From folk‐tales to shareholder‐tales: semiotics analysis of the annual report

Gaétan Breton (Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada)

Society and Business Review

ISSN: 1746-5680

Publication date: 2 October 2009



The purpose of this paper is to explore the use of semiotics analysis to better understand the annual report. It starts with the idea that the annual report is telling stories to the reader. As a form of novel, it can be analysed with the same instrument.


The goal here is methodological. It is to propose an organized body of techniques that will allow anybody to conduct analysis from it. Therefore, one example is used uniquely to illustrate the method. The advantages of semiotics over content analysis are numerous. Content analysis remains quite trivial (counting words), while semiotics analysis takes into account the structure of the story at many levels.


Framed by the categories of Aristotle's rhetoric, a method is developed that is replicable with a limited background in the source disciplines. The results suggest that the annual report is clearly telling stories and respond quite positively to this kind of approach.


Although it is often discussed as a general issue, there has so far been no proposal of an integrated method for analysing accounting narratives over content analysis.



Breton, G. (2009), "From folk‐tales to shareholder‐tales: semiotics analysis of the annual report", Society and Business Review, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 187-201.

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