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P r a g m a t i c s5 : l . l - 3 2 .
International Pragmatics Association
SusanneGtinthner and Hubert Knoblauch
1. Introduction
In the last few yearsstudieswithin the Sociologyof Languageand Communication2
as well as within AnthropologicalLinguistics3have repeatedlyaddressedthe issue
of communicativegenres.Various empiricalinvestigationson genresdemonstrated
that this conceptprovesto be a usefulanalyticaltool with respectto the description
of communicativepatterns in everydayinteractions.
On the basisof a broad review of this re5earch,the present article aims at
outlining the sociologicalapproach to genre analysis,pointing out some relevant
analyticalcategorieswhich allow for a structuraldescriptionof genresand thereby
demonstratethe significanceof this researchfor the analysisof communicative
contextsand cultural speakingpractices.
We shall argue that the analysisof communicativegenresallowsnot only for
the descriptionand explanationof certaincommunicativeactivitiesin detail, but by
establishingan essentialanalytic link between speakingactivitiesin the ongoing
interaction,the socioculturalcontextand the communicativebudget (includingcommunicativenorms, expectations,ideologiesetc.) of a particularculture,it also goes
far beyondthe task of classifyingdiscursiveactivities:It mediatesbetweensituatively
produced texts and larger socioculturalcontexts.4We shall demonstratethat the
Sociologyof Knowledge may provide a useful theoretical framework by linking
detailed analyses of verbal activities with cultural speaking practices and
2. The genre traditions
Genres of communicationhave been of interest to various disciplines:Classical
' We would like to thankThomasLuckmannandJohn Gumperzfor their valuablecomments
on an earlierversionof this paper.Partsof this paperare basedon GtinthnerKnoblauch(1994).
2 Cf. Luckmann (1936; 1987; 1988; lgg}), Bergmann (1994),
Knoblauch (I99la),
3 Cf. Hanks(1987),Briggs/Bauman
Cf. Hanks(1989).
Susanne Gtinthner and Hubert Knoblauch
rhetoric as well as poetics,theologr and literary criticism, all have been based on
These conceptshave mainly been preoccupiedwith written texts
(with few exceptions,e.g.the seminalwork of Lord (1945/65)),whereasthe work
'communicativeturn' in
of Bakhtin (1979186)and Volosinov (1929186)prompted a
genre theory startingin the 1960s.For Volosinovand Bakhtin,languageis primarily
located in the very communicativeinteraction in which it is produced, and it is
realized by means of concrete utteranceswhich vary accordingto the activity involved.The tight connectionbetweenlanguageand socialrealityis basedon the fact
that languageis used within typical social situations(Bakhtin 7979186).
occurs in speechgenreswhich guide the interactionand which are determinedby
"Speech genres clrganizeour spccch in almost the same way as grammatical (syntactical)
forms do. We learn to cast our speech in generic forms and, when hearing others' speech,
we guess its genres from the very first words; we predict a certain length [...] and a certain
compositional structure; wc foresee the end; that is, from the very beginning we have a
sense of the speech whole, which is only later differentiated during the speech proc€ss".
(Bakhrin 1979186:7 8f.)
Seen from Bakhtin's perspective,genres do not appear as complex language
structuresdevoid of the dynamicsof interactionbut rather as interactivepatterns
of speech.They not only guide the activitiesin verbal interactionbut are also part
of the ideologiesof socialgroups.Bakhtin'sconceptionof genres,which he divides
into the classesof "simplegenres"of everydaycommunicationand "complexgenres"
(such as novels, dramas, essays),goes beyond a formal de scription of texts. He
opposesa static conceptof genrewhich opts for stylisticpurism and exclusiveness.5
Within the social sciencetradition, researchon genreshas been prominent
in folklore. Founded by the Brothers Grimm in the early 19th century, folklore
studiesregard genresas productsof everydaycommunicationto be analyzedin their
own right. Folklorists cataloguedand classifiedgenresaccordingto very different
criteria,6three of theseseemto be crucialtor ongoingresearch:a) Thematicaltypes
and "motifs" (Aarne/Thompson 1971)were taken as criteria for classifyinggenres
(especiallyfairy tales) in different societies.This kind of classification(as e.g. in
however,was criticizedfor its ethnocentricstance
as well as for imposingan "ideal order" on mundaneconversation.
The critique,
formulated by von Sydow and Propp among others, led to b) a formal structural
divisiortof genresinto ideal or real types(Honko 1968).Genresare either conceived
of as more or less separate forms which may be arranged by the researcher
accordingto idealizedcategories;or they are conceivedas real types characterized
by certain structuresand morphologies.Thus, the sequentialstructureof texts is
Within this contcxt, we cannot elaborate on the Bakhtinian approach in detail; it must suffice
to say that it is integrated in the approach to be sketched.Researchbasedon Volosinov and Bakhtin
have been taken up in several academic disciplines,as e.9., in folklore, linguistics, anthropology,
sociologl; even some currents within rhetoric that havecome to account for the interactive character
of genres ret'er to Bakhtin and Volosinov (Miller 1984).
Such as context, form, structure, frequenry, location, audienceetc. Cf. Rohrich (1988), Honko
Culrurally pattemed speaking practices
basedon paradigmatical,latent structures(Propp 1988) (also known as cognitive
modelsin other theories).c) The definition of genresaccordingto fwtctiorts originally assumed that genres may be distinguishedaccording to different cultural
spheres.Genres were regardedas typical expressions
of human experience,as e.g.
by Jolles' (1930/1982)who difterentiated the 'simple forms' (einfacheFormen)
accordingto nine different'mentalactivities'(Geistesbeschdftigturyerr
) corresponding
to nine different spheresof meaning.These spheresof meaningwere assumedto
correspondto basichuman needsand thus correlatedto archetypalforms: Sacred:
Legend;family:Age; creation:Myth; inquisition:Riddle;experience:
Casus;fact: Memorabile; naive morals: Fairy tale; the comical: Joke. In a similar
vein, Malinowski (1960) stressedthe socioculturalfunction of folklore genres.He
saw folklore genres as contributing to the maintenanceand survival of cultural
groupsas they serveimportant socialand spiritualneeds.In recent folklore studies,
forms beside fairy tales, legends,anecdotesetc. are moving into the focus of
research.Such forms are e.g. memorates,exemplarystories(Bausinger1980),biographicalreminiscences(trhmann 1983),justificatorystories (Lehmann 1980) as
well as genres especiallyadapted to the modern lite-world,e.g. urban legends
(Brunvard 1981).The meaning of genresis no longer reducedto textual features.
