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Point of view and key-words in argumentative discourse

Scientific Co-ordinator: Prof. Marina BONDI (University of Modena and Reggio Emilia)


Project of the University of Bergamo

Point of view, argumentation and persuasion in business correspondence:

synchronic and diachronic perspectives

Local Co-ordinator: Prof. Marina DOSSENA (University of Bergamo)  


The research team intends to analyze the persuasion strategies employed in English-language business correspondence, so as to identify what linguistic items characterize a specific illocutionary force (already at the level of lexical and morpho-syntactic choices) in the context of professional communication within the legal and business domains. Special attention will be given to exchanges occurring in ‘top-down’ contexts, or from ‘centre’ to ‘periphery’, so as to assess to what extent the encoder’s point of view is at the basis of argumentation and provides the grounds for a distinctive kind of perlocution. The investigation will rely on authentic texts, both present-day and nineteenth-century, in order to identify what changes have taken place in the relationship established between encoder and recipient. In particular, we intend to study two diametrically opposite situations: the recipient’s adaptation to the encoder’s point of view, aimed to achieve communicative convergence, or in fact the recipient’s rejection of the encoder’s point of view, aimed to stress subjectivity and individual perception. This is expected to allow us to identify the ways in which a ‘dominant’ point of view is defined, as this may derive (predictably) from choices related to modalization, but also (less expectedly) from the choice of key-words that convey authoritative identity, suited to associate its own illocutionary aim with the statement, while attempting to avoid conflict with the recipient.

As for present-day texts, these will originate mainly in small- and medium-sized enterprises; this will allow us to study the ways in which the encoder’s point of view is conveyed in contexts in which English functions as a lingua franca and (consequently) the choice of positive and negative politeness strategies is more easily conditioned by culture-specific variables.

For both types of texts the research team will compile a modular corpus, so as to permit easy comparison and integration of data; this corpus will eventually be made available on CD-ROM.


Project results