By Vijay Bhatia
Vijay Bhatia addresses written genres from the perspective of applied linguistics in the Swales discourse analysis tradition. It's distinct from the rhetorical genre studies tradition in which I work; we'll get into the different focuses in a moment. In this book, Bhatia manages to develop an overall view of how we can understand and investigate genres as well as specific contributions from the applied linguistics tradition.
On the first page, Bhatia lays down his markers. "I am using the term discourse in a general sense to refer to language use in institutional, professional, or more general social contexts. It includes both the written as well as the spoken forms, though I will be mainly concerned with written discourse in this book. Discourse analysis refers to the study of naturally occurring written discourse focusing in particular on its analysis beyond the sentence level" (p.3).
Bhatia reviews how genre theory has been applied to written discourse in three different frameworks: American genre studies (Bazerman; Berkenkotter & Huckin); the Sydney School's systemic-functional approach (Martin, Christy, & Rothery); and the British ESP school (Swales, Bhatia) (p.10). Early on, these applications allowed "the investigation of conventionalized or institutionalized genres in the context of specific institutional and disciplinary practices, procedures and cultures in order to understand how members of specific discourse communities construct, interpret and use these genres to achieve their community goals and why they write them the way they do" (p.10); this led to a greater focus on context, and "this saw a movement in two somewhat overlapping directions: one toward analysing the real world of discourse, which was complex, dynamic, and continually developing, and the other towards the role of broader social factors such as power and ideology, social structures, social identities, etc." (p.10).
Bhatia further discusses these developments, concluding with Diagram 1.3, which lays out different perspectives on written discourse analysis. Rather than trying to draw it, I'll just summarize it. Overlapping spaces are:
- Social space [Discourse as social practice; social and pragmatic knowledge]
- Socio-cognitive space, including
- professional space [professional expertise; discourse as professional practice]
- tactical space [discourse as genre; genre knowledge]
- Textual space [discourse as text; textual knowledge] (p.19)
- "Genres are recognizable communicative events"
- "Genres are highly structured and conventionalized constructs"
- "Established members of a particular professional community" know genres better than newer members
- Genres, although conventionalized, can be used to express private and organizational intentions
- Genres focus on social actions within specific communities' practices
- Genres have integrity (p.23).
- Genres are conventionalized, but continually change
- Genres are typified, but their users create new patterns from them
- Genres serve typical collective purposes, but are exploited for private or organizational intentions
- Genres are often thought of in pure forms, but deployed in hybrid ones
- "Genres are given typical names," but are interpreted differently by different members
- Genres often cut across disciplinary boundaries, but there are disciplinary variations of them
- "Genre analysis is typically viewed as textual investigation" but we must use non-textual approaches to understand them comprehensively (p.25)