Tule taevas appi, tulge ometi Raekoja platsist kaugemale ka: kodanike tekstistrateegilised valikud ametiasutuse poole pöördumisel; pp. 201–220Full article in PDF format | http://dx.doi.org/10.3176/esa63.09
Good heavens, why won’t you look a bit further from the Town Hall square!: The strategic choices used by citizens in texts written to authoritiesOne of the preconditions of a well-functioning information society is dialogic communication between citizens and officials. For this, agencies provide several options, including the chance to indicate problems via a web form. The objective of the article is to clarify which are the strategic text choices of citizens when they contact officials with a complaint. In other words, the article focuses on which obligatory and selective moves comprise the internal structure of the complaints of the survey subjects and which metadiscursive linguistic devices are used for conveying the content.
The source material of the article is 40 complaints (2659 words in total) submitted by citizen to the Tartu city government from 2013–2017. The complaints are taken from the public webpage section “Official answers” and concern the city’s maintenance issues. Dealing with maintenance issues brings an intrigue into the communication, as the authorities are considered to be directly or indirectly liable for the problem. However, as it is in the power of the authorities to remedy the situation, it may be presumed that a citizen must be careful when making strategic choices in texts, carefully selecting the way of addressing the authorities.
Applying the genre analysis of Swales (1990) when analysing the source material, it appears that the internal structure of the complaint consists of three compulsory moves – pointing out the problem, expressing discontent and naming the recommended activity – which are closely intertwined. Selective moves, dealing with starting and ending the communication, introducing the background and describing the situation, are secondary compared to the general objective of the complaint.
Internal structure moves in texts are realised as multiple metatextual features, of which Hyland’s (2005b) linguistic devices included in the interaction features in the framework of metadiscourse are of interest in the context of this article. Although from time to time citizens consider it necessary to mitigate their text with hedges, a negative perception still dominates in the complaints, conveyed through attitude markers and boosters. Discontent is expressed not only in words, but also through emotions. The punctuation marks that carry an emotional charge are exclamation marks as well as question marks, which are traditionally considered engagement markers, and in some cases these also meet the same objective. In the latter case, the citizen is primarily speaking for himself/herself, not for a group, using the first person, which represents the category of self-mentions.
Abdi, Reza 2002. Interpersonal metadiscourse: an indicator of interaction and identity. – Discourse Studies 4 (2), 139–145.
Al-Momani, Kawakib Radwan 2014. Strategies of persuasion in letters of complaint in academic context: the case of Jordanian university students’ complaints. – Studies 16 (6), 705–728.
Bhatia, Vijay K. 2002. Applied genre analysis: a multiperspective model. – Ibérica 4, 3−19. http://www.aelfe.org/documents/text4-Bhatia.pdf (06.01.2018).
Bruce, Ian 2008. Academic Writing and Genre. A Systematic Analysis. London, New York: Continuum.
EKG 1993 = Mati Erelt, Reet Kasik, Helle Metslang, Henno Rajandi, Kristiina Ross, Henn Saari, Kaja Tael, Silvi Vare. Eesti keele grammatika. II. Süntaks. Lisa: Kiri. Peatoim. Mati Erelt, toim. Tiiu Erelt, Henn Saari, Ülle Viks. Tallinn: Eesti Teaduste Akadeemia Keele ja Kirjanduse Instituut.
EKK 2007 = Mati Erelt, Tiiu Erelt, Kristiina Ross. Eesti keele käsiraamat. Kolmas, täiendatud trükk. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus. http://www.eki.ee/books/ekk09/index.php?id=84&p=2&p1=11 (06.01.2018).
Flowerdew, John 2015. Revisiting metadiscourse: conceptual and methodological issues concerning signalling nouns. – Ibérica 29, 15–34. http://www.aelfe.org/documents/03_IBERICA_29.pdf (06.01.2018).
Henry, Alex, Debbie G. E. Ho 2010. The act of complaining in Brunei–Then and now. – Journal of Pragmatics 42 (3), 840–855. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2009.08.011.
Hooi, Chee Mei, Munir Shuib 2014. An analysis of hedging devices in complaint business letters. – GEMA Online® Journal of Language Studies 14 (3), 123–142. http://ejournal.ukm.my/gema/article/view/7105/3255 (06.01.2018).
Hyland, Ken 2003. Genre-based pedagogies: a social response to process. – Journal of Second Language Writing 12 (1), 17–29.
Hyland, Ken 2005a. Metadiscourse. The International Encyclopedia of Language and Social Interaction. Wiley Online Library. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781118611463.wbielsi003/full (06.01.2018).
Hyland, Ken 2005b. Metadiscourse. Exploring Interaction in Writing. Continuum Discourse Series. London, New York: Continuum.
Hyland, Ken 2005c. Stance and engagement: a model of interaction in academic discourse. – Discourse Studies 7 (2), 173–192.
Hyland, Ken 2007. Genre and Second Language Writing. Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.
Hyland, Ken 2017. Metadiscourse: what is it and where is it going? – Journal of Pragmatics 113, 16–29.
Hyon, Sunny 2017. Introducing Genre and English for Specific Purposes. Oxon, New York: Routledge.
Olhstain, Elite, Liora Weinbach 1993. Interlanguage features of the speech act of complaining. – Interlanguage Pragmatics. Eds. Gabriele Kasper, Shoshana Blum-Kulka. New York: Oxford University Press, 108–122.
Schaefer, Kelly A. 2010. Response-to-complaint letter as a rhetorical genre. – IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication 53 (2), 158–163.
Swales, John M. 1990. Genre Analysis. English in Academic and Research Settings. The Cambridge Applied Linguistics Series. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Swales, John M. 2016. Configuring image and context: writing ‘about’ pictures. – English for Specific Purposes 41, 22–35.
Tardy, Christine M., John M. Swales 2014. Genre analysis. – Pragmatics of Discourse. Eds. Claus P. Schneider, Anne Barron. Handbooks of Pragmatics. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton, 165−188.
Trosborg, Anna 1995. Interlanguage Pragmatics. Requests, Complaints, and Apologies. (= Studies in Anthropological Linguistics 7.) Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter.
Vande Kopple, William J. 1985. Some exploratory discourse on metadiscourse. – College Composition and Communication 36 (1), 82–93. doi:10.2307/357609.
Vande Kopple, William J. 2012. The importance of studying metadiscourse. – Applied Research on English Language 1 (2), 37–44.
Werlich, Egon 1976. A Text Grammar of English. Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer.Ädel, Annelie, Anna Mauranen 2010. Metadiscourse: diverse and divided perspectives. – Nordic Journal of English Studies 9 (2), 1–11.
Back to Issue