Vocabularies and Vocabulary Structure: A New Approach Linking Categories, Practices, and Institutions

Jeffrey Loewenstein, William Ocasio, Candace Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Organizational scholars have long used vocabularies, and with the rise of research on language, this work has grown. Yet the research drawing on vocabularies is wide ranging and not integrated. We review work on vocabularies from literatures on rhetoric, culture, cognition, and coordination. We integrate and extend this work on vocabularies, introducing the new concept of vocabulary structure to capture different aspects of vocabulary use that collectively explain how vocabularies yield meaningful categories. We also generate a cross-level model to link work on vocabularies at the level of social collectives with work on vocabulary use in situations. We illustrate the usefulness of vocabularies by showing how they help advance work on institutional logics. Vocabularies offer substantial opportunities for theoretical integration and novel extensions for organizational research and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-86
Number of pages46
JournalAcademy of Management Annals
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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