Discourse

4 Genre & Lexis

Christian Silva, Maxwell Kizewski, Alexa Klein

Christian Silva, Maxwell Kizewski,  Alexa Klein

Learning Objectives

  • Application of Genre
    • Understanding New Genre
    • Purpose of New Genre
    • Genre: An Ever Changing Community
  •  Application of Lexis
    • Understanding Lexis
    • Lexis and Jargon: They Go Hand-in-Hand
    • Application and Appropriate Use of Lexis
  • Connecting Language and Discourse Communities
    • Language and Discourse Communities: How they’re connected
    • Slang and Improper Usage of Language
    • Social Media, Genre and Lexis

Chapter Vocabulary

Old Genre – A categorization of content based on its style, tone, and format.

New Genre – A kind of text that is always used in response to a specific recurring situation.

Typified Response –  A reused response to ease communication between writer and reader.

Recurring Situation – A scenario that occurs often enough to require a typified response to ease communication.

Lexis – Terminology that is specific to a particular field and is mainly used by certain discourse communities that allows for more proper and efficient interpersonal communication.

Jargon – Same as Lexis; an attempt to use words or phrases that are familiar to specific groups of people.

This chapter covers genre and lexis and how it relates to the language and text in different forms of writing. After reviewing this chapter, there will be an understanding of: what is genre, what is lexis and how these connect with different forms of discourse communities?

Understanding and Application of Genre

Understanding New Genre

Writing is unified, complex, and ever fluid method of communicating ideas and concepts. It is no longer just a form of sharing ideas, and within this chapter you will learn that there is more meaning behind the text and its purpose. You may have been educated in school into thinking that writing and its contents are classified through a specific genre. These classifications can be fiction, science-fiction, informative, etc. [Think of this old conception of genre as when you would go to the library and search for your favorite type of book, going to a specific section with the same type of genre]. However, this old conception of genre leads to the separation of form and content by said classifications, which work together to produce fluid and unified writing. The new conception of genre is used to simplify the connection between the writer’s situation and solution, by providing a form to the content and vice versa, solving the dilemma of separation. This may sound like a lot of information to take in, but do not worry, we will go in depth and explain every part!

Who can be the creator of said genre? Even if you are not as skilled in writing, you can still create genre! The writer of the genre does not necessarily have to be a textual based writer, being more so the creator or user of the genre. Genre, as Carolyn R. Miller defines it “a typified response to a recurring situation”. A simpler way to put this definition is that the way a text is written is specific to a scenario so that it can communicate to the situation that it is used to respond. This new genre is not focused on the text itself, but rather the recurring situation around it, which composes the text appropriate to the writing. It allows the writer of the genre to work with the form, giving it content. The situation gives meaning to the genre and in return, it also gives it the form it needs to give back. Essentially, it’s a loop!

To better comprehend this new conception of genre, let’s say you are going to purchase something at a store. Think about a receipt a customer would receive at a cash register or by a waiter. A person who has purchased something knows and understands what a receipt is; they provide a written account of receiving goods or services. These receipts vary from each store (each having small differences) where one may be more detailed than the other. While there may be no standard receipt, you know what it’s purpose is since you have experienced this recurring situation before, (receiving a receipt after making a purchase). The receipt is a resolve to the recurring situation, the appropriate typified response to facilitate the transaction.

Genres may be anything, from understanding basketball brackets, knowing how to respond at a stoplight, or being the reader of a specific magazine. What may confuse you about genre is understanding the difference between a platform and the genre itself, (as students often mix the two up). Let’s take a look at your favorite magazine for an example. The platform here is your favorite magazine like the paper used for the receipt, while the specific audience it is intended for makes up the genre.  If your favorite magazine is on clothing and fashion, it’s a completely different genre than a magazine intended for sports fanatics. The terms and language used vary from each specific magazine, making up the discourse communities as you the fashion reader may not understand what the sports magazine entails. The recurring situation here is that information is being shared with a particular group of people, who repeatedly read the magazine to keep up with their interests. You know what to expect each week, and the writer has a set layout to maintain consistency with you and newer members of the discourse community. What changes from these two genres is the content and its audience.

