Research Article

Exploiting a corpus of business letters from a phraseological, functional perspective*

Lynne Flowerdewa1

a1 Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong, SAR (email:


This paper illustrates how a freely available online corpus has been exploited in a module on teaching business letters covering the following four speech acts (functions) commonly found in business letters: invitations, requests, complaints and refusals. It is proposed that different strategies are required for teaching potentially non-face-threatening (invitations, requests) and face-threatening (complaints, refusals) speech acts.

The hands-on pedagogic activities follow the ‘guided inductive approach’ advocated by Johansson (2009) and draw on practices and strategies covered in the literature on using corpora in language learning and teaching, viz. the need for ‘pedagogic mediation’, and the ‘noticing’ hypothesis from second language acquisition studies.


  • inductive;
  • pedagogic mediation;
  • noticing;
  • pattern-hunting;
  • speech acts;
  • functions;
  • phraseology


* This is a revised and expanded paper of part of a plenary presentation delivered on 11th October 2010 at the International Symposium on Corpus Linguistics and Language Learning at the National Taipei College of Business, Taiwan and also a presentation given on 2nd July 2010 at the 9th Teaching and Language Learning Conference held at Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic.