This paper provides a tentative analysis of the main factors that have contributed to determining an extensive evolution in non literary genres in the last few decades. It relies on some general considerations as well as on the discussion of some representative examples with a view to generalizing the elements thus gathered. In any discussion concerning genres, the first element to be considered is the exquisitely social nature of this construct. In Jim Martin’s definition, genres are “configurations of meaning that are recurrently phased together to enact social practices” (Martin 2002: 269). This fact is recognized in all three main traditions of genre studies (cf. Hyon 1996: 694-696), with an increasing interest for the exploration of the social practices and the contextual variables associated with them (e.g. Bhatia 2004). As regards domain-specific communication in particular, genres are part of professional practices and the acquisition of an adequate command of the relevant genres is part of the basic process of socialization of anyone aspiring to become part of a professional community. The view of genre as a social artifact responding to a whole range of external / pragmatic variables is also an inevitable starting point if one is to shed light on the process through which genres are generated and how they change over time, as this implies that when genres change they do so in response to changes in the social, cultural and institutional contexts they are imbricated in (cf. Kress 1987: 42; Devitt 2008: 89-91). Within this very general picture, this paper aims to identify the factors involved in genre change with more precision, looking at how variables associated with the various participants and contextual factors interact causing a given genre to change or determining the rise of a new one. In order to achieve these aims, I shall start by outlining some broad trends in genre change in the contemporary world, discussing some representative cases. The first type of genre change considered in this paper is self-induced and spontaneous, and responds directly to social and/or societal changes. It can be exemplified by certain new trends in external corporate communication, such as the appearance in Annual Company Reports of a section devoted to Corporate Social Responsibility (e.g. Kolk 2008), as well as by the gradual spread of advertisements that focus more on companies’ environmentally and socially responsible policies than on product promotion (e.g. the so-called green advertising) (e.g. Hansen/Machin 2008). These developments in the relevant genres respond to a new attitude of the general public towards the corporate world. In turn, this attitude reflects the profound changes in the structure and organization of the business enterprise in post-industrial society, and its new status in society as a partially open socio-technical system interacting with stakeholders and social actors, and being accountable to them. In other cases changes originate from a contamination in professional practices and in communicative conventions between two professional discourse communities, as is the case for the colonization of arbitration by litigation (Nariman 2000: 262; Marriott 2004: 354) observed by scholars in the last few years, which has taken place gradually and endogenously, simply because recently there experts acting as arbitrators have been ever more often chosen among lawyers. In a way this endogenous process is similar to linguistic interference. A totally different process of change is that initiated by a more or less direct imposition of conventions. An example is that of Research Articles, which in the course of the last few decades have become increasingly subject to very detailed conventions in terms not only of language and style, but also of possible contributions and content distribution, as the most important international journals have formalized the discursive structures that are most suitable to record the operational and argumentative procedures applied in research within the scientific paradigm associated to each discipline. In this case, the gatekeeping action of international journals has imposed changes that were inherently desirable, embodying the paradigm prevailing in the relevant discourse communities (Bazermann 1981/1988), but which if unguided would have taken a much longer time to occur. Something similar can be said about legislative drafting conventions. A change in the complexity and verbosity of legislative texts has been advocated by Plain Language campaigns and other organizations for decades now (cf. Cutts 2000; Locke 2004). In some cases this has triggered actions by governments openly imposing changes in writing conventions in the legal and administrative field (cf. e.g. in the U.S. Clinton’s Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies 1998; in Italy Circolare del Presidente del Senato 20 aprile 2001 Regole e raccomandazioni per la formulazione tecnica dei testi legislativi [Rules and recommendations for the technical drafting of legislative texts]). But even where this has not occurred, and in particular I am referring here to the United Kingdom, the awareness-raising action of the various campaigns and of the flurry of works that have been published in the last two decades advocating simplification in legislative drafting have resulted in a deep change in the structure and wording of legislative texts, especially since the turn of the millennium, with long paragraphs broken down graphically into separate clauses/sections and a modified use of modals (cf. Garzone 2008). In the cases discussed so far, genre change – whether endogenous or exogenous, spontaneous or imposed – is strictly associated with social or, in more general terms, cultural factors that have emerged in the primary or secondary culture associated with a given discourse community. But the most profound changes have occurred as a result of the spread of new technologies in the last three decades or so, which have brought with them far reaching changes and totally new options offered by a new medium, which is so complex as to qualify as an environment (the Hypermedia Computer Mediated Environment: HCME, cf. ). Thus for many genres there exists now a multimodal “double” that has migrated to the web, acquiring new characteristics, while many new genres have been born that are native to the web, such as emails, blogs, social networks, and have unprecedented peculiarities in terms of mode of discourse (e.g. Askehave/Ellerup Nielsen 2004; Garzone 2007). All these genres share unprecedented affordances, and in particular hypertextuality, co-articulation and interactivity, granularity, immediate intertextuality, extension in participation framework. In light of these general observations, the paper will tentatively proposed a model of the main factors contributing to genre change in the contemporary world.
|Titolo:||Why do genres change?|
GARZONE, GIULIANA ELENA (Primo)
|Parole Chiave:||genre analysis ; genre change ; discourse analysis|
|Settore Scientifico Disciplinare:||Settore L-LIN/12 - Lingua e Traduzione - Lingua Inglese|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2010|
|Tipologia:||Book Part (author)|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||03 - Contributo in volume|