"In this book, Richard Kern explores how technology matters to language and the ways in which we use it. Kern reveals how material, social and individual resources interact in the design of textual meaning, and how that interaction plays out across contexts of communication, different situations of technological mediation, and different moments in time."
Date: Mon, 01 Nov 2004 20:41:03 +0000 From: Marina Santini Subject: Text Types and the History of English
AUTHOR: Görlach, Manfred TITLE: Text Types and the History of English SERIES: Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs 139 YEAR: 2004 PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
Marina Santini, PhD Student, University of Brighton, UK
The volume "Text Types and the History of English" written by Manfred Görlach includes a Foreword by Hans-Jürgen Diller, eleven chapters plus tables of contents, indexes and a bibliography. Most of the chapters of this book are revised and/or expanded versions of papers or articles published by the author in different proceedings, journals or books. Only Chapters 6 and 7 are declared to be written for the actual book "in order to widen the base of text types characterized in more detail than just the definition" (p. 163). For Chapter 8 the author does not say whether it is an expansion or variation of a previous paper or whether it has been written for the present book.
The book has three main foci: synchronic/diachronic genre analysis (Chapters 2 and 3), diachronic qualitative analysis of specific genres (from Chapter 4 to Chapter 8), cross-linguistic genre analysis (Chapters 9 and 10).
The interesting Foreword by Hans-Jürgen Diller sets Görlach in his background and field of interest. Diller highlights what is special with Görlach and which are his main contributions to the field, namely the lexicon of text class names, the exemplary analysis of text classes, and the development of text classes in the context of national varieties (p. xv).
Chapter 1 is a short Preface, where the author declares his intention to summarize his reflexions on what he sees as one of the most important and most neglected topics of synchronic and diachronic linguistics, i.e. the study of text types (p.1). The author's claim is that text typology and the interpretation of individual texts over time and geographical space yield insight into cultural history and linguistic variation. The Preface ends with acknowledgements.
Chapter 2, "A history of text types: A componential analysis", describes the development of text types within a culture, contains the componential analysis and includes two lists of text types. The author starts giving a diachronic interpretation of text type formation by pointing out that after 1500 the decline of international languages (Latin in Western Europe and French in many societies) foster many European national languages to elaborate, regularize and refine their structure and lexicon. As for English, three methods are mainly used in the process of standardization: 1) the continuation of an earlier type 2) the transfer of features from an existing type to a new type 3) the borrowing of text types and their concomitant features from another language and culture (p. 5).
In his componential analysis Görlach adopts a structuralist approach. He selects 25 semantic/encyclopaedic components -- such as field, intention, action, music, and illustration -- to build a grid that helps analyze text types according to specific traits. The author realizes that a classification for modern English using this grid might not be fully manageable, nonetheless he expresses the hope that this approach will help understand why certain linguistic features are preferred in individual text types and not in others, thus complementing the research undertaken by Biber (p. 21).A large part of this chapter is made up by extensive lists, the first one comprising 2000 text types for modern English; the second one containing 669 Old English text types. The author also suggests some explanations for the formation of labels designating text types. The various explanations he offers are: the labels can be totally new, they can be existing terms applied to the new text-specific context, they can be derived by metonymy, they can refer to the name of an activity, they can take the name of a speech act.
In Chapter 3, "Text types and the linguistic history of modern English", the author presents a short survey on existing research of text types, explaining that the concept of text types is a "fairly recent addition to the instrumentarium of synchronic and historical linguistics" (p. 102), then gives his own definition of the term. He states that as we are now, we don't know how many text types are used in a particular culture, nor the distinctive features they bear. Only literary genres have been studied in depth, but their functions are different from the functions of instrumental texts. For Görlach a "text type is a specific linguistic pattern in which formal/structural characteristics have been conventionalized in a specific culture for certain well-defined and standardized uses of language" (p. 105), so that a speaker/hearer or writer/reader can judge the correct use of linguistic features obligatory or expected in a specific text type, the adequate use of formulae, the identification of mixed types, and the labels used to designate text types. He acutely points out some problems, rarely taken into consideration by other linguists, related to the delimitation of text types. For example, a text type can be bound or free, it can be a conglomerate including smaller types, and so on. Then he illustrates his approach to text type analysis with an interesting diachronic pilot study (carried out using non-quantificational methods) on a bound text type, the dedicatory epistle.
