Language Use as a Resource: E-Communication Dimensions of Register Variation in a Professional Context

  • Mohammad Awad AlAfnan American University of the Middle East, Eqilah, Kuwait
Keywords: Register Variation, Language Use, Electronic Communication, Professional Communication, Genre Analysis.


The recent development in [critical] genre analysis moved the focus more into the institutionalized and conventionalized practices of the place discourse community; yet, examining the textual artifacts and register variations maintained their vital importance in the analysis. Using a functional multi-dimensional framework, this study examined register variation in more than 350 electronic messages that were exchanged in a professional context to explore register variations in the emails. The study revealed that the corpus of emails, if examined as a single genre, included instances of the seven dimensions of register variation. However, if it is examined as four types of genres based on the intentions of the communication, as in AlAfnan (2015a), it becomes apparent that the four types of email genres belong to different registers. The register of the emails that were parts of long strings discussing work related issues is ‘overtly argumentative’ and ‘narrative discourse’ registers. The register of the emails that intended to request information and/or respond to requests is ‘involved production’ register. The register of the emails that intended to inform recipients about general interest issues is ‘abstract style’ and ‘informational production’ registers. The register of the emails that intended to deliver attachments is ‘non-narrative discourse’ register. This study also revealed that the communicative purposes influenced language use, word choice, grammatical patterns and the syntactical structure of the emails. 


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Mohammad Awad AlAfnan, American University of the Middle East, Eqilah, Kuwait
Liberal Arts Department,


Afnan, A., & Mohammad, M. A. (2014). Language use as an institutional practice: An investigation into the genre of workplace emails in an educational institution (Doctoral dissertation, Universiti Utara Malaysia).

AlAfnan, M. A. (2014a). Politeness in business writing: The effects of ethnicity and relating factors on email communication. Journal of Modern Linguistics, 4(2), 275-289. doi: 10.4236/ojml.2014.42022

AlAfnan, M. A. (2014b, March 27-28). Interethnic workplace email communication: An investigation into politeness strategies. Proceedings of the 2014 International Conference on Public Management and Education Research in Tianjin, China (iceeim-14). doi:10.2991/iceeim-14.2014.61

AlAfnan, M. A. (2015a). Language use in computer-mediated communication: An investigation into the genre of workplace emails. International Journal of Education and Literacy Studies, 3(1), 1-11. doi: 10.7575/aiac.ijels.v.3n.1p.1

AlAfnan, M. A. (2015b). Asynchronous communication: Investigating the influences of relational elements and background on the framing structure of emails. Advances in Language and Literary Studies. 6(2), 44-50. doi: 10.7575/aiac.alls.v.6n.2p.44

AlAfnan, M. A. (2015c). Analyzing the rhetorical, typographical and paralinguistic features of electronic mails in the workplace. International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature, 4(4), 77-85. doi: 10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.4n.4p.77

AlAfnan, M. A. (2016). Textography: A multi-dimensional applied genre analysis of business writing in an educational institute. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research. 3(6), 264-294.

AlAfnan, M. A. (2017). Critical perspective to genre analysis: Intertextuality and interdiscursivity in electronic mail communication. Advances in Journalism and Communication, 5(1). 23-49. doi: 10.4236/ajc.2017.51002

Asmah Haji Omar (1982). Language and society in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

Baron, N. (1984). Computer Mediated Communication as a Force in Language

Change. Visible Language_ XVIII 2.

Baron, N. (2000). Alphabet to Email: How Written English Evolves and Where it’s Heading. London. Rutledge.

Baron, N. S. (1998). Letters by phone or speech by other means: The linguistics of email. Language & Communication, 18, 133-170. doi: 10.1016/S0271-5309(98)00005-6

Baron, N. S. (2001). Alphabet to email: How written language evolved and where it’s heading. New York, NY: Routledge.

Baym, N. K. (1996). Agreements and disagreements in a computer-mediated discussion. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 29, 315-345. doi: 10.1207/s15327973rlsi2904_2

Beneke, J. (1991). Englisch als Lingua Franca oder als Medium Interkultureller Kommunikation? In R. Grebing (ed.), Grenzenloses Sprachlernen. Festschrift für Reinhold Fredudenstein, Berlin: Cornelsen and Oxford University Press. 54–66.

