One of the linguistic genres that often embody and reflect conceptual schemas that are culturally constructed is that of 'official letter-writing'. In other words, there are cultural schemas about "who can write what to whom". This paper focuses on the explication of cultural schemas that are reflected in official letter writing in Persian.
The data on which this paper is based come from two main sources of data: an instruction manual about letter writing, which is distributed among organizations in Iran, and a number of authentic letters exchanged between several staff members at a university in Isfahan, Iran. The analysis revealed that the most typical openings of the letters included a religious greeting (i.e., In the name of Allah) and culture-specific salutations such as the following:
Jenab-eh aaghaay-eh doctor X, modir-eh mohtaram-eh gorou-eh y
the side-of Mr Dr X, Head-of respected-of Department-of Y
Within the body of the letters, the use of pronouns reveals a strong honorific system. For example, the recipient may be addressed as shomaa 'you-PL', jenaabeh aali 'side Excellency', aan hazrat 'that majesty', etc. Although such terms of address are not taken literally, they imply different degrees and kinds of respect. Pronouns that are used to refer to a third individual include vey 'he/she', which is stylistically typical of written texts, as well as ishaan 'they'. The use of verbs and verb endings also reveals different degrees of respect. For example, the going of a person from one place to another may be described as raftand 'went-PL' or tashrif bordand 'honour took'.
The paper elaborates on the above-mentioned usages in the light cultural schemas that give rise to them. It also presents a discussion of the changes that have characterised the norms of official letter writing in the last thirty years.