Wednesday, 13 June 2007


I am finally posting on my blog. It is supposed to be an 'academic' content blog, but rather than being isolated in my 'glass tower' I have been rather to absorbed by down-to-earth stuff to sit down and write anything in here.

I have had some inspiration and want to write some things, but I now realise they will make no sense to anyone but me unless I give some background. Maybe I will at some point :) The directly relevant background of my inspiration is the Birmigham PhD Critical Discourse Analysis thing called The First Aston University Postgraduate Conference in English Language and Linguistics. I am copy pasting my handout below and will post my thoughts and comments in a separate post. It's long and boring and looks bad, but hey maybe someone will find the reference list useful :) (or some of my friends may want to quote me but don't remember the reference, hehe)

Genre-based data selection and classification for Critical Discourse Analysis

The First Aston University Postgraduate Conference in English Language and Linguistics
Birmigham, U.K., 05/06/2007

Contextualising this paper in my research

Data: Greek lifestyle magazines
- Women’s (Cosmopolitan, Madame Figaro, Marie Claire)
- Men’s (Nitro, Playboy, Status)

Research question: Exploring the manifestation of gender ideologies in the data

Narrowing down focus:
- Selecting titles to analyse
- Selecting certain genres to analyse which will be present across magazines à comparable samples

Magazines are heterogeneous, comprising of a variety of different kinds of texts, which would require different methods of analysis if I was going to analyse them from cover to cover.

Various kinds of texts in magazines are not always clearly identified/identifiable genres.

What is ‘genre’?

- A kind/ type of text
- A discourse type (Fairclough, 1992)

Swales’ definition of genre:
a class of communicative events, the members of which share some set of communicative purposes… In addition to purpose, exemplars of a genre exhibit various patterns of similarity in terms of structure, style, content and intended audience (1990: 58).

Critical Linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis link genres as communicative events to the (conventional(ised)) social activities achieved through (conventional) means – genres (Bakhtin, 1986: 60; Kress, 1985/1989: 19; Fairclough, 1992; 2001; Wodak, 2001: 66).

Functional approaches to language emphasise genres as
- Functions
- Realisations of communicative purposes
- Means of achieving social actions
- ‘Speech acts’

In short, genres are
‘how things get done, when language is used to accomplish them’ (Martin, 1985: 250)

And the criterion for assigning genre membership to a text is ‘what does the text do’?


‘what does it appear to be doing?’

Cf. Askehave (1999): overt vs. ‘hidden’ communicative purposes

Categorisation of texts in my data according to function:

- Promotion
- Advice

- Commentary
- Gossip

Ø These categories are too broad to be considered genres – each ‘genre’ ends up too heterogeneous. E.g. ‘promotional’ as discussed in Bhatia (1993) ends up including brochures, advertisements, book blurbs and job application cover letters (Askehave, 1999).
These are ‘genre categories’ (or should I say 'function categories') - despite significant differences in form and/or content, their overall communicative purpose is roughly the same. The analysis shows that they also share a number of linguistic means towards this communicative purpose. They consist of texts varying in length, content and format, which one could break down in different genres.

Ø Openness of categories restricted by the fact that they occur within the same super-genre ‘lifestyle magazine’ and could be seen as sharing ‘situational context’ as well as ‘co-text’ (which is why the categories are not too heterogeneous).

Ø Genre identification depends on our purposes (Chandler, 1997) -
for CDA we may want to focus on this level, since broad functions of texts cut across formal characteristics, and are linked to ideology (cf. Martin, 1992).

Ø Genres, super-genres (e.g. lifestyle magazines, academic journals etc.), and genre categories have a radial structure (Rosch, 1973; Lakoff, 1987), including more prototypical and more marginal members. They share generic characteristics through family resemblances, i.e. not all texts will have all of the generic characteristics (Swales, 1990).

How to identify texts belonging to a certain genre/ genre category?

Ø Paradox:

To take a genre such as the 'western', analyse it, and list its principal characteristics, is to beg the question that we must first isolate the body of films which are 'westerns'. But they can only be isolated on the basis of the 'principal characteristics' which can only be discovered from the films themselves after they have been isolated (Tudor, 1974: 135, cited in Gledhill, 1999: 138).

-> In order to select data for analysis, one has to analyse the texts before selecting them!

Ø Extra-textual cues to aid with genre classification (Swales, 1990; Bhatia, 1993; Askehave and Swales, 2001):
Background knowledge of discourse community using the genre, social context in which the discourse community is using the genre, literature and insiders/ experts from within the discourse community

Ø Too intuitive. Genre identification is often glossed over in order to move on with the actual analysis, whether it is called ‘genre analysis’ or not (e.g. Swales, 1990; 2004, Bhatia, 1993; Doctor-patient interaction in West, 1984; Fairclough, 1992: Ch. 6; Wodak, 1996: Ch. 2). This is because academics analysing the genres in question are members of the relevant discourse communities already.

