Subject Material

2 Genres

Published: 25.05.2010, Updated: 20.03.2013
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There are many, many other reasons for using language than the four below that we mentioned in part one.

  • to give information
  • to request information
  • to request action
  • to promise something


For example, we use language

1   to open a conversation with a stranger
A: Nice weather today.
B: Yes. Lovely, but yesterday was awful.

2  to tell an exciting story
I met this very strange fellow on the bus and he...

3   to sell/promote a product
If you are not a member of the club, this will be the only issue of the magazine you’ll receive –and we don’t want that to happen.

4   to defend an opinion
The main reason why charges should be dropped
is that the personal consequences would be….

5  to explain how something works
A tornado is a narrow, violently rotating column of
air that ….

6  to honour a deceased
The distinguished author J.R. died Sunday June 4 at the M Health Centre at the age of …

7  to invite somebody to a function:
Mr and Mrs S request the pleasure of the company of Mr and Mrs W at the official celebration of…

8  to present a fairy-tale
Once upon a time, there was a king who had….

If we look at language use from this angle, from the perspective of its social function, from what the speaker/writer hopes to achieve, it becomes very hard to make rules of usage.

First, it is simply impossible to agree on a fixed number of reasons for using language. We do not have stringent ways of defining such purposes.

Secondly, we can rarely establish any constant connection between the form of the language used and its huge number of functions. Possible exceptions may be the language used on certain formal occasions (7) or in the opening of fairy-tales (8) where special forms are conventional, but not required. Otherwise, the forms of stories, explanations, advertisements, arguments, news texts, etc. vary almost endlessly.

Despite these problems, it is not uncommon to talk about different genres (‘sjangere’), each genre (however it is defined) has a set of typical features.

Here is a common definition of GENRE: Form of language used (vocabulary, grammar, style) + purpose

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