Formaliteit in bedryfstekste met verwysing na bepaalde grammatikale veranderlikes

Smith, Wanda (2009-03)

Thesis (DPhil)--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


This study about formality in business texts is situated within the field of document design. For this reason, the definition of formality and the operasionalisation thereof in business texts are approached from a functional framework, which can lead to the realisation of useful guidelines to text producers based on the conclusions drawn from the research. With these guidelines, informed decisions can be made about formality in texts. In this study formality is defined and operasionalised in terms of the two notions context (in)dependency and deixis. Formality and deixis both involve distance. Greater distance between die text/writer and the reader or interlocutors mutually is associated with a higher degree of formality. On the other hand, a higher frequency deictic referential words such as personal pronouns (you, he, we, they), adverbs of place (here, there), direction (forwards, outside) and time (just now, only just, at present) implies a shorter social and spatio-temporal distance, and therefore a higher degree of informality. The reason for this is that deictic referential words (you, here, outside, now) and the reference to which such words refer should be deduced from the context immediately in order for the message to be understood unambiguously. For this reason, deictic referential words are context dependent in this study and because the context is immediately available and the distance thus shorter, these words are markers of informality. On the other hand, nondeictic referential words imply a greater distance and therefore a higher degree of formality. Grammatical variables that possibly have an effect on the degree of formality in annual reports and brochures, such as nouns, objective and subjective adjectives, verbs and pronouns, are divided in terms of their context dependence or context independence into one of two categories, namely a nondeictic category that is associated with context independence and formality, or a deictic category that is associated with context dependence and informality. Based on the frequencies of the various language variables in the two categories (context independent, nondeictic category and context dependent, deictic category) an empirical measure of formality is proposed with which formality (F-index) can be measured in Afrikaans business texts. Although the proposed measure should be refined, the study illustrates, among others, that the measure exhibits the capacity to point out variation based on differences in formality between the text types. The study further indicates that advice based on intuition should be regarded with caution. A survey aimed at readers showed that variables such as subject, tone, style, word choice and language usage play a greater role in the evaluation of the degree of formality of texts than grammatical variables such as the passive voice. In conclusion, the study gives clear guidelines as to how the language variables that were part of this study should be dealt with and in a sense be manipulated to ensure a suitable degree of formality of a text and thus the effective transfer of communication.

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