Title: A SYSTEMIOTIC ANALYSIS OF THE GENERIC MACROSTRUCTURE OF THE BUSINESS LETTER OF REQUEST
This paper reports on the results of a comprehensive analysis of the generic macrostructure of the genre of the business letter of request within a connotative semiotics or 'systemiotic' framework and on the basis of a corpus of authentic letters from the business world. The research was motivated by two main concerns. Firstly, despite the wealth of prescriptive handbooks on written business communication, there is a striking absence of empirical and descriptive linguistic research to support (or not) the prescriptive advice. Secondly, linguists have found it difficult until recently to come to terms with the concept of genre (and especially its relation to the concept of register). The systemiotic framework is one of the few to systematically account for the difference between genre and register, and provides a conceptual background for further studies on the important concept of genre. After a brief introduction of the systemiotic framework the paper develops a three-phased methodology for identifying macrostructural elements in the genre of the business letter of request, taking into account linguistic action, lexicogrammatical, discoursal, and cognitive-strategic aspects of the elements. This methodology results in the recognition of the 'functional paragraph' as a multilevel and multifunctional unit of macrostructure. Using this concept a potential generic macrostructure is then proposed in the form of a flowchart representation, allowing an account not only of the genre as product but also as process.