 (old id 3348789)
date added to LUP
2013-01-07 14:45:05
date last changed
2016-04-15 22:45:44
@misc{16bf7b73-2897-42c0-9b8e-df170f82a893,
  abstract     = {The natural language that accompanies the accounting language in financial reports is not only a biased representation of the company, but also, we argue, a response to explicit as well as implicit external demands, expectations and accusations. Drawing on the notion of accounts, i.e. statements or responses that neutralizes critique caused by performance not meeting expectations, we analyze the natural language in financial reports. The taxonomy of accounts includes ‘excuses’, ‘justifications’, ‘concessions’, ‘refusals’, ‘mystifications’, ‘silence’ and ‘refocusing’. In analyzing financial reports with the use of account theory, both individual actions and structurally anchored financial report discourse is approached. Our results suggest there being three general types of accounts in financial reports: (i) legally required accounts required by law or standard (ii) institutionalized accounts not formally regulated but commonly accepted, and (iii) ad hoc accounts that are unique for the individual company or situation. The theory of account giving in situations of evaluations and critique helps us to discern the fine-grained anatomy of financial reports by means of which impressions are managed, legitimacy is uphold and conversations between companies and their public is maintained. The accounts presented in financial reports can, we argue, be understood as a way of maintaining the order of communication that has in effect been threatened by the account situation.},
  author       = {Sandell, Niklas and Svensson, Peter},
  issn         = {1103-3010},
  keyword      = {financial reports,failure,discourse,accounts,accounting,language,performativity},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Working Paper},
  pages        = {24},
  publisher    = {Lund Institute of Economic Research},
  series       = {Working Paper Series},
  title        = {The Language of Failure: Verbal Accounts in Financial Reports},
  year         = {2012},
}