The interpersonal grammar of job advertisements: Towards a meaning making for the new work order

  • Karin Helgesson University of Gothenburg
  • Per Holmberg University of Gothenburg


The aim of this study is to identify the interpersonal linguistic changes in the register of job advertisements and to discuss how these changes may be related to the restructuring of the labour market. A corpus of sixty job advertisements was assembled from texts appearing in the daily press, evenly distributed between the years 1995, 2005 and 2017, with a focus on personal qualifications requirements. From the theoretical perspective of systemic functional linguistics, these parts of the advertisements were analysed for mood, modality and modal assessment in order to show how these three interpersonal lexicogrammatical systems together realise the semantics of speech functions, which in turn realises the tenor relation between the employer and the applicants (Holmberg 2011; Halliday & Matthiessen 2014). Special attention was paid to patterns of interpersonal grammatical metaphors with the potential to make visible, or invisible, the applicant as well as the employer. The three main findings are 1) that the use of the second-person subject du (Eng. you) had, by 2017, become obligatory in the parts of the advertisements where the requirements are expressed; 2) that modal operators such as bör (Eng. must) have almost disappeared entirely; and 3) that the use of modal assessment (e.g. “we request that you …”) had increased. It is suggested that these trends may be interpreted against the background of the changes in the labour market which have been summarised as ‘the new work order’. One relevant aspect is the ideal of a more informal relation between employers and employees who are to work towards goals without detailed supervision; another is the new need for employer branding in a labour market with higher mobility.

Tema: Anvendt SFL