Biber, D. (1988). Variation across speech and writing. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Biber, D. (1991). Variation across speech and writing (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Biber, D. (1995). Dimensions of register variation: A cross-linguistic comparison. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Brown, P., & Levinson, S. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Carrell, P. L., & Konneker, B. H. (1981). Politeness: Comparing native and non-native judgment. Language Learning, 31(1), 17-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-1770.1981.tb01370.x

Carter, S. L. (1996). Integrity. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Charles, M. & R. Marschan-Piekkari (2002). Language Training for Enhanced Horizontal Communication Training: A Challenge for MNCs, Business Communication Quarterly. 65. 9–29.

Climent, S., More, J., Oliver, A., Salvatierra, M., Sanchez, I., Taule, M., & Vallmanya, L. (2003). Bilingual Newsgroups in Catalonia: A Challenge for Machine Translation. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 9(1).

Conrad, S., & Biber, D. (2001). Variation in English: Multi-dimensional studies. London, England: Longman.

Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five tradition. London, England: Sage Publication.

Crystal, D. (1997). English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Crystal, D. (2000). Language death. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Crystal, D. (Ed.). (2003). A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics (5th ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Davis, B. H., & Brewer, J. (1997). Electronic discourse: Linguistic individuals in virtual space. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Devitt, A. (1991). Intertextuality in tax accounting: Generic, referential, and functional. In C. Bazerman & J. Paradis (Eds.), Textual dynamics of the professions:

Downing, A. & Locke, P. (2006). English grammar: A university course (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Du Bartell, D. (1995). Discourse features of computer-mediated communication: “Spoken-like” and “written-like.” In B. Wårvik, S.-K. Tanskanen, & R. Hiltunen (Eds.), Organization in Discourse: Proceedings from the Turku Conference, Vol. 14. Turku, Finland: University of Turku, Department of English.

Ferrara, K., Brunner, H., Whittemore, G. (1991). Interactive Written Discourse as an Emergent Register. Written Communication. 8 (1). 8-34.

Fetzer, A. (2008). And I think that is a very straightforward way of dealing with it: The communicative function of cognitive verbs in political discourse. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 27(4), 384-396. doi: 10.1177/0261927X08322481

Gains, J. (1999). Electronic mail—A new style of communication or just a new medium? An investigation into the text features of e-mail. English for Specific Purposes, 18, 81-101. doi: 10.1016/S0889-4906(97)00051-3

Gimenez, J. C. (2000). Business e-mail communication: Some emerging tendencies in register. English for Specific Purposes, 19, 237-251. doi: 10.1016/S0889-4906(98)00030-1

Gimenez, J. C. (2005). Unpacking business emails: Message embeddedness in international business email communication. In P. Gillaerts & M. Gotti (Eds.), Genre variation in business letters. Linguistic insights: Studies in language and communication (Vol. 24, pp. 235-255). Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang.

Graddol, D. (1999a). What will English Look Like in 2050? IATEFL Issues 149. 5–6.

Graddol, D. (1999b). The Decline of the Native Speaker. AILA Review 13. 57–68.

Gruber, H. (2001). Theme and Intertextuality in Scholarly Email Messages. Functions of Language. 7 (1). 79-115.

Hale, C., & Scanlon, J. (Eds.). (1999). Wired style: Principles of English usage in the digital age. New York, NY: Broadway Books.

Halliday, M. A. K. (1967). Intonation and grammar in British English. Berlin, Germany: The Hague

Halliday, M. A. K., & Matthiessen, C. (2004). An introduction to functional grammar. London, England: Arnold.

Harder, P. (1996). Trends in linguistics. Berlin, Germany: Mouton de Gruyter.

Herring, S. (2000). Gender Differences in CMC. Findings and Implications. In The CPSR Newsletter.18.1. Retrieved 23 July 2008 from:

Herring, S. C. (2002). Computer-Mediated Communication on the Internet. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology. 36. 109-168.

Herring, S.C. (1996). Gender and Democracy in Computer-Mediated Communication. In Rob Kling (ed.) Computerization and Controversy. New York: Academic Press.

