Threat, Empathy or (Polite) Request? The Pragmatics of Administrative Letters in Cameroon English

Threat, Empathy or (Polite) Request? The Pragmatics of Administrative Letters in Cameroon English
CLAREP Journal of English and Linguistics (C-JEL)

Author: Daniel A. Nkemleke
Institution: University of Yaoundé 1


Text types constitute a rich source of data for the investigation of pragmatic and cultural-specific features of language use in non-native contexts. Based on a small corpus of 62 administrative letters written in Cameroon between 2005-2008, this chapter investigates how the following speech acts are expressed in these letters: (1) seeking compliance/collaboration, (2) giving directives, (3) issuing threats, and (4) expressing solidarity/best wishes. The basic question the chapter addresses is how the illocutionary act of expressing the above four speech acts is viewed: threats, empathy or request (polite) request? The politeness theory with its related pragmatic empathy concepts is employed to analyze the data. Preliminary findings reveal that many of the propositions expressed in the letters may be interpreted as potentially face-threatening because they are direct request without redress. Further, there is generally a lack of empathy for the reader, and these in itself show that politeness is generally lacking. However, the conclusion is that these interpretations hold sway only if we ignore the pragmatics of the sociocultural and historical context of language use in Cameroon. The study concludes that much work still needs to be done to illuminate this aspect of language use in administrative letter writing in Cameroon English.


Administrative letters, pragmatics, politeness, empathy, Cameroon English

Pages: 19-49
ISSN: 2698-654-X
ISBN: 978-3-96203-247-0 (Print)
ISBN: 978-3-96203-248-7 (PDF)