Rhetorical Patterns in Persian Professioanl Communications and Business Letters: Implications for Teaching Persian Writing and Intercultural Communication

Knowledge of writing genres, authorial voices and intentions, audience expectations and other social, interactional and cultural aspects of writing is not only an important aspect of writing instruction but also closely tied to reading comprehension and text navigation for language learners. In teaching reading and writing to learners of Persian through authentic samples of language use, one genre that seems to be increasingly more relevant and of interest to learners is professional and business writing. In the age global communication, exposure to the linguistically and culturally accepted ways in which native speakers choose to compose emails and letters such as formal inquires, application letters, thank you letters, complaints, etc., provides rich input for authentic modeling and the analysis of effective communication or otherwise in the language classroom. In collecting samples of this genre of writing for the above purpose, a range of rather unique and interesting features of Persian written communication have emerged that I’ll focus on in this presentation. Drawing on an Intercultural Rhetoric perspective (Connor, 2012), data is analyzed from a corpus of sixty randomly selected and publicly available online Persian official communications and business letters written inside Iran. Results are discussed both from a macro-structure and a micro-structure analytical perspective: At the macro-structure level, a rhetorical moves analysis (Swales, 1990) shows how certain social norms and expectations are discoursally constructed in the overall organizational structure and content. Furthermore, results of a micro-structure level analysis point to the grammatical complexity, indirectness, and a tendency to express the main point only toward the end of the letters. Most common genre-specific forms of address, expressions of politeness, and lexical choices across the corpus are also identified. In light of the findings, I will discuss the challenge of deciding to what extent these apparently culture specific ways of writing should be taught to learners of Persian. I will also talk about the pedagogical implications of the results for teaching international communication to Persian-speaking working professionals.