Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Kevin Brock

Abstract

In this dissertation project, I examine how professionals in the South use their Southern United States English (SUSE) to communicate in business situations. My goals are to (1) understand how regional language variety rhetorically shapes writtenprofessional communication and (2) establish a pedagogical framework for business writing that attunes to the nuances of language variation in the workplace. I hypothesize that speakers of SUSE implement regional dialects to form interpersonal business connections and build ethos and that SUSE has a significant rhetorical role to place in professional communications. To test this hypothesis, I develop a hybrid method of interviewing, discourse analysis, and genre analysis that allows researchers to study regional dialects in workplace writing and to engage with writers about their perceptions of and motivations behind dialect use. Putting this method into action, I offer a focused study of women writers from coastal South Carolina who work at a variety of marketing agencies and speak SUSE. The study includes interviews with participants about perceptions of their regional Southern dialect and reflections of their past education in dialect use. I further analyze email communications written by participants using discourse analysis and genre analysis methods. The results from this narrow study offer an example of my hybrid method in action and pave the way for future research in composition-rhetoric, business writing, and sociolinguistics about the professional communications of additional groups using other regional dialects. Furthermore, the results provide a foundation upon which to craft a business writing pedagogy that foregrounds language variety as a rhetorical tool of professional communication.

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