Instead progressivelythe social context, the Sitz im Leben _(Gunkel 1933) is
consideredto be constitutivetor the analysisof folklore genres.'
The analysisof communicativegenreshas been of continuousinteresttor
linguistic anthropologr (and anthropologicallinguistics)since Boas' (19171f940)
seminalwork. Early researchfocusedon the problem of classificationof oral genres:
Sapir (1909),for instance,collectedWishram texts,accordingto categoriessuch as
"myth, customs, letters, non-mythical narratives, and supplementary upper
Chinookan texts". The compilation and classificationof these texts led to the
discussionof formal and stylisticcriteria that would distinguishgenres,and for quite
some time, anthropologicallinguisticstried to refine formal structuresof singular
genres(Briggs/Bauman1992).However,the collectedtextswere rarely analyzedin
their interactionalcontexts;insteadgenreswere consideredas tixed objectsuntil the
Ethnographyof Communication (and the concomitantturn towardsthe dialogicity
of communication) in the i960s started to have an impact on this strand of
research.Gumperz and Hymes (1972) decidedly opted for the investigationof
languageuse in contexts.Hymes (1972, 1974)viewed genresas an integral part of
the communicative budget of a community.8Despite the lack of theoretical
of "genres",the Ethnographyof Communicationhas prompted a
broad array of empirical investigationswhich take genre as the analyticalfocus for
verbalpracticeswithin differentspeechcommunities.Within this research,
there is an obvioustendencyto considergenresno longer as static,monological
Cf. Oring (1986: 134-5).
Th" notion of genres, however, lacks prccision: Whereas, in "Models of the Interaction of
l,anguage and Social Life" Hymes (1977:65) claims that "all speech has formal characteristics of
some sort of manifestation of genres", in "Ways of Speaking" (1974: 443-444) he reaches the
conclusion "that communities differ' according to the portion of speech which "is generically
organized"and the portion that is more spontaneousand "thus escapesgeneric regimentation and
Susanne Gr)nthnerand Hubert Knobtauch
products,but rather to adopt a performance-centered
approach to genres,which
approachto languageand
meetsSherzer's(1987)demandfor a "discourse-centered
culture". In combiningBakhtin's "sociologicalpoetics"with Bourdieu's theory of
practice,Hanks (1987)offers a new frameworkfor the analysisof genres,regarding
genresas "orientingframeworks,interpretativeproceduresand setsof expectations
that are not part of discoursestructure,but are part of the waysactorsrelate to and
The relationshipbetweengenres,speakingpracticesand socialorder
is also addressedby Briggs/Bauman(1992),who - by referring to Bakhtin'sconcept
of intertextuality- concentrateon the intertextualrelationsconstitutedby the use
of genresin discourse.
Within linguistics, the researchof Labov (1972) on stories prompted an
expandingfield of studieson narration demonstratingthe role of different forms of
stories within various institutional and private contexts. For quite some time,
however,traditionaltext linguisticstended to apply terms derivingfrom analysesof
written texts,suchas "text sort" and "text type",to oral discourses.
Their aim was to
characterizetextualtypesaccordingto grammatical-stylistical
featuresand text sorts
accordingto 'situationsof use' (Redekonstellationsrypen)
(Gutenberg 1981: I44).
Thesenotions,however,were modelledon monological,written textswithout taking
into account the dynamic interactive constitution of texts in social interactions.
Influenced by the Ethnography of Communication, Interactive Sociolinguistics
(Gumperz f982) as well as by the Sociolory of Knowledge, the notion of
communicativegenres is becomingincreasinglyacceptedin linguistic analysisof
discourse(Giilich 1986,Gtinthner I993a; Kotthotf I993a; 1995).This acceptanceis
paralleledby a new methodologicalorientation: Instead of taking oral genres as
monologicalstatic texts,communicativegenresare analyzedin the processof their
interactiveproduction, i.e. in their conversationaland socioculturalcontext.
By stressing the dialogical character of communicative processes,
ConversationAnalysishas had an important influenceon genreresearch.The quest
for an analysis of social action in 'natural settings' is due to the repeated
methodologicaldemandsof Harvey Sacks(1963)and his colleagues:To record and
protocol social action empirically as a phenomenonin its own right. Finally, the
analysisof conversationalsequencesled to the question how 'long' interaction
sequencesare intertwined.However, up to now conversationanalysistshave only
investigated a few longer sequences. For instance, Jeffersonflre (1981)
demonstratedhow "trouble talk" is organizedinto severalstageswhich are collaboratively produced by the coparticipants.Bergmann's(1993a)analysisof gossipas a
reconstructivegenre as well as his study of emergencycalls to the fire brigades
(1993b) convincingly exemplifies how conversation analytic methods can be
productivelycombined with the study of communicativegenres.Goodwin's (1990)
study of interactive processesamong Black children in Philadelphia,which
integrated methods of conversationanalysiswith those of ethnography of
communication,seesverbal "activities"
as beingthe relevantunitsfor investigation.
Her detailed analysis,concentratingon specific "activities"(which show generic
patternings),such as arguments,gossip-disputes,
instigatingand storiesshowshow
this specificgroup of urban Black childrenconstitutetheir socialworld through verbal genresand activities.
Culnralty patterned speakingpractices
3. A theoretical conceptualizationof communicativegenres
The way communicativegenresare treatedwithin the Socioloryof Knowledge(Berger/Luckmann1966)providesus with a theoreticalconceptualizationof "genres".In
the early 80s Bergmann and Luckmann (1983) developedan approach of genre
analysiswhich takes into accountthe traditionsof genre researchmentioned above
and links the notion of genre to the theoretical model of Social Constructivism
within the Sociologyof Knowledge.Even if we cannot elaboratehere the (widely
renown) approach of the "socialconstructionof reality",we shall sketch the notion
of genre within this theoreticalframework; moreoverwe shall propose some new
and methodological
whichwill be outlinedon the barefinements
sis of various empirical studies.e
According to Luckmann (7992a),communicativegenresfulfil a more crucial
function than just representingone possible"componentof a speech event" - as
Hymes (1974) has claimed. They representcentral communicativemeans in the
constructionof socialreality. Sincesociallyconstructedinstitutionsand the correspondinglegitimations(or "ideologies";Bakhtin 1979186)
depend on the mediation
and transmission of knowledge, the communicative processesby which this
knowledgeis transmitted to the individual are of crucial importance. The social
stocksof knowledg" - which are the resourcefbr most of the objectifiedknowledge
takenfor grantedwithin a givensociety- are beingbuilt up, maintained,transmitted
and also modified in communicativeprocesses.Whereas many communicative
processesare produced on a spontaneousbasis,some processesof communicative
transmissionof knowledgeare fixed into genres.This meansthat the composition
of a seriesof communicativeelementsand the variouspossibilities
of its implementation are prepatterned.Communicativeprocessesthat follow such fixed patterns
are called"genres".In this way, the notion of "genre"is neitherreducedto literary
or oral poetic genresnor do we claim, as Bakhtin appearsto claim, that there is no
communicationoutside of genres.
Communicativegenresfulfil important functionswith respectto the coping
with, transmissionand traditionalizationof intersubjectiveexperiencesof the lifeworld. On the one hand,they facilitatethe transmissionof knowledgeby guidingthe
interactants'expectationsabout what is to be said (and done). On the other hand,
they are the sedimentsof sociallyrelevant communicativeprocesses,as only those
may be expectedto be tixed into genreswhich are of some relevanceto
the socialactors.The assumptionthat communicativeaction is routinized into such
prearrangedpatterns has seriousconsequences
tor the concept of communication
itself.The transmissionof sociallyrelevantknowledge- one of the preconditionsof
the socialization
of individuals- relieson conventionalized
communicativegenres. Thus, wherever socially relevant knowledge is to be
transmitted we find "convention" instead of "communicativerationality": Communicationis subject to routinizationwhich leadsto conventionin the same way
that routinizationleadsto constitutionwith respectto socialproblems.l0Because
So*" of these studies have been prompted by this approach ro genres.
Cf. B"rg"r/Luckmann (1966).
Susanne Gtinthner and Hubert Knoblauch
speakersas well as recipientsare familiar with genres they may be regarded as
frames for the orientation that interactants refer to in producing, as well as
interpreting,communicativeaction. It, for instance,a speakerbeginsan utterance
by 'Did you hear the one about', a certain genre is contextualizedand specific
expectationsarise on the recipient'spart. Thus, the knowledgethat communicative
processeswith specific functions occurring in certain social situations take on
recurrentfbrms,not only guidesthe communicativeactionsthemselvesbut alsotheir
interpretations.To the degree that the prefabricationof communicativepatterns
guidesthe interactants'expectations
about the courseof the communicativeaction,
predefinedgenresfacilitatethe co-ordinationof communicative
genresmay be seenas taking the burdenawayfrom
the functionof communicative
the actors (i.e. relieving them ("Entlctsturrg"))
of having to co-ordinateevery communicativeaction anew.l1By way of routinization,theseinteractivetasksbecome
"non-problematic"and speakersmay concentrateon other tasks. Genres are
generatedas soonas communicative
are facedwith recurringproblems
which are of great relevancetcl the actors.Thus, genresare not only a 'model for'
communicativeaction; they are also a 'model of sociallyrelevant communication.
They constitute the communicative'loci' or commonplacesof certain social
milieus,and classes,
structureand culture.However,the socialdistributionof genre-relatedknowledge
may be unequally distributed among the members,accordingto various criteria,
suchas gender,age,socialposition,casteetc. An essentialelementof genre-related
knowledgeis knowledgeabout the appropriateuseof genres,i.e.when to useor not
to use what genre. As Luckmann ( 1992a:226) points out,
"the use of genres is normally linked to clearly defined typcs of social situations. A given
genre may never appcar in one type of communicative situation, rarely in another,
frequently in still another, and always in some. From the point of view of the actor's
knowlcdgc thcre may be situations in which he is forced to use a particular communicative
genre, others in which thc mattcr is optional and he is merely likely t<t do so, and still
othcrs in which he will riqorouslv avoid its use."
As historicaland cultural products,communicativegenresare, however,open to
change and cultural variation.If we take communicativegenresas sociallyconstructed solutions which organize,routinize, and standardizethe dealing with
particular communicativeproblems,it seemsquite obvious that diff'erentcultures
may constructdiff-erentsolutionsfor specificcommunicativeproblems.Moreover,
whereas in one culture there may be generic ways of handling particular
communicativeactivities,in anothercultureinteractants
may usespontaneous
instead.Thus, the repertoireof communicative
genresvary from cultureto culture
as well as from one epoch to another.
The specificfiutctiort of a communicativegenre thus consistsof providing
solutionsto specificproblemsof communicative
In gossiping,the interactantshave to solvethe problem of "discreetindiscretion"
"R"li"l' or "Entlastung" as a consequcnceof the process of routinization is described by
G e h l e n ( 1 9 6 1 ) w i t h i n t h e German tradition oI Philosophical Anthropology. Cf. also
Berger/Luckmann (1966) for a s h o r t E n g l i s h s k e t c h o f t h i s a p p r o a c h .
Culrurally patterned spenking practices
(Bergmann1993a).In reproachingsomeone,the interactantssolvethe problem of
one person evaluatinga specificbehavioror action of another person as being
inadequate,wrong or immoral and demandingan explanation(Giinthner 1993b).
Exemplarystoriesdemonstratethe validityof a statementor an evaluationby way
of illustratinga specific case (Keppler 1988;Crinthner 1993c),and interactive
teachingsset the task of resolving specific forms of asymmetriesof knowledge
(Keppler/Luckmann1991).Levinson's(1979)notion of "activity"is usetul for the
of the functioncommunicative
genres.A certainactivity,suchas asking
a student questionsduring an oral exam, can be done by means of various
communicativeforms or genreswhich may be more or less conventionalizedand
more or lessprepatterned.
The functions of communicativegenres should be distinguishedfrom
individuaiaction goals.If, in a speciticsituation,a personintendsto tell a loke in
order to compromise another person, thrs goal must be compatible with the
entertainingfunction of jokes, but not identical.The function of an interactive
teachingsequenceconsistsin levellingolf asymmetriesof knowledge.Yet, at the
sametime it may be strategically
usedasa way of impressingsomeone.Thus,genres
may be retramed strategically:I may tell a joke in order to tease my participant
insteadof entertainingher. Suchreframing,however,only succeeds
if one assumes
that there are prefixed communicativepatterns.
Insteadof taking the contextas given,the analysisof communicativegenres
is basedon a reflexive notion of context as used in InterpretativeSociolinguistics"
genresare not just determinedby socialcontextsbut alsocontribute
to the very constitutionof these contexts.This conceptimplies that interactants
construecontextin carryingout their interactiveactivities:By usinga certaingenre
the interactantsenact a context tor the interpretationof this particular activity
(Gumperz 1982;Auer 1992).
The importanceof communicativegenreshas to be seen in light of the
growingimportanceof communicativeprocessesfor the functioningof society:To
the degreethat situationsproliferatein which personshave to interactwho do not
of communication.
knoweachother and do not sharethe sameculturalconventions
The growing social relevanceof communicationis tantamount to the increasing
of the socialstockof knowledgeand the corresponding
of socialinstitutionsand socialrnilieus(Schtitz,4-uckmann
1984;Habermas 1981).
In the face of this increasingpluralization,however,communicationdoes not
becomemore rational,as Habermas(1981)suggests;
on the basisof the relief function of communication,rather, a growth and ditterentiationclf communicative
is to be expected.The more crucialrecurrentcommunicative
becomefor typicalsocialactors- as e.g.in democraticdecisionmaking,in self-presentationor testimonies,- the more likely becomesa growingroutinizationof the
Thesetheoreticalideason communicativegenresare not the result of mere
In fact, they result from a growingbody of empiricalresearchwhich
provesthe usefulness
of the conceptof communicative
genre.Before sketchingthe
empiricalevidence,we shall outline three important analyticalciteia. We shall first
(a) proposea workingdefinitionof genres,(b) sketchits structuralelementsand (c)
explainits methodologicalstatus,before presentingthe constitutiveelementsof
communicativegenresin more detail.
Susanne Gtinthner and Hubert Knoblauch
a) Functionally, communicative genres can be defined as histoically and culturally
specific,prepottenrcd and complex solutions to recurrentcommunicativeproblems. By
prepottentedwe refer to the observationthat the occurrenceof a certain feature of
communicative actions makes the occurrence of another feature expectable or
predictable.As the production of one action entailsa preferencefor the production
of another one, one may speak of a fixed pattern of action.Prepattemingthus, is
basedon the sharedexpectationof the stepsof actionsto succeed.Which features
of communicationcome to be prepatternedand which stepsof actionsare to be expected,dependson cultural norms and values.Not living up to sharedexpectations
may bring on sanctions,as can be seen in reparation proceduresand corrective
b) Structurally, a genre may be defined as a complex communicativepattem of
elements which can be located on three different structural levels:l2The level of
intenml stntcture, the situative level and the level of extemal structure.The intemal
stntctureof a genre consistsof:
"overall patterns of diverse elements, such as words and phrases,registers,forrnulas and
formulaic blocs, rhetorical figures and tropes, stylistic devices (metrics, rhyme, lists,
oppt-lsitions),prosodic melodies, specific regulations of dialogicity, repair strategies and
prescriptions for topics and topical areas."(Luckmann 1992b:39;our translation, S.G./FI.K.)
The extennl structureof communicativegenres also exhibits a certain degree of
obligation,that is, constraintswith respectto milieus,the communicativesituation,
the type of the social relationshipas well as social categoriesof actors (men,
women, ethnic groups), relevant in such environments.Whereas the internal
structure is comprisedof linguisticsignsof communicativeaction and the external
structure of the "situated" elements referring to the institutional structure of a
society,tlrc sitttativelevelof communicativegenresconsistsof those elementswhich
are part of the ongoinginteraction,i.e. the "interactionorder".13
This includesthe
interactiveexchangeof utterancesbetweendifferent actorsas well as the situative,
sociospatialrelation establishedby meansof this interaction.
Generic forms consistof a combinationof featuresto be expected,located
on all three structurallevelsand thus form highlycomplexcommunicativepatterns.
Complexityrefers to the combination of different recurrent elements.loWhereas
a sequenceof interactive teaching or the exchangeof complimentsmay be
comprisedof only a few recurrentfeatures,gossiping- as describedby Bergmann
(1993a)- consistsof a combinationof lexical,prosodic,rhetoric devices,situative
featuresand particularinteractiveroles (as the
Concerning the status of the "structural features",we should point out that what is at work
is an indexical association of talk to context.
Fo. the diflerence between situatecland situational cf. Erving Goffman (19S3b).
Thi, corresponds to the vertical co-occurrencerule, according to which the occurrence of a
specific syntactical form is linked to e.g. a specific lexical choice and a certain prosodic register. Cf.
Ervin-Tripp ( 1986: 233).
Culturally pattemed speaking practices
gossipproducer, the recipient and the subjectof gossip).The more elementsare
part of the "form", the more complexa genre appears.Complexitycan be enforced
by the canonizationof genres,that is, the institutionalizationor even prescription
of the form (Luckmann 1987).
Yet, the degreeof complexityis likely to vary. Thereforewe should speakof
"communicativepatterns"when referringto any fixed or crystallizedcommunicative
form regardlessof its degreeof complexity.If one intendsto analyzecommunicative
genres,one also has to take such patternsinto account.Each community disposes
of a large repertoire of communicativepatterns(as in interactiveteachings,having
an argument,counsellingin radio phone-inprograms,or indignationstories)which
showsomekind of crystallizationand complexitywithout representingwhat we call
"prototypicalgenres".The questionmight come up, what degree of complexity is
necessaryand suttlcient to speak of a "genre"insteadof a "mere pattern". Surely,
the boundariesare fluid. Of course,there are what we callprototypicalgenres - as
(1980) or
for instance,the lamentingof Greek women analyzedby Caraveli-Chaves
the genealogicalrecitationsof Bantu-kingdomsdescribedby Albert (1972) - which
havean obligatorycharacterand are perceivablytixed and patternedwith respect
to situation, function and procedural structures.Now, in order to distinguish
prototypicalcommunicativegenres from less fixed communicativepatterns, one
could say that prototypical genres are first of all highly complex with respect to
syntagmaticas well as paradigmaticfeatures.Moreover, they are characterizedby
somespecificrecurrent features,which are located at all three levels (the level of
internal structure, the situative level and the level of the external structure).