Chapter 4, "Text types and language history: the cooking recipe", is mainly dedicated to the "recipe", which represents a good example of how a conventional text type emerges and relates to socio-historical changes. The author provides a diachronic (Old English period, Middle English period, period after 1500) and cross-cultural account (Scotland, India, New Guinea) of this text type.
The main aim of Chapter 5, "A linguistic history of advertising", is to explore the stages through which the modern commercial advertisement has developed. The author concentrates on the time before 1900, and on specimens in which texts predominate rather than illustrations. He uses evidence both from social and cultural history as well as from linguistics. Finally, he points out that advertising has been exported into communities using English as a feature of newspapers and radio/television, thus modifying existing traditions or creating a new genre.
In Chapter 6, "The church hymn", the author investigates the historical foundations of the church hymn and its features. The peculiar trait of the hymn as a text type lies in "the degree of 'openness' of texts which made it possible to adapt to the needs of individual denominations, dioceses or even parishes, thus raising the difficult problem of identity of hymns sometimes changed almost beyond recognition" (p. 173).
In Chapter 7, "Lexical entries", the lexical entry is analysed as a text type. After having highlighted that lexical entries heavily depend of the type of book they are found in, the compiler's intentions and other factors, the author analyses entries in monolingual dictionaries of modern English. He observes that entries tend to be quite narrative in style and content in the early stages, while nowadays they are more formalized and unadorned.
In Chapter 8, "Linguistic aspects of jokes", the author states that jokes come in many different forms. As their effectiveness depends on many different factors, it is difficult both to describe and categorize them. The author provides a useful typology of texts that are similar to jokes. Then he analyses only those jokes which rely on language for their effectiveness.
In Chapter 9, "Text types and the history of Scots", the author concentrates on text types in Scots produced after 1700. He analyzes formal texts (such as administrative texts), informal language (for instance, private letters), and literary texts (like lyrical poems). His conclusion is that Scots has undergone a functional reduction, and this destandardization has been accompanied by the shrinking of the number of text types in which the language is employed.
In Chapter 10, "Text types in Indian English", the author acutely points out that a second language, like English in India, cannot be expected to exhibit the full range of styles, domains and text types. In such a situation, usually models and norms tend to be borrowed from outside. After having carried out his own analysis on a collection of Indian texts written in English, he reaches the conclusion that there is a need for further studies on a larger corpus to show how much variation there is within the individual text types, and how special are Indian texts written in English.
Chapter 11, "Facsimiles", includes 34 original reproductions of texts that support chapters 3, 4, 5 and 10. The source format, with original typefaces and illustrations, has important semiotic functions, especially for text types like advertisements. This section is an important contribution because the original formats of the texts analysed in the book give a better idea of the cultural context in which they have been produced.
Overall, this book is a valuable contribution to the field of synchronic, diachronic and cross-linguistic genre analysis. It is a useful point of reference for all those dealing with genres and text types (the problematic nature of these two terms will be discussed below).
One of the main strengths of the volume is the insight that Görlach provides on how genres form and develop in a cultural context. Especially, the introductory part of Chapter 2 is enlightening in this respect, because it provides an overview of the development of text types over time. Additionally, some specific issues are of great interest for genre analysts, for instance the need for a label when text types become conventionalized (p. 9 and p. 142), vagueness and elusiveness as necessary conditions before a novel text type becomes formally and functionally established (p. 108) and so on. This insight can be helpful in neighbouring research fields, for instance it can help understand the formation of electronic genres or Web genres, so pervasive in recent years. The author is aware on the evolution of text types in relation to Information Technology, and includes an electronic genre (e-mail) in his extensive list of modern English text types (p. 40).
The book has also other strengths. I will focus on two of them. First, the author provides two comprehensive lists, one of old English text types (669 items) and one of modern English text types (2000 items). They are useful repertoires, valuable in themselves and as starting points for further studies. Second, the grid of 25 categories used for the componential analysis helps the genre analyst reduce the individual text types into clusters of semantic components and is a good conceptual tool.
