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A Contrastive Study of Letters of Recommendation in Persian and English

Saman Ebadi, Majid Saedidovaise


A letter of recommendation (LR) is one in which the writer assesses the capabilities, characteristics, and qualities of the person being recommended in terms of that individual's ability to perform a particular task or function. This study aims to compare and contrast letters of recommendation in Persian and English in terms of textual features, structure and content. The data consists of fifteen English and fifteen Persian LRs recommending the applicants for the PhD programs in English and Persian literature. The English LRs have mainly been written for American universities and the Persian ones for universities inside Iran. The model of comparison consists of two parts: a quantitative and a qualitative analysis. The first part of the analysis focuses on comparing textual features such as linearity, symmetry, data integration and sentence type in the LRs of these two languages. The second part focuses on comparing the structure and content of the three sections of the LRs namely introduction/frame, body/evaluation, and conclusion/prediction. Regarding textual factors the results showed that while the two languages are rather similar in digressiveness, Persian seems to be less symmetrical than English. Data integration is also more evident in English LRs than the Persian ones. For the sentence type it was noticed that English favors a topic sentence cue while Persian favors sentence bridges. The results also revealed that while English LRs follow a rather rigid organization which can be short, informal and writer-responsible, the Persian LRs are longer, more formal, more fluid in their organization and reader-responsible. The results of the study can be used in genre-based approaches to writing and in translation and communication across academic and professional institutions.


Letter of recommendation; contrastive rhetoric; genre; Precht’s model

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