Furthermore, prototypical genres are characterizedby a certain contour of
middle and end.For instance,toastingin CaucasianGeorgiahasa ritualized beginningwhere the "tamada"(the toastmaster)standsup, holding a glassof
somekind of alcoholicbeverageand startsto addressthe audiencein a ritualized
way.The courseof toastingtollowsa variablethematiccanonacconlmodatedto the
specificsituation at hand (a marriage,birth etc.). The formula "gaumardzos",the
clinkingof glasses,and the emptyingof one's glasssignalthe end of the toast.
(Kotthoff in press).
c) Whereasthe notion of genresseryesas a sensitizingconcept for research,it has
to be stressedthat any patterned communicativeaction is a valuable subject for
genreanalysis.Before we start to describethe structuralelementson all three levels
in detail, it should be noted that the social stock of knowledge often provides
everydaycategories("first order constructs",
Schutz1962)for communicativegenres.
However, there is no clear-cut correspondencebetween ethnocategoiesand
genres.lsIn German, for instance,we find the ethnocategoryVorwurf ('reproach');
however,as an analysisof reproachingreveals(Grinthner 1993b),they may take on
a whole array of different communicativeforms, rangingfrom fixed patternswhich
are characterizedby specific structural elements (Was -format, modal particles,
extremecaseformulations,extremefluctuationsin pitch contour,falling intonation
at the end of the utteranceetc.,)to utterancescharacterizedonly by a "reproaching"
C f . S i l u . r s t e i n ( 1 9 8 5 ; 1 9 9 3 ;o n m e t a p r a g m a t i cc a t e g o r i e sfolk-metapragmatic
discourse and
the limits of native speakers'awarenessof their languageand its significancefor linguistic research.
Susanne Gtinthner and Huben Knoblauch
prosody. Furthermore, interactants often refer metapragmatically to the
ethnocategory (des soll jetzt kein VORWURF sein aber ich find du GEHSCH au
urtHEIMlich stark at{ sie eirt.'I am not reproachingyou but I think you give far too
much attentionto her') and therebydistancethemselves
from the interpretationof
their following activity as a Vorwtuf,althoughthe utteranceat hand showstypical
reproachindicatorsand leadsto remedialreactions(e.g.justifications,
are not necessarily
nor consistent;they showmuch overlappingand socialaswell asregionalvariations.
Even if the knowledgeabout genresis highly articulatedin the social stock of
knowledge - often by way of folk-taxonomiesand folk-theories- this theoretical
coincidewith the knowledgeof use
knowledge("know what") must not necessarily
("know how"). Theoreticalelementsof older forms e.g.may survivein the collective
memory, and newer genres in status nascendimay not yet be part of folk-taxonomies(Luckmann 1992b:23).As Swales(1990:54f.)pointsout in his analysisof
academic genrcs, ethnocategoriessometimes persevere against a
backgroundof substantialchangein the activity,fbr instance,"lectures"in academic
lite nowadaysare no longerthe monologicrecitationsthey once were, but include
discussionand studentsworking in small groups."Tutorials"muy no longer involve
a tutor in the traditional sense,but may consistof student interactionwith a
computer program.
One shouldemphasizethat communicative
genresare not to be considered
as staticproductsto be describedby their structuralfeaturesonly;
rather, genresare constructedwithin communicativeactions.This dynamicaspect
by the notion of "performance"as used
of communicativegenresmay be expressed
in linguisticanthropology.As opposedto traditionalfolklore approaches,which
analyzegenresin a form purified of the contextof their production,we argue that
the elementsof their communicativeconstructionare to be consideredas constitutive featuresof the genresthemselves:
The actors'voices,the relationshipamong
the coparticipants,the sequentialorganization,the cultural context as well as its
dramaturgicstructure(Abrahams1976).Thus, in order to analyzecommunicative
genres,it does not suffice to just describethe internal and externalfeaturesof
isolated genres,one also has to take intcl accountthe dialogicalprinciplesand
methods used to realize a particular genre in the specificsituationalcontext.
In analyzingthe naturaldata by way of structuralelements,we reconstruct
what had been produced holisticallyby the actors as a kind of "secondorder
construct"(Schutz 1962:3ff.); i.e. the notion of "structure"refers to the scientific
reconstructionof "tirst order constructs"(Schutz1962:3ff.), and thus, of what had
alreadybeen producedand interpretedby the actors.
4. Structural featuresof genres
As mentioned above, three levels of analysis of communicative genres are
distinguislrable.We shall now describe these levels in some detail.
Culntrally patterned speaking practices
4.I. The internal structure
The internal structureof communicativegenresconsistsof verbal and prosodic(and
kinetic)featurescharacterizingsingleutterancesor shortersequencesof utterances.
Up to now, few investigationsofprosodicfeatttres(suchas loudness,tempo, pausing,
intonation, rhythm, accent placement)16and features of voice qualityrT of
conversationalgenreshave been undertaken,althoughprosodicphenomena- such
as a "reproachful"prosody (Giinthner in press),prosodic markers of indignation
(Christmann1993;Grinthner 1993c)or prosodicfeaturesin 'rappin' and soundin'
(Abrahams1974)- have proven to be constitutiveelementsof certain communicative genresand patterns. Expressivesigrts,mimic and gesticulatoryelements are also
part of the repertoire of the internal structure.lsLexico-semantic
elernents,such as
a specializedvocabulary,archaic terms, euphemismsor derogatorywords, certain
modality markers, specific particles etc. can also make up part of the internal
structureof a genre. Morpho-syntacticdevices(such as question-formats,specific
word order phenomenale,imperatives,passiveconstructions,specificconjunctions
or "discoursemarkers") as well asplrcnologicaldevicesmay function as constitutive
elementsof a particular genre. In addition, the selectionof a specific linguistic
vaiery or code may be determinativefor a specificgenre or for elements of the
genre (such as citations, dialogism, indirect speech). Code features can be
subdividedinto jargon, dialect,sociolect,as well as the selectionof a situationally apt
(frozenstyle,formal, consultative,informal or intimateregister;Gldser 1976).
In his studyof Kuna speechgenres,Sherzer(I9l4) describesthe specificcode in namakke,i.e. chantsoccurringin the villagecongresshouse.In this genre,speakersuse
a particular linguistic variety (sakla kaye or konkreso kaya), which can be
from colloquialKuna with respectto phonology(certainvowelsoccur
which are usually elided in colloquial speech),morpho-syntax(certain "linking"
morphemesare used whereas,noun and verb phrasesare regularly deleted) and
lexicon(specificwords which are either not usedor which have different meanings
in everydayspeechare employed).