An interesting point of reflexion the author makes is about German text linguistics from the 1970s, which has not made its way into the Anglo- Saxon tradition (p. 7). It would be great if English translations from this branch of linguistics were published. Unfortunately, only few of these linguists wrote in English, and most of them remain untranslated.
Despite of the many merits of the book, some points remain doubtful.
Although it is good that many different conference papers have been brought together in one single volume, the book sometimes appears not to be an organic whole. This becomes clear when it comes to the definition of "text type", which is given as late as Chapter 3, p. 105. Such a disputed term, instead, should be defined in the very first pages, in order for the reader to understand the author's claims and stance.
Another perplexity arises from the fact that the author does not give the definition of the term "genre" and its relation to the term "text type". Some authors (such as Stubbs 1998: 11) state explicitly that they use the two terms interchangeably. But Görlach does not specify his use of these two terms. The reader tends to assume that the author makes no distinction between them, because he refers to concepts that are usually related to the definition of genre when he talks about text types, for example writers' intentions, readers' expectations (p. 8) and conventions (p. 9). But then on p. 102 there is a surprising differentiation between text types and genres, when the author states that only literary genres have been extensively studied, while text types have been neglected. The use of Görlach's terminology becomes clear only if the reader knows that some German-speaking text typologists have the tendency to attach a literary connotation to the word "genre" and they prefer a different label to refer to other types of texts (Diller 2001). Görlach's definition of text type, however, does not explicitly mention any non-literary specialization of the term "text type", and it remains hard to work out this distinction, also because the term "genre" is used as synonym of "text type" in several places in the book.
An additional source of confusion stems from Görlach's use of text type in relation to other scholars' use of this term. Görlach states that his research is going to complement the relevant research undertaken by Biber who analyses "the patterning of a large set of linguistic features, their frequencies and combinability in various text types (p. 21)". From this sentence, the reader assumes that Biber and Görlach share the definition of the term "text type". This is, however, not the case. While Görlach lists 2000 text types for modern English, Biber 1989 suggests only eight text types for English (Intimate personal interaction, Informational interaction, Scientific exposition, Learned exposition, Imaginative narrative, General narrative exposition, Situated reportage, Involved persuasion), which are very different from Görlach's ones. Diller tries to remedy this confusion in a footnote in the Foreword (p. xv, Note 1), but it remains difficult to understand the analogy or the complementarity between Görlach's text types and Biber's.
The relation with other text typologists remains unclear also when we move from the Anglo-Saxon tradition to the German tradition. For example, Werlich's text types (Werlich is one of the German linguists of the 70s mentioned by Görlach on p. 7) are "idealized norm of distinctive text structuring" (Werlich 1976: 39). In Werlich's view, the encoder has a choice among five text types: description, narration, exposition, argumentation, and instruction. Again, this text typology differs from Görlach's text typology.
As Görlach himself points out, the study of text types is relatively new, and probably text typologists must make the additional effort to describe their position unambiguously within this novel discipline.
All these objections and points of discussion do not diminish the value of the book, which remains an important work in genre analysis of English texts.
Proofreading is nearly flawless. An erroneous reference is on p. 5 (the history of Scots is in Chapter 9, not in Chapter 7). Figure 10 would need additional explanation.
Biber, Douglas (1989) A typology of English texts, in Linguistics 27, 3-43.
Diller, Hans-Jürgen (2001) Genre in linguistic and related discourses, in Diller, Hans-Jürgen and Görlach, Manfred (eds.), Towards a History of English of English as a History of Genres, 2001, Winter, Heidelberg, pp. 3- 43.
Stubbs M. (1998) Text and Corpus Analysis, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford (first published in 1996).
Werlich E. (1976), A Text Grammar of English, Quelle & Meyer, Heidelberg (Germany).
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Marina Santini is a PhD candidate in Computational Linguistics at ITRI (Information Technology Research Institute), University of Brighton, UK. Her general research interests include computational analysis of text types and genres, and her specific research project focuses on automated identification of Web genres.