Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Malcolm Richardson


The study of various documents and genres within professional discourse communities can provide valuable insight into what does or does not constitute successful written communication within such groups. The primary purpose of the current study was to examine scholarly response papers published in five different "English" journals in order to (1) define and describe the scholarly response paper and (2) explore various theories/rules/studies which could be used to gauge its success: in this case, Grice's Maxims, studies of semantic (denotative and evaluative) verb force, Lakoff's Rules of Politeness, and studies of language intensity. Findings showed that the primary purpose of the response is to promote the scholarly exchange of information; that response papers can reasonably be termed successful or unsuccessful according whether or not they contribute to or support professional scholarly dialogue; that the success or non-success of such dialogue can be affected by the presence or absence of such elements as relevant information and highly intense language; and that respondents' failure to manage face and identity concerns, such as the need to protect personal status, may result in unsuccessful scholarly response papers and a loss of professional credibility which may adversely affect peer standing. Findings also reveal that while Maxim violations, intense negative verbs, violations of the Rules of Politeness, and intense language often have a negative effect on the success of the response, they do not always have such an effect and thus their presence or absence cannot fully predict the overall success of the response in all cases. However, responses which fulfilled the purpose of the response and which do not exhibit Maxim violations, intense negative verbs, violations of the Rules of Politeness and/or general language intensity are nearly always rated successful overall, and are always fortified with positive stylistic elements such as validating another scholar's arguments. Therefore, findings imply that scholars should avoid Maxim violations and violations of the Rules of Politeness; keep potentially negative verbs and intense language to a minimum; and balance any negative criticism with positive stylistic elements in order to consistently produce successful responses.