Ø In the case of lifestyle magazines, members of the discourse community are not very concerned with the various genres present in lifestyle magazines, and do not have a ‘folk categorisation’ for all of them.

Ø Preliminary analysis: first on a more macro-level (overall schematic structure), then on a more micro-level.

Focus on ‘advice’ genre category in Greek women’s lifestyle magazines

Ø Underlying structure (Discourse schema, van Dijk, 1985):
Problem – Solution/ Question - Answer
Problem (elaboration) – suggested action (elaboration) – solution/ outcome of action (elaboration)
Lexis such as: problem, issue, tip, solution, advice, be careful etc.

Ø Overall speech act performed: Directive

Ø Style: Mixture of authority and solidarity (à ‘advice’ rather than ‘command’ or ‘request’)

- Distant
- Categorical modality, ‘absolute truths’
- High deontic modality (must, should)
- Scientific or quasi-scientific jargon
- Reference to ‘people who have the problem’ in 3rd person plural
- Authority quoted – exclusive we

- Friendly, familiar
- Deontic modality of various degrees (more hedging through expressions such as ‘you may want to…’ – negative politeness BUT less authority)
- Informal vocabulary
- Addressing the reader (2nd person singular, questions, imperatives)
- Inclusive we

Ø Advice texts more reader- oriented than other genre categories.
Commentary & gossip: About something/ someone else
Promotional: directive, too, thus addressing the reader more, but also about the commercial items promoted
Advice: about YOU

Ø Topics vary:
Health (nutrition, exercise, alcohol consumption, STDs), Appearance (Hair, Skincare), Career, Money management, Relationships (with men, friends, colleagues), Sex etc.

Ø Forms vary too:
Small tables/ bullet points
Long solid text
Long text including sections, one for each problem/question (Section title can also be in form of question)
Interviews with experts
Readers’ letters answered by authority (Question & Answer format)

Examples from data

See Texts A, B and C at the end of the handout (I will post them later).

Concluding remarks

Ø In critical research genres are of interest in terms of function (rather than form).
Ø Depending on the social issue in question, the data and the functions we are interested in, functions can cut across genres.
Ø We can rely on textual elements for a preliminary categorisation of texts according to function.
Ø We need further deeper analysis to examine further social functions, ‘hidden’ purposes and ideologies, but we need a sound method of initially selecting our corpus.


ASKEHAVE, I. (1999) Communicative Purpose as Genre Determinant. Journal of Linguistics, 23.
ASKEHAVE, I. & SWALES, J. M. (2001) Genre identification and communicative purpose: a problem and a possible solution. Applied Linguistics, 22, 195-212.
BAKHTIN, M. M. (1986) The problem of speech genres. Speech Genres and Other Late Essays [transl. Vern W. McGee; edited by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist]. Austin, University of Texas Press.
BHATIA, V. K. (1993) Analysing Genre: Language Use in Professional Settings, London; New York, Longman.
CHANDLER, D. (1997) An introduction to genre theory.
FAIRCLOUGH, N. (1992) Discourse and Social Change, Cambridge, Polity Press.
FROW, J. (2005) Genre, London; New York, Routledge.
GLEDHILL, C. (1999) Genre. IN COOK, P. & BERNINK, M. (Eds.) The Cinema Book. 2nd ed. London, British Film Institute.
KRESS, G. (1985/1989) Linguistic Processes in Sociocultural Practice, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
MARTIN, J. R. (1985) Process and text: two aspects of human semiosis. IN BENSON, J. D. & GREAVES, W. S. (Eds.) Systemic Perspectives on Discourse, Vol. 1. Norwood, NJ, Ablex.
LAKOFF, G. (1987) Women, Fire and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind, Chicago, Chicago University Press.
SWALES, J. M. (1990) Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
SWALES, J. M. (2004) Research Genres: Exploration and Applications, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
TUDOR, A. (1974) Theories of Film, London, Secker and Warburg/ BFI.
VAN DIJK, T. (2001a) Discourse, ideology and context. Folia Linguistica, XXV, 11-40.
VAN DIJK, T. (2001b) Multidisciplinary CDA. IN WODAK, R. & MEYER, M. (Eds.) Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. London; Thousand Oaks; New Delhi, Sage.
VAN DIJK, T. (2006) Discourse, context and cognition. Discourse Studies, 8, 159-177.
VAN DIJK, T. A. (1985) Structures of news in the press. IN VAN DIJK, T. A. (Ed.) Discourse and Communication: New Approaches to the Analysis of Mass Media Discourse and Communication. New York, W. de Gruyter.
WEST, C. (1984) Routine Complications: Troubles with Talk between Doctors and Patients, Bloomington Indiana University Press
WODAK, R. (1996) Disorders of Discourse, London, Longman.
WODAK, R. (2001) What CDA is about - a summary of its history, important concepts and its developments. IN WODAK, R. & MEYER, M. (Eds.) Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. London, Sage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great! Hope to see links and discussions!