Building trust through (self-)appraisal in nineteenth-century business correspondence

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This paper analyzes the main strategies employed by encoders of nineteenth-century business letters to encourage the trust of the recipient or to show their trust in the recipient’s skills and qualities, so that successful business relationships may develop. Relying on the sample of business letters included in the Corpus of Nineteenth-Century Scottish Correspondence (19CSC; see Dossena 2004; Dury 2006), findings are discussed in the light of the Appraisal system outlined in Martin and White (2005) and White (2007). In particular, I relate this study on stance to earlier ones on the expression of authority (Dossena 2006a, 2006b), as both are functions of the social roles performed by the participants, and complex and adaptable social profiles are constructed through linguistic means. As I could not bear to let such a man pass away with no sketch preserved of his old-fashioned virtues, I hope the reader will take this as an excuse for the present paper, and judge as kindly as he can the infirmities of my description. (R. L. Stevenson, An Old Scotch Gardener (Memories and Portraits [1887]))


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