“Waiting for your info”. An explanatory look at the communicative strategies deployed to mitigate potentially face-threatening acts in emails


Emails are perhaps the most common form of communication in business contexts. In spite of their prominence they are, however, still a common source of misunderstanding and stress. Drawing upon the integration of linguistic and genre aspects, a previous study (Poppi 2015) showed that in order to be able to decide how to draft an email, it is not possible to refer to structural characteristics and style of language alone, as in business communication the boundaries and expectations of the genre are often overruled by inventiveness and creativity. In particular, inventiveness and creativity may especially prove useful when composing emails containing potentially face-threatening acts like directives or requests. The present contribution focuses on 41 email chains written and received by the employees of companies dealing with car-trading, manufacturing of tights and socks, ICT (Information and Computer Technologies) assistance, transport and logistics, who were in charge of customer services. At first, reference was made to Goldstein and Sabin’s (2006) categorization of email exchanges on the basis of the speech act they entail. Out of the twelve main categories identified by them, it was decided to concentrate on those messages which proved to be the textualization of requests and directives (requesting someone to do something), with a view to disclosing the strategies employed to downgrade or mitigate the directness of these potentially face-threatening speech acts. In order to perform this latter stage of the analysis, it was decided to refer to the adaptation of the studies by Blum-Kulka et al. (1989) and Sifianou (1992) provided by Darics and Koller (2018), as well as to Blum-Kulka and Olshtain’s classification of levels of directness. The preliminary results of the analysis confirm that email writers are generally aware of the importance of mitigating the directness of face-threatening speech acts like information requests, and especially directives, as shown by the variety of strategies employed in the samples under scrutiny here.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v38p199


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