Another Look at Genre: Corpus Linguistics vs. Genre Analysis

By Mauranen, Anna | Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies, Annual 1998 | Go to article overview

Another Look at Genre: Corpus Linguistics vs. Genre Analysis


Mauranen, Anna, Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies


In current talk of text typology, the term "genre "has superseded most other formerly popular terms, such as "text type" and "register". We speak of genres not only in genre theory, but also in the rapidly expanding domain of corpus studies. However, as often is the case, terms which are widely used become polysemous and vague in meaning. Using the same term helps conceal the fact that the sociocognitive approach which characterises much current genre theory (e.g., Swales 1990; Bhatia 1993; Kamberelis 1995; Berkenkotter--Huckin 1995) is widely different if not downright incompatible with the notions of genre entertained among those linguists who amass large corpora for empirical research. The former approach sees genres as social, dynamic, interactive processes, which get realised in verbal interaction, while the latter treats genre as a label for many, often vaguely defined, kinds of variation in discourse types, the main use of which seems to be to ensure wide coverage for corpora.

To illustrate the difference in the approaches, I shall show an influential formulation from both sides; one by Berkenkotter and Huckin (1995), and one by Biber (1988). After that, I shall take up some issues which I find problematic in one or both of these approaches. Most of them centre around the issue of external vs. internal criteria in defining genres. After discussing the issues briefly, I shall then consider the possibilities of a convergent future.

1. Two conceptions of genre

Recent genre theory generally favours conceptions of language which emphasise its nature as social action. The following characterisation of genre is presented by Berkenkotter and Huckin (1995), which sums up the sociocognitive view in its current understanding, and has been widely adopted by many scholars working in the framework of genre analysis:

1. Dynamism. Genres are dynamic rhetorical forms that are developed from actors' responses to recurrent situations and that serve to stabilize experience and give it coherence and meaning. Genres change over time in response to their users' sociocognitive needs.

2. Situatedness. Our knowledge of genres is derived from and embedded in our participation in the communicative activities of daily and professional life. As such, genre knowledge is a form of "situated cognition" that continues to develop as we participate in the activities of the ambient culture.

3. Duality of Structure. As we draw on genre rules to engage in professional activities, we constitute social structures (in professional, institutional, and organizational contexts) and simultaneously reproduce these structures.

4. Community Ownership. Genre conventions signal a discourse community's norms, epistemology, ideology, and social ontology.

5. Form and Content. Genre knowledge embraces both form and content, including a sense of what content is appropriate to a particular purpose in a particular situation at a particular point in time.

By looking at this list, could we identify a genre? If we already have a particular genre in mind, like a scientific article or a dinner conversation, the list might assist us in seeing it as genre, and assessing its "genericity". But without such a starting-point, there is little to guide us in construing an entity that in real life might pass as a genre, or orienting us to the size or level of unit to look for. For instance would research reports and review articles be variants of the same genre, or two genres, and are scientific journals one genre and popular science journals another, and how do popular science journals relate generically to popular science books? Or how stable must a conversation type be to merit the status of genre? And is all language use covered by genres?

Secondly, as an example from the corpus camp, let us look at what Douglas Biber (1988: 67) took as his point of departure in his famous study of variation in speech and writing. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Another Look at Genre: Corpus Linguistics vs. Genre Analysis
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.