Text Types and the History of English

Text Types and the History of English

Text Types and the History of English

Text Types and the History of English


The book comprises methodological reflexions on form, content and function in a comprehensive description of text types/genres. These considerations are then exemplified in detail by analyses of individual types such as cooking recipes, book dedications, advertisements, jokes, and church hymns. The transfer of types and the range of existing types are described for Scotland and for India. The description is completed by a summary list of some 2100 text types with definitions and their documentation in the history of English.


by Hans-Jürgen Diller

The foreword belongs to the fast diminishing number of text classes on which Manfred Görlach has not written extensively. Apart from one or two observations on forewords in Indian English scholarly books (ch. 10.4) he does not seem to have discussed the genre. The examples quoted there are of the greatest cultural and linguistic interest, but a sentence like “I crave the indulgence of my learned readers for the various shortcomings of the book.” is hardly an appropriate model for the present writer. The reasons are directly related to a problem which Manfred Görlach has treated at some length: the polysemy or vagueness of the lexemes with which we refer to text classes. There are at least two kinds of foreword: one is written by the author of the book, the other by someone else. The latter belongs to a “notional or deep structure text type” which has been called “Eulogy” (Longacre 1996: 10), the former to one which we might call “captatio benevolentiae”.

In the presence of a book like the present one, the eulogist's task is easy. First of all, the growing tribe of scholars working in the field of diachronic text linguistics (including text typology) will be grateful to Manfred Görlach for gathering together papers which until now were scattered over a number of conference volumes and thus not easily accessible in all parts of the scholarly world. But above all they will admire, once more, the energy which has enabled him to address such a wide range of topics. Trying to divide this mass of learning into manageable portions, we may distinguish three major fields of interest. Two of them became apparent already in the first papers which he devoted to the subject: the lexicon of text class names and the exemplary analysis of selected text classes (chs. 2 and 3). A third group traces the development of text classes in the context of national varieties of English, such as Scots and Indian English; it thus combines an older interest with the new one (chs. 9 and 10).

1 To Longacre (as well as Biber and many others) text types are expert categories defined by internal, formal features, while genres are folk categories defined on external, contextual grounds. Görlach's text types are folk categories in whose definition internal and external criteria are combined (ch. 3.2.2). My use of text type follows Longacre. Whenever a distinction between genre and text type seems unnecessary, I use the superordinate term text class.

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