Dissertation > Language, writing > FOREIGN > English > Grammar

Interpersonal Meaning of English Business Unfavorable-News Letters

Author LiuLing
Tutor XiaWeiRong
School Southwest Jiaotong University
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords business unfavorable-news letters interpersonal meaning mood modality appraisal
CLC H314
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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With the development of society and the increasingly frequent business interactions, to guarantee the smooth progress of communication, business participants at both sides always endeavor to establish or maintain a harmonious and lasting partnership. Business letters, as one of the main means of communication, play an important role in communication process. Studies on this special genre have obtained tremendous achievements in linguistics and English for Specific Purposes (ESP). But when it comes to research on business letters that convey unfavorable news, there remains a lot of research space for us to explore. Unfavorable-news letters in the thesis mainly refer to the complaint, claim, refusal, warning letters etc., which are face-threatening to the letter receiver. Therefore, it is necessary to look into how the interpersonal relations in this special kind of discourse are realized by the linguistic choices at the lexical-grammatical levels.Halliday (1994) theorizes that language has meta-functions, among which, interpersonal function concerns how the language user employs proper language to transmit information, to express attitudes and viewpoints, as well as to establish and maintain social relationships. He holds that from functional linguistic perspective. interpersonal meaning is mainly realized through mood and modality systems. Later, Martin (2000) widens the domain of the study of interpersonal meta-functions by adding appraisal system into the analysis. He argues that evaluation resources also take a seat in the realization of language interpersonal function.The existing studies related to unfavorable business letters are mainly around complaining and claiming letters. Perspectives in the previous researches vary from pragmatics, stylistics. linguistics, to functional linguistics. However, it also can be seen that research on the type of unfavorable-news letters is inadequate and still needs to be developed. This thesis, taking Halliday’s and Martin’s theories as the backbone, scrutinizes the realization of interpersonal meanings in 38 sample English business unfavorable-news letters (EBUNLs) covering not only complaining and claiming letters. but also warning. declining, urging letters, negative responses. and staff cutbacks. The combination of qualitative and quantitative methods is employed in the analysis of the 38 sample letters to explore and describe how interpersonal meanings are reached and how the degree of face threat is lowered through the writer’s selection of linguistic forms at the lexical, syntactical, and discourse levels in the mood, modality and appraisal systems. As a supplement of the study, the thesis chooses, from the 38 sample letters,8 letters (associated with unqualified applicant refusals, staff cutbacks and warnings) for a comparative study. Quantitatively based frequency analysis is made to look at similarities and differences about the linguistic choices between the 8 letters and those in the other 30 sample letters. Qualitative scrutiny is followed to explain and interpret how these linguistic choices realize interpersonal meanings. The study finds that the choices of linguistic expressions in the 8 refusal/ warning letters and those in the other 30 letters present a similar tendency. In these unfavorable news letters, declaratives, first person pronouns, present tense, median value modal operators and attitudinal resources are preferred to express interpersonal meanings and achieve communicative purposes. The author of the thesis hopes that the study could have some academic reference in the study of interpersonal meanings of EBUNLs:she also hopes that the study could offer some help in the understanding and writing of such kind of letters.The thesis is composed of six chapters. Chapter One introduces the research background, motivations and methods of the present study. Chapter Two is concerned with the interpersonal meaning related theory under Halliday’s functional grammar, and presents Martin’s appraisal theory as development to interpersonal function as well. Chapter Three offers a detailed study of the mood system, person system and tense choices of EBUNLs, aiming to find how interpersonal meanings are realized. Chapter Four concentrates on the analysis of modal operators, modal adjuncts and metaphorical modality, with the purpose of figuring out the interpersonal functions. Chapter Five analyzes the interpersonal meaning by looking at the attitude and graduation resources from Martin’s appraisal system. The last chapter, Chapter Six. presents major findings, puts forward limitations and proposes suggestions for future study.

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