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Talk: Dear Boss. How are you? Addressing superiors in letters
 
 
Date: 26 January 2011 
 

School of Modern Languages and Cultures has the pleasure of inviting you to the following talk:

Dear Boss. How are you? Addressing superiors in letters

Dr. Ylva Carlsson
The Department of Scandinavian Studies, The Stockholm University

Date: January 26 (Wednesday)
Time: 4:00 - 5:00 pm
Venue: LE7, Library Extension Building
Language: English

Abstract:
Writing well-crafted texts in a culture in which norms are changing is
difficult not only for native writers, but obviously even more so for
second-language writers. The writing of letters in various practical
situations is part of the everyday lives of adults in their contact with
authorities, companies and institutions.

The purpose of my investigation was to study practical writing in
adult life situations. I chose as a writing assignment a series of
letters, the first of which was a job application and the second
another letter to the same company with a request for a new
interview appointment. The third letter consisted of an apology to the
managing director of the company after a private dinner at which an
accident occurred.

My material consists of 360 texts written in Swedish by 120 adult
students. The informants were evenly distributed between three
language groups: Persian, Spanish and Swedish speakers. There was
an even distribution between women and men.

Introductory and concluding phrases of letters are often
demonstrated and commented on in textbooks on Swedish. It may
therefore be assumed that these are the parts of a letter most
influenced by formal teaching. Nevertheless, I found that there were
greater differences in these phrases than I had expected.
I also studied the use of personal pronouns. During the last few
decades there has been a change especially among young native
speakers of Swedish. They tend to go back to a respectful ni (French
vous) when addressing older people. Many non-native speakers also
claim they prefer ni to du (French tu) to their superiors. However, I
found there were differences in the choice of personal pronouns
between all the three language groups.

The informants represent cultures with different conventions and
norms for social intercourse, respect and politeness. How is this
reflected in the choice of social markers in their written
communication? Do women and men choose similar strategies? Several
of the letters showed how difficult it is to master both the choice of
personal pronouns and the introductory and concluding phrases.

All are welcome.

For enquiries, please contact Ms. Cice Chan (2219 4403 / cice@hku.hk)

 
 
     
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