Purpose of New Genre

There was a demand for a genre to be formed to ease this situation, as creating a new and different written account for each transaction would be ineffective. Having various ways to respond to the situation would make it difficult for discourse communities to form, disputing the fluid and unified writing. The new conception genre is created to make a connection between the pattern and individual, therefore bringing meaning to the form and content. Amy Devitt states it as “… reuniting genre and situation, [reuniting] text and context, each constructing and responding to the other in a semiotic interchange” (Devitt, 1993). By making this connection possible, it allows you or other individuals to comprehend that this genre is used for the dynamic situation, forming a mutual understanding and therefore creating the discourse communities. This new form of genre is used so that readers can connect and share information more effectively.

Genre: An Ever Changing Community

Discourse Communities use genres to unify the members of the group. The discourse community needs a common method of communication to successfully and effectively share and comprehend content. They are made up of members that understand the rhetorical situation, therefore  they understand the genre used to respond to the recurring situation. People outside the community will not be able to understand the genre being used since they are not used to the situation or may not know how to respond to it. Discourse communities have the authority to change what genres they use, as they may change the common goal or values.

Since genre fluctuates with the discourse community, shaping them and itself, it is possible for genres to change. Genres are flexible, so a minor detail may be added or taken out. The social situations may change over time, resulting in the response altering, leading to the genre changing. Once members of the discourse community realize the change, they accommodate to it. They themselves can also force the change onto the genre, as it a cycle. “Genres are dynamic, responding to the dynamics of other parts of social systems. Hence genres change historically; hence new genres emerge. The connection to social spheres and groups has led some to tie genre to the constructions of a discourse community” (Kres, Reid 35-45).

Understanding and Application of Lexis

Understanding Lexis

Many of times writers are attempting to communicate ideas that are complementary to events that happen clearly and concisely to a particular group of people. It is often that these scenarios are exclusive to this group and the words that are being conveyed would not be easily understood by others as they are using a particular type of lexis. Lexis can be identified as terminology that is specific to a particular field and is mainly used by certain discourse communities that allows for more proper and efficient interpersonal communication. By using this specific language in some groups, it can allow for elevated understanding on a topic and further the productivity of the conversation or writing piece.

From a fundamental perspective, the goal of lexis is to help further conversation. The greatest endeavor that needs to be pursued prior to selecting what lexis to use is identifying the group in which you are talking to. By viewing and identifying the particular discourse community, one is able to align the mentality of what is being depicted to multiple people at one time and promote a better understanding to the group.

Lexis and Jargon: They Go Hand-in-Hand

A more common term for this type of behavior is jargon. Jargon and lexis both act in a similar way because they are both an attempt to use words or phrases that are familiar to specific groups of people.

Application and Appropriate Use of Lexis

Think of it this way. The way that doctors communicate during surgery is entirely different than when they are talking with the patient prior to the surgery. The surgeon would most likely use complicated word choice during surgery to try to make efficient communication while they are performing their work. However, when they are in a consultation prior to surgery, they would more often than not use language that is more familiar to the patient. This is a perfect example in a real-life setting. It shows that the doctor must be able to understand when and where are appropriate times to use particular word choice.

Another way to look at this is from the perspective of the patient. What would happen if you were the patient and the doctor started using a series of words that were related to your condition, but not exactly words that you know first hand? You would probably be a little bit worried and anxious about the situation. However, let’s say you were the patient again but with a different doctor that laid everything out for you, using words that are a lot more understanding to you so you know exactly what is wrong by the time you are done with your consultation. This would most likely be the desirable doctor to have.

