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The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society cover
The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society

Riina Reinsalu

Textual strategies of applications

Professional and administrative communication requires the creation of different types of texts. While some of them merely serve the purpose of preserving information, others are intended to influence people’s actions. In this article, I will explore applications as a textual genre based on 19 applications presented to Sauga Municipality. My goal is to find out what kind of generic structure these applications have and by what linguistic means the applicants aim to direct the actions of those who receive them. Since the applicants are citizens and the receiver is a state authority, the analysis of textual strategies also sheds light on practices between citizens and local authorities as well as on possible power relations between them.
The structural analysis of the applications reveals that they have a somewhat rigid generic structure stemming from the tradition of the genre, the particular communicative situation, and the relations between the applicants and the receiver. Applications, in general, are based on two obligatory moves (presenting background information and naming the desired action) and an optional move (expressing one’s point of view). In addition, in presenting the background information, we can distinguish between three steps: one can elaborate when and where the problem occurred, how the applicant is related to the problem, and what in fact is the problem. While the general structure of the analyzed applications is fairly standardized, some differences can be detected in the particular order of moves and steps.
The choices of strategies in applications appear in certain textual patterns. The content of an application is usually either a request or wish and expressed as I request, I wish, and wish. In some rare cases, citizens also use propositions or orders in communicating with their local government. Since the application is in the applicant’s own best interest, a direct obligating or coercive approach is usually found inappropriate. The citizen’s demand or order would come across as harsh and as violating the traditions of the genre, and in doing so would create unnecessary opposition from state authorities and thereby undermine the communicative purpose of the application: influencing the receiver to perform the act desired by the applicant.


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