1.1 The Background of the Study
Geoffrey Leech (1983), a renowned linguist at the University of Lancaster,maintained that, in addition to cooperation, there must be something else thatcommunicators all value and follow in conversations. After careful analysis he came to theconclusion that politeness plays a vital role there to help people to carry on a conversationsmoothly. Therefore, his ideas came into being with the Politeness Principle (PP).Leech discussed six maxims in PP, which are the maxim of tact, the maxim ofgenerosity, the maxim of approbation, the maxim of modesty, the maxim of agreement,and the maxim of sympathy. It is commonly believed that politeness principle is also animportant perspective in discourse analysis (Kasper, 1990). Previous studies of PP areusually focused on conversations, but my study is a case study on written texts, of whichEnglish business letters are chosen as subjects, as their basic requirement of politeness isone of the principle we have to follow in our business negotiations. Since English is animportant language of trade and business, it is an indispensable skill for daily businessaffair knowing how to write English business letters with politeness principles followed. Inaddition, the writer s failure to follow the politeness principle in business letters will causehim to lose his customers, and money.
1.2 The Significance and Objectives of the Study
Politeness theory has drawn a lot of attention in the past two decades, and although itis scrutinized and criticized from different perspectives, it remains very much alive.Politeness theory and related studies, like discourse analysis, conversation analysis andstudies of interethnic communication, have chiefly been based on observations in empiricalstudies of spoken language and have mainly been focused on face-to-face interaction indaily communicative settings, and even if politeness has been studied in professionalsettings, the focus has been mainly on oral interaction (Erickson, 1982; Fiksdal, 1988;Charlotte, 1988). It is surprising that few studies (Cherry, 1988; Hagge, 1989) of politenesstheory have so far been focused on written language and language for specific purposes(LSP). On the basis of the previous studies, I found that it is necessary to conduct aresearch on the relationship between politeness theory and professional settings shown inwritten discourse. Business letters, a formal communicative means, need high standards ofpoliteness to help their writers realize their aims. In addition, the studies on linguistic politeness have seldom been based on corpus data,and they have been conducted with the importance and complexity of non-linguisticcontext largely ignored. The politeness principle has often been discussed based oninvented utterances in a social vacuum. However, in my thesis, I have collected manyauthentic business letters that have served their purposes in reality, and