Hinkel, E. (2002). Second language writers’ text. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc. Historical and contemporary studies of writing in professional communities (pp. 336-357). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Holmes, M. (1995). Don't blink or you'll miss it: Issues in electronic mail research. Communication Yearbook, 18, 454-463.

Hyland, K. (1996). Writing without conviction? Hedging in scientific research articles. Applied Linguistics, 17(4), 433-454. Retrieved from:

Hyland, K. (1998). Hedges in scientific research articles. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: John Benjamins.

Hyland, K. (2001). Humble servants of the discipline? Self mention in research articles. English for Specific Purposes, 20, 207-226. doi: 4906(00)00012-0

Internet Usage Statistics. ( 2008). World Internet Users and Population Stats. Retrived July 20 2008, from

Johnstone, B. (2002). Discourse analysis. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.

a. Johnstone, B. (2008). Discourse analysis (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Kachru, B. B. (1986). The Alchemy of English: The Spread, Functions and Models of Non Native Englishes. Oxford: Pergamon Institute of English.

Kinsley, M. (1996). The Morality and Metaphysics of Email. In Forbes. December 1996.

Koutsantoni, D. (2007). Developing academic literacies: Understanding disciplinary communities’ culture and rhetoric. Bern, Germany: Peter Lang.

Lee, J. Y. (1996). Charting the codes of cyberspace: A rhetoric of electronic mail. In L. Strate, R. L. Jacobson, & S. B. Gibson (Eds), Communication and cyberspace: Social interaction in an electronic environment (pp. 307-328. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Levy, S. (1984). Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday. 3–36.

Lowenberg, P. H. (1991). Variations in Malaysian English: Pragmatics of Languages in Contact. Cheshire. 364-375.

Matthiessen, C., & Halliday, M.A. K. (1997) Systemic Functional Grammar: A first step into the theory. Sydney, Australia: Macquarie University Press.

McLuhan, M., & Fiore, Q. (1968). War and peace in the global village: An inventory of some of the current spastic situations that could be eliminated by more feedforward. New York, NY: Bantam.

Michael, A.S., Chone, L.S., Muthusamy, C., Veeravagu, J. (2010). Gendered-linked differences in speech styles: analysing linguistic and gender in the Malaysian context. Cross-cultural communication, 6(1), 18-28. Retrieved from

Murray, D. E. (1988). Computer Mediated Communication: Implication for ESP. English for Specific Purposes. 7(1). 3-18. doi:10.1016/0889-4906(88)90003-8

Murray, D. E. (1996). Technology is driving the future. . . The steering is up to us. TESOL Matters, 3. Retrieved from

Platt, J. (1994). Social and Linguistic Constraints on Variation in the Use of two Grammatical Variables in Singapore English. Cheshire. 376-387.

Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G. & Svartvik, J. (1985). A comprehensive grammar of the English language (2nd ed.). London, England: Longman.

Rheingold, H. (1993). The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. New York. Harper Perennial.

Salager-Meyer, F. (1994). Hedges and textual communicative function in medical English writ¬ten discourse. English for Specific Purposes, 13(2), 149-171. doi:10.1016/0889-4906(94)90013-2

Souter, C., & Atwell, E. (1993). Corpus-based computational linguistics. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Rodopi.

Svartvik, J. (2000). Engelska - öspråk, världspråk, trendspråk. Falun: Norstedts Ordbok.

Treece, M. (1994). Successful communication for business and the professions. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Vatikiotis, M. (1991, December 12). A question of priorities. Far Eastern Economic Review. 154(50), 28-30.

Wellman, B. and Haythornthwaite, C. (2002). The Internet in Everyday Life. Oxford, UK: Blackwells Publishers.

White, R. (1993). Saying please: Pragmalinguistic failure in English interaction. ELT Journal, 47(3), 193-202. doi: 10.1093/elt/47.3.193

Yates, J., & Orlikowski, W. J. (1993). Knee-jerk anti-LOOPism and other email phenomena: Oral, written, and electronic patterns in computer-mediated communication (MIT Sloan School Working Paper No. 3578-93). Cambridge, MA: MIT Sloan School of Management.

How to Cite
AlAfnan, M. (2018). Language Use as a Resource: E-Communication Dimensions of Register Variation in a Professional Context. Journal of Progressive Research in Social Sciences, 7(2), 502-526. Retrieved from