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Doing Business in Nineteenth-Century Scotland: Expressing Authority, Conveying Stance

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1 Author(s)
Dossena, M. ; Univ. degli Studi di Bergamo

Relying on examples taken from the business section of the Corpus of Nineteenth-Century Scottish Correspondence (in preparation), this paper intends to discuss the linguistic means employed to express authority and convey stance in relation to different recipients (peers, superiors, or subordinates) and different subject matters (e.g., legal controversy as opposed to ordinary, routine transactions). In particular, the aim is to present a survey of the positive and negative politeness strategies adopted by encoders of varying status (e.g., bank officials, publishers, but also working-class contractors). After a general outline of the corpus currently being compiled, different cases are discussed, in which hierarchical discourse is observed. Our concluding remarks focus on the implications this type of study may have for sociohistorical linguists on the one hand, and the study of the earliest stages of professional discourse on the other; indeed, the latter aspect may be of considerable interest also for present-day practitioners who may gain insights concerning the pragmatic strategies that have proved to be most successful over time. Similar ways of encoding stance and distance, for example, are still found in present-day formal exchanges, though the focus is probably more on corporate identity, rather than on individual participants

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Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:49 ,  Issue: 3 )