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Text Linguistics, Basic Notions


GENRE – a social concept (Miller 1994): genres – typified rhetorical actions

based in recurrent situations.

Hatim & Mason (1990: 241): Genres are “conventional forms of texts associated
with particular types of social occasion”.

Examples of genres:

 News reportage
 Business contract
 Advertisement
 Political speech
 Scientific article
 SMS…

TEXT TYPE: focus on the written form, its linguistic, logical and graphical
structure – not so much on the “social occasion”; however, many linguists use
the notion “text type” as almost synonymous with “genre”. Sometimes, “text
type” is used as a superordinated notion with respect to genre.

Frequently mentioned text types:

 descriptive
 argumentative
 narrative
 expressive
(there are other and more detailed classifications)

In some models, the term “expository text” is used. It overlaps with the notion
“descriptive”, but it is slightly broader. An expository text contains more than a
description; it has often elements of both informative and operative function –
examples are instructions and textbooks.


Definition (Jakobson 1960, Hébert 2011): the result of choice among alternative
means of expression (lexical, grammatical and textual).

Lysvåg (2006: 46-47) distinguishes between four style levels:

 formal
 informal
 colloquial
 slang

See the list of stylistic features corresponding to the four levels (Lysvåg 2006:
46-47) and examples on pp. 234-235

REGISTER (Halliday 1994, House 1977, Guazzieri and da Taylor 1998)

Field: it refers to the subject matter and it may be similar to certain uses of the
term domain (…): what is happening, to whom, where and when, why it is
happening, and so on…

Tenor: it refers to the social relation existing between the interactants in a

speech situation. It includes relations of formality, power, and affect
(manager/clerk, father/son). Tenor influences interpersonal choices in the
linguistic system, and thereby it affects role the structures and the strategies
chosen to activate the linguistic exchange.

Mode: it describes the way the language is being used in the speech interaction,
including the medium (spoken, written, written to be spoken, etc.) as well as the
rhetorical mode (expository, instructive, persuasive, etc.).

Guazzieri, A. and T. da Taylor (1998: 77-



Speech event (Firth 1957, Hymes 1971): an act of spoken interaction placed in
certain spatiotemporal settings.

Speech act (Searle 1969): focus on the intention expressed by an utterance

(promising, ordering, requesting).


Firth, J. R. (1957) Papers in Linguistics 1934–1951, London: Oxford University


Guazzieri, A. and T. da Taylor (1998) Language to Language, CUP.

Halliday, M. A. K. (1994) An Introduction to Functional Grammar, London,

Melbourne, and Auckland: Arnold.

Hébert, L. (2011) “The Functions of Language”, Signo. Theoretical Semiotics

on the Web,,
visited 2019-10-04

Hatim, B. and I. Mason (1990) Discourse and the Translator, London and New
York: Longman.

House, J. (1977) Translation Quality Assessment: A Model Revisited. Tübingen:


Hymes, D. (1971) “Sociolinguistics and the ethnography of speaking”, in E.

Ardener (Ed.), Social anthropology and language, pp. 47–93, London:

Jakobson R. (1960) "Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics", in Sebeok, T.

(Ed.), Style in Language, pp. 350-377, Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of
Technology Press.

Lysvåg, P. (2006) The English Language. A Text-based Resource Book, Oslo:


Miller, C. R. (1994) “Genre as social action”, in Freedman, A. and P. Medway

(Eds.), Genre and the New Rhetoric. Critical Perspectives on Literacy and
Education, pp. 23-42, London: Taylor & Francis.

Searle, J. (1969) Speech Acts, Cambridge University Press.