Forms of patterningon the level of the internalstructuremay also include
stylisticand rlrctoic figtres, concerning the way words are combined (asyndeton,
deleted (ellipsis,aposiopese),
added (accumulation,amplification,
gradation),positioned (parallelism,chiasm),as well as the use of metaphors,
hyperbolasand other stylistic(litotes,emphasis,symboletc.) or sound
Selting (lgg}) on the function of intonation to contextualizedifferent activities and
genres;Couper-Kuhlen (1992) on speech rhythm in repair sequences;Erickson on the rhythmic
organizationin listing sequences.For thc interactive relevanceof such prosodic devicescf. CouperKuhlen/Selting(in press).
cf. winkler (1986).
Cf. Heath (1986) on body movement in meclicalconsultation.
Cf. Auer's (1993) analysis of verb-initial positioning reveals that the beginning of cerrain
communication genres (e.g. jokes) in German is contextualized by verb-first-phrases (such as,
Fiachen in die Schule...";'Comes little Fritz to school...').
Susanne Gtinthner and Hubert Knoblauch
figures (anaphora,epiphora, onomatopoeticforms etc.) (Mi.iller 1989).20
Quite a number of communicative genres reveal specific "folk aesthetic
pirtciples" (Dundes fi-nachlOzkok 1972),including a wide range of stylistic devices,
such as specific rhyme patterns, melodic contours,the use of rhetoric figures, a
particular vocabulary,an archaic syntaxetc. In verbal duelling among Turkish boys,
for instance,the pertbrmers use their verbal and rhetoric skills in order to choose
topicsappropriatein that context,to build on weaknesses
in opponents'arguments,
to create a witty responseto an initial attack, to seize upon an actual or alleged
"mistake"in the attacker'spreviousinsult,to take part of the previousutteranceas
the point of departure for the continuation of the duel and to stick to certain
rhythmic schemes(Dundes/Leach/Ozkok1972).Becauseaestheticprinciplesare a
significantcomponentin ritual duelling and insultinggenresin general(Abrahams
t962; l.abov f972; Mitchell-Kernan 1972; Kotthotf 1995), speakersare judged
accordingto their ability to perform.
Apart from those prosodic, mimic-gestical,lexico-semantic,morpho-syntactic,
rhetoric and stylisticelements,'minorforms' - suchas stereotypes,idioms,common
places,proverbs,formulas, riddles and inscriptions- can also provide constitutive
elements of communicativegenres.These minor or minimal forms differ from
elaborategenresin so f'ar as they can be integratedin more comprehensiveforms;
and moreover, they cannot be attributed to a definite function. For instance,the
function of idioms (as topic termination,indirect criticism,as reconfirminggeneral
norms and values,or as entertainment)may be definedonly with respectto the sequentialorganizationof the particularidiom or the socialcontextin which this form
is used. Complex genres,on the other hand, do fulfil specificfunctions:Women's
lamentos in Eastern Georgia which are built of several constitutive elements
(specific rhythm, addressingthe deceasedetc.) as well as certain minimal forms
(suchas stylizedwailing,specificidioms) function to expressthe community-binding
mourning of women and to reproduce and confirm common moral values and
norms (Kotthoff 1993a).
Dispositional elemerulsand superstrucnres(Yan Dijk 1978) also represent
complex internal features of communicativegenres,as e.g. the classicalrhetorical
"dispositio"(dividing the classicaloration in "exordium,"narratio", "argumentatio"
and "peroratio"). These superstructuresprovide a rough grid guiding the
interactants' actions. For instance, Labov (1972) identifies a narrative model,
dividingnarrationinto specificphases:"abstract","orientation","complicatingaction"
and "evaluation", "resolution" and "coda". Similarly, Ulmer (1988) distinguishes
different temporal phasesof conversionstoriesin everydaytalk: A longer stretchof
biographicaltime is portrayed in a condensedway, leadingup to a temporally short
event that contains many details. After this focused event, the 'subsequent'
biographicaltime is again condensed.The temporal structure,characterizedby the
use of tempus (and the relationbetweennarratedtime and time of the narration),
plays a decisiverole for the constitutionof these conversionstories.
Finally, "content"featttres rnay turn out to be elements of the internal
20 Cf.
K""nan's (1974)descriptionof "kabary"performances
in a Malagasycommunity:Here
elaboratemetaphors,traditionalsayingsand formsof indirectionare usedin order to avoidopen
conflictand also to demonstrate
Cutntratty patterned speaking practices
structureof communicative
genres."Content"here ret'ersto variousaspects,ranging
from topicsand topicalfields(e.g.motifsof fairy tales,legendsor storiesof miracles
asshownby folklorists),to "figures"(cf. Goffman 1986)appearingin the genre (such
asthe king or princessin fairy tales,representatives
of certainethnicgroupsin jokes
or talking animalsin fables),to figures'actionsand even to the scenarioof the
The framing of communicativegenres- e.g. as fictional, ironic, playful, irrealis or
realistic- is a further structuralfeatureon the internallevel.In teasing,for instance,
a slightlyaggressive
and sometimeseven hclstilemessageis framed as "playful"and
thus carriesthe metamessage
of "rapport" (Straehle1993;Giinthner 1994a).As
coinedby Goffman (1981),the notion of traming2lnot only reters to the specific
modaliry (or "keying")but includesthe "production
fonnet", i.e. the speakers' relationto their utterancesas "animators"(i.e. reproducersof utterances),as
or as"principals"(i.e.the one who is respon(i.e.producersof utterances),
- such as rhetorical 'forms of appeal'
siblefor the utterance).Forms of addressing
(lausberg 1960)rhetorical
sermocinatio,aporia - aswell asrecipientdesigtt
Thus, callersframe their messageson
answeringmachineswith respectto the social relationshipthey assumedlyhave
sharedwith the personcalled,as e.g. intimate,infbrmal or institutional(AlvarezCaccamoKnoblauch1992).The featuresof framingconcerningthe relationbetween
speakerand coparticipant,are subsumedunder the notion of "fixilirtg"(Gotlman
1986).Fclotingor changesof footingfunctionas contextualization
1982;Auer 1992)signallingthe specificactivitiesperfbrmed.
In order to analvzecommunicative
genres,one alsohasto take into account
the specificityof tlrc meditun.Keppler (1985)showshow media genres,such as the
news,are characterizedby a specificcombinationof verbal, visual and sound
On and off texts,animatedpictures,colorsand light are to be considered
asweil as camerapositions,cuts,dramaturgy,figuresand setting.
