In general terms, specialized lexis is used to signal group identity and group knowledge (Handford 2010: 151). Because of the difference in the topics discussed, some keywords occur much more often in internal than in external meetings (e.g., business negotiations); examples are sales, mail, business, in/ormalion, and client. Capitalizing on Nelson’s (2000) distinction between doing business and talking about business, Handford (2010: 118) maintains that, in the language of business meetings (thus, not specifically business negotiations), specialized lexemes, such as profit, merger and shareholder, do not occur as frequently as one would expect, whereas these terms are frequent when talking (and reading) about business. In fact, business negotiators often perform rather than discuss: they do not talk about sales, they sell; they do not talk about how to engage in a relationship with others, they establish relationships, and so on (Handford 2010: 109). As a result, the language of business consists, just as everyday language does, of a series of lexical clusters, fixed and semi-fixed phrases (i.e. collocations), which “fulfill specialized discursive roles” (Handford 2010:109), aimed at solving problems, making decisions, passing on information or reaching a deal. Commonly, these are two-word chunks, such as, in English, I think, sort of, kind of, a bit (Handford 2010:167) (on hedges, see below).
Lexical or lexico-grammatical clusters have been discussed in different languages, for example, in French by Mercelot (2006:158-171) and in English by Handford (2007). Yet, while Mercelot (2006) simply lists clusters occurring in French business negotiations, Handford (2007) is concerned with the statistical relevance of clusters in the language of business, compared to the everyday variety. For example, a two-word chunk with a very high relative frequency in external business meetings is if you (Handford 2010: 198). Two-word chunks can combine with other elements into poly- lexemic colligational patterns, such as if you say, “Well... - a pattern that can be used to create an imagined scenario of cooperation, from which both companies could benefit (Handford 2010: 199). For French, Mercelot (2006: 163-164) notes a frequent use of elliptic compounds, that is, N-preposition-N constructs with ellipsis of the preposition, such as constat [de] probleme ‘ascertainment of a problem’, cout [de] matiere ‘material costs’, information [sur la] qualite ‘information on quality’, etc. However, Mercelot (2006) does not compare his findings on business negotiations with other contexts of oral communication. The observed frequency must therefore remain a merely impressionistic claim, all the more so when contemporary French in general is experiencing a trend towards the [NN]N pattern (Arnaud 2015: 682).