There is a difference though when a doctor is using their jargon to promote authority in the situation at hand. A doctor may need to use these types of words to promote the fact that they are an expert in the situation. In this type of scenario, the doctor may use speech that is heavy with the lexis within his given field but may circle back at times when its necessary to ensure an understanding by the patient on the topic has been reached. This would identify the fact that the doctor holds the authority within the text as being a knowledgeable individual on the situation, while still being able to return to the words that may be hard to understand for the clarification of the patient.

This is why a change in the words that an individual uses is dependent on the appropriate nature in which words should be used is imperative for situations like the one expressed above. Looking at this from a literary perspective, this type of dialogue is heavily prevalent when an author is deciding how to write a book. The author must identify their audiences and be able to express the particular groups that they are targeting through their piece. Think about essays that you have written in the past. Maybe you wrote a biology lab report? Or a book report on a classic for Literature class? More likely than not, in all of these situations, you used some type of lexis to get your points across to your teacher or professor. The only reason, either consciously or unconsciously, you used such verbiage was because you knew that your instructor had relative understanding of what those words meant, and in turn you would receive a good grade. That exchange of authority and lexis is what was able to promote the best understanding of the topic that was available, and that has ultimately furthered your educational discussions with these said people.

Connecting Language and Discourse Communities

Language and Discourse Communities: How they’re connected

Genre, Lexis and Discourse Communities are three separate subjects, although they all have one common ground that allows them to work together to create everyday materials we know. How we communicate in our everyday lives is affected by the language and text styles. Language is defined as a “method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way,” according to the Webster Dictionary.

In a community of people there is a set of standards for the language held in that community. “The system of communication used by a particular community or country.” An example of this could be the widespread language of English in the United States (it is a large example) although there are sections of the U.S. that use slang, or have different meanings for similar words. Such as a water fountain, the majority of the United States calls it a “water fountain” where as in South Eastern Wisconsin, the common term is a “bubbler”. A group of people use text and language to communicate within the group, examples of this can include email lists, text messaging and letters through the mail.

The different forms of communication have different platforms, there are some platforms that are more complex than others. They basically transport similar information in different ways.

Slang and Improper use of language

In today’s society there is a great use of slang in the everyday language. Let’s talk about the different type of slang and how it can be used in several different situations and forms. An example can be slang used in the texting community. Words such as lol, omg, and ttyl are not seen in a formal letter to your boss or a paper written about the second World War. These are meant for the cell phone messaging and using these slang has a widespread understanding when it is okay to use it, and when it is not. Another form of improper language in certain situations includes how to properly talk to someone in an interview versus talking to someone at lunch. When talking with friend at lunch you are more than likely to talk more informal and relaxed than how you would talk in a formal job interview.

Social Media, Genre and Lexis

Many social media platforms are a great example of this, Twitter for example is a platform for communication. Tweets would qualify as the medium for the communication style. Finally the thread would be the form of genre. There is more to the social media we use every single day! You may be someone who likes to use their phone! Open your favorite social media app and explore the communication formats on it. What is this platform? Does the platform have a main platform? Figure out what the genre would be in that style of social media.

Questions and Reflections

  • Why do we have genre? In your own words, what would you express genre as being?
  • Why do we have lexis? In your own words, what would you express lexis as being?
  • Why does a doctor hold authority in the situation highlighted in the Application and Appropriate Use of Lexis section of this chapter?
  • Why is there a promotion of authority when we talk about lexis?
  • How are lexis and genre connected?
  • Why is ‘slang’ considered a lexis?

Exercises

  • In one paragraph, write an example of a genre and express how it relates to a particular discourse community. Include a typified response that one would receive by using this particular genre.
  • In your own words, express how lexis can be used to present authority in a different situation that is not highlighted in this chapter. Make sure to identify who holds authority and those who fall subordinate to this understanding.
  • In a few sentences, explain why you think genre and lexis were put into the same chapter in this book. What are the factors that make them so closely interconnected when it comes to talking about discourse communities.

 

 

License

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Writing @ Saint Leo by Christian Silva, Maxwell Kizewski, Alexa Klein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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