The selectionof the elementsclf the internal structurefixed to various
degreesof obligation.However.the degreeof obligzttionalwayslies above that of
4.2. Thesituativelevelof cotnmunicativegenres
The elementsoutlined above, which are located in what we call the internal
structureof communicativegenres,have to be distinguished
from the interactive
context,based on the dialogicityof utterancesbetween rnultiple participants.
Althoughthe elementsof the internal structurescan be discernedin dialogical,
the very fact that utterancesare dialogicallyproducedby
anddistributedamongdiftbrentparticipantsgivesriseto a particularstratumof featureswhich deservesspecialconsideration.
and consequently,
a separatelevel of
This situativelevel,first of all, is comprisedof itual pltertomenn,such as
the openingand terminationof interactivecontacts,greetingand farewell rituals,
ritualsof invitingand accepting,etc. (Goffman i981). Besidetheserituals,f'eatures
"' Cf. also Tannen (1993).
concerningthe internctiveorgqnizalionof cottversotion- as describedby conversation
analysists- are an integral part of this analytic level. These features can be
describedby pattentsof tum-taking,pair seqLtences
(adjacencypairs, as questionsand
answers,summons and responses).Strategieswith regardto longerstretchesof conversadonare also part of the situative structure, e.g. in announcing a longer
sequenceof talk and getting a "ticket" as in narratives.
Someof theseconversationalelementsmay evenbe found in supposedlymonologic
genres;sales speeches,for example,exhibit elementsof the interaction between
speakerand audiencewhich are constitutivefor this genre (Basgoz1975;Atkinson
1984).Within the
not only'implicit actors'(Iser
1972); but they act (laugh, clap their hands, give signs of astonishmentetc.) in
responseto certain patterns of action which are restrictedby the genre and the
socialcontext of the situation(suchas church ceremonies,carnival,political speech
etc.) (Knoblauch1987).
levelof the situativestructure- includingphenomena,such
as pair sequences,preferencestructures,the organisationof turns, pre-, post- and
- has been the subject-matterof ConversationAnalysis.Phenomena,
such -have been described by ConversationAnalysis. Communicative genres
frequently show particular constraintsregardingtheir sequentialorganization.As
Bergmann (I993a: 81) demonstrates,the initiation of gossip within an ongoing
conversationis characterizedby a presequencein which the interactants check
whether the conditionsnecessarytor gossipingare fulfilled: If the absentsubjectof
gossipis mutually known to all participantsand if all are willing to cooperatein this
morally sensitiveand sociallyreproved genre. Once these conditionsare clarified,
the actual gossipmay start.
Although the analysisof communicativegenres highly profits trom the detailed
studies of conversationalorganizationwithin ConversationAnalysis, we do not
regard preferencestructuresas part of the conversationalapparatusbut rather as
conventionswhich heavilydependon the socio-culturalcontext.Thus, for instance,
Pomerantz Q98\ assumesthat there is "a generaldispreferencefor disagreement"
in everyday conversations,whereaswe would argue that this seemingly"general
dispreferencefor disagreement"is a culturally specific(white middle-class-North
American) and a sociallycontextualized(small talk situations)convention.This can
be supported by Schiftrin's (1984) analysisof PhiladelphiaJewish argumentation
styleswhich displaya preterencefor the productionof disagreement.Similar results,
demonstratinga preference for direct, unmitigateddisagreementswere obtained
with respect to other social and cultural contexts (German-American,GermanChinese, Swabian,Black American children), and with respect to specific genres
(informal discussions,playing in the street) (Goodwin 1990; Knoblauch 799La;
Giinthner 7993a;Kotthoff 1993b).
Further dimensionsof the situativestructurehave been pointed out by
Goffman (1983a): Participationframework; longerstretclrcsof talk and non-linguistic
environmerfiof the social situatiort.Theparticipatiortframework is constituted by the
production fonnat as well as the participarion status. Since tlrc production format
refers to the relation of the speaker to the proposition communicatedor to the
tlgure portrayed,we take it to be an elementof the internal structure.Participation
statusrefers to the portrayedrelation betweenthe communicatingparticipantsand
their.utterances:Speakerand listener,teacherand pupil, objectsor producersof
Cutturalty patterned speaking practices
gossip,etc. Ulmer (1988: 2I) analyzedthe participation format with respect to
conversionstories and demonstratedthat the way these stories are told strongly
dependson how the participantsrelate to their participationstatusas a 'member
of a religiousgroup'. As Bergmann's(7993a:49)analysisof gossipshows,gossping
consistsof the gossip subject,the gossiprecipient and the gossip producer. The
gossipsubjectis distinguishedfrom the other two figuresby her/his status:S/he is
presentonly as someonewho is being gossipedabout.This negativedetermination
of the subjectof gossip,however,forms a constitutivefeature of this genre, as "it
is essentialthat anyone who is the subject of gossipbe absent".To give another
example:When reconstructingreproaches,narratorscan take over the interactive
role of the former producer of the reproach ("and I went: Why the hell did you
haveto treat him like this!") as well as the former addresseeof the reproach ("the
onlything she can do is reproachme over and over again:Can't you come on time.
Can't you dress neatly..."). The specific participation status (or producer or
turns out to be relevantfor the reproachreproduced:Speakerstend to
reconstructtheir own reproachesas justified, whereasreproachesfrom someone
else directed at the present speaker,are frequently reconstructedas unjustified,
and hysterical(Giinthner 1993b).
Participationframeworksmay last only for severalturns, as for instancein
producingan 'interactiveteaching'session(Keppler/Luckmann1991) participants
take on for a short period of time the roles of a 'teacher'and a 'pupil' (that is, the
onetaughtin the communicativesituation).Participationframeworks,however,can
alsolast for a longer stretch of communicativesequenceswhich, thereby, provide
the situational"co-text"of the singleutterancesand their sequencing.In his study
of customersat a German "kiosk", Schmitt (1992) demonstrateshow actors, by
routinelyproducingspecificcommunicativeforms in a certainstyle,showthemselves
to be specificcommunicativetypes.These 'presentationalfigures' are made up of
communicativeactivities which are specific for each type and which thereby
constitutelastinglocal identitiesof the setting.These communicativeactivities,of
course,are establishedwith respect to other tigures present. In a similar vein,
Goodwin's(1990) analysisof interaction among Black children documents how
socialrelationsare conventionalized(in a genderedway) by meansof disputes,citationsand stories.
Finally, the non-littgttistic social affangemetils are part of the situative
structureof communicativepatterns. This aspect involves situative elements as
resourcesof communication.Especiallythe constellationof participants in "the
of situation"playsan important role, i.e.tlrcsocio-spatial
and temporal
affangementof interactanlsas well as the action pattenw accompatryingspeaking.In
medical encounters,for instance,these social arrangementsare combined with
speechin a rather standardizedway (ten Have 1989).The genre of toasting in
CaucasianGeorgia, for instance, is always connected to a specific social
arrangement,including guestsbeing present,a meal being served and above all,
alcoholbeing on the table (Kotthoff in press).
The spatialand temporal settingsthat are characterizeoby aggregationsof
genresand patterns and by a personalof social types may be called a "socialoccasion".Hence,"socialoccasion"refersto structuredor eveninstitutionalizedactions
that are boundedin spaceand time; e.g."public criticismmeetings",which became
very popular during the Cultural Revolution in China represent such a "social
Susanne Gtinthner ttnd Hubert Knoblauch
occasion".These meetingswere organizedin a very formalizedway, the verbal (the
singingof revolutionarysongs,shoutingof particularslogans,criticizingthe accused
'monsters and demons') and non-verbal (standingup, sitting down, bringing the
accusedon stage etc.) activities being strictly prescribed.(Yuanfi(uiper/Shaogu
1990).Sherzer(1974) showshow the use of diversegenres(chiefs'chants,formal
speeches,healing sermons)among the Kuna Indiansare linked to different social
occasionsthat exhibit specific participation statusesand involve the selection of
of actors(chiefs,women,youth).Duranti's(1984)
study of speech genres on Samoa demonstrates that because there is an
interrelationshipbetweencommunicativegenresand "socialoccasions",
the analysis
of lauga (an oratory genre,which is used in ceremonialeventsas well as in political
meetings)can only be achievedby studyingthe organizationof the socialoccasions
rn which lauga is used: Whereas,in political meetingslattga is used in a rather
instrumentallyoriented mode, in ceremonialeventsthis genre happensto be a
prototypical"performanceevent"with a displayof great verbal virtuosity.
Social occasionsmay include formal (..g. political meetings,ceremonial
"gatekeepingsituations"suchas job interviewsor examinations)as well
on the situative level are thus features which are produced in the ongoing
interactionor which are at leastaccessible
to direct manipulation.Theseelements
are thus to be distinguished
from what Goffman (1983b)calls"situatedelements".
Although "situatedelements"becomerelevantin tace-to-faceinteracticln,they are
derived from structural conditions,such as socialinequality,power distribution or
Therefore,"situatedelements"are locatedon - what we call the "externalstructureof communicativegenres".
4.3. The externalstructureof cornmunicative
The external structure consists of del'initions of comntttnicativemilieus and
comtnuricatit,esiluatiortsas well as tlrc selectionof typesof ectors (according to
gender, age, status etc.) and tlrc ittstittttir.tnal
distibtuion of genres (Luckmann
Commuticotive milietts, as e.g. families, women's groups, street gangs or
student cliques,can be characterizedby the fact that a group of communicative
actorsparticipatesin recurringsclcialoccasions.
participatein recurring socialoccasionsare characterizedby their repertoire of
speakingpracticesand communicativegenres.Various ethnographicstudies of
speakingpracticesamongBlacksin the USA revealthe significance
of genres,such
Cf. also Bakhtin (1979186:62)who pointed out, elements situated on the external structure
may also be constitutive of certain pattcrns and genrcs: "Any researchwhose material is concrete
language - the history of language,normative grammar, the compilation of any kind of dictionary,
the stylistiqsof language and so forth - inevitably deals with concrete utterances (written and oral)
belonging to various spheres of human activity and communication: Chronicles, contracts, texts of
laws, clerical and other documents,various literarv, scientific,and commentarial genres,official and
personal letters, rejoinders in everydaydialogue (...) and so on.n
Culturally patterned speaking practices
asritual insultsand verbal duellingtor many Black youth cultures(Kochman 1972).
As researchwithin InterpretativeSociolinguistics
(Gumperz 1982;Erickson/Shultz
1982;Giinthner 1993a)demonstrates,
the characteristics
of ethnic milieus cannot
just be found on the level of internaland situativestructures(e.g.the organisation
of argumentation,
prosodicfeaturesto signalnew and givenintormation,recipient
signalsetc.):The functionsof genresand patternsvary too acrossethnic milieus.
In Chineseargumentation,tor instance,proverbsand idioms fulfil an important
functionin the backing of arguments:They allow speakersto demonstratetheir
knowledgeand to presenttheir own assertions
as being part of traditional
wisdom.In interculturalcommunicative
not only clashesof variousfunctionsof communicativegenresmay appear but also
of particulargenres.Whereas,in the Chinesecontext,
in the assessment
to "ornate"one'sargumentation,
academicthesisor speechwith quotesof proverbial
is highlyvaluedand appreciatedas a signof goodeducation,in the Western
contextbookson styleadviseagainstusingroutine torms and prclverbs(Gtinthner
1 9 8 8;1991) .
Even if the notion of commtuicative milieus is in need of additional
elaboration,it alreadv providesus with the link betweensocial structuresand
communicativeactivities.Gerhards (1992) describesthe structures of social
movementsin Berlin as being based on particular social occasions(political
meetingsand gatherings).By analyzingthe communicativebudget of social
such as meetingsin the local group of the 'green' social movement
Christmann(1992) demonstratedthat the communicativeinteraction in these
meetingsprovidesthe 'material basis'of what emergesas a "movement"on the
surfaceof the public media.
The externalstructureof genresalsclincludesthe selectictn
of socialcategories
of actorswho have accessto, are competent in or allowed tcl perform particular
genres.In this respect,gender-relateddifferencesin the use of communicative
genresplay an important part in many communities(Grinthner 1994b).The differentialcontrol of women and men over verbal resourcesand genresprovide an
importantarea of investigation,
alsoin termsof the significance
of the relationship
theycreatebetweendiscourseproductionand receptionby women and men, for the
of socialpower (Briggs1992:351;Gal 1989).In CaucasianGeorgia,for
the genreof "toasting"constitutesan important,ritualizedmale genreand
a centralmