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African Scam Letters’ Linguistic Anthropology Essay


In his article, Ottenheimer resorts to the analysis of the advanced fee fraud, which is known as African scam letters. There is hardly a person who has never received such kind of a letter. As a rule, their authors impersonate themselves for other persons, introducing themselves as princes, sheiks, high officials or royals. These letters promise high financial benefits to their recipient. However, in case of response, a victim of this fraud will be involved in a financial gamble that will come at a high cost to him.

As a rule, these letters refer to megabuck, which cannot be obtained without the recipient’s assistance. All what is needed is to send a small sum of money and the sender of the letter will reward the recipients with fabulous wealth. It goes without saying that the victim will never see the promised bounty. The scenario may be different but the sense is always the same.

The first cases of this fraud have been fixed in Nigeria during the economic crisis of the 1980th. In a course of time, the level of the organization of this fraud has increased. Nowadays a victim may be introduced to nonexistent business partners or he may be invited for a business meeting in an office of a reliable company. In spite of the fact that this type of the fraud is widely spread all over the world and the majority of people know about its existence, material losses caused by this affair are thumping.

In his article, the author investigates different examples of such letters and he concludes that their success is predetermined by their African character. The author has made this conclusion after the identification of the origin of these letters. It has been found out that the majority of letters, which have pretended to be from Africa, have been sent from other countries.

While describing different methods used by the scammers in order to persuade their potential victims, the author distinguishes between several perspectives. They are social engineering, investment scamming and linguistic ideology. In his article, the author states that practically in every letter a combination of these three perspectives may be found.

Nevertheless, the author is convinced that it is the language ideology that plays the most important role in a victims persuasion. Ottenheimer resorts to the analysis of different stylistic means that are used by scammers in order to create the illusion of the African origin of these letters.

For instance, some letter are overfilled with spelling mistakes, while others are littered with complicated words that are rarely used in conversational language. As a rule, the originators of such letter resort to odd capitalizations where they are unnecessary. Words in the letters may be spelled perfectly but there are many examples of strange elisions. In order to create an illusion of the formal African speech, the authors resort to an inappropriate word order.

The essential feature, which is typical practically for every letter of this kind, is an absence of contractions. Ottenheimer states that the avoidance of contractions is associated with the speech of an African from a noble royal family. Moreover, this kind of letters is characterized with an overuse of infinitives in places where they should not be used.

All these linguistic peculiarities are used in order to make the reader believe that this letter has been sent from Africa. Ottenheimer states that in western countries, especially in the USA, there is a prejudice created by mass media, that Africa is a country of the contrast between the extreme poverty and overabundance. This success of the African scam letters is explained by a false opinion of their victims that they are assisting primitive people who are ignorant of dealing with large sums of money.

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IvyPanda. (2020, May 6). African Scam Letters' Linguistic Anthropology. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/african-scam-letters-linguistic-anthropology/

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"African Scam Letters' Linguistic Anthropology." IvyPanda, 6 May 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/african-scam-letters-linguistic-anthropology/.

1. IvyPanda. "African Scam Letters' Linguistic Anthropology." May 6, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/african-scam-letters-linguistic-anthropology/.


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IvyPanda. "African Scam Letters' Linguistic Anthropology." May 6, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/african-scam-letters-linguistic-anthropology/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "African Scam Letters' Linguistic Anthropology." May 6, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/african-scam-letters-linguistic-anthropology/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'African Scam Letters' Linguistic Anthropology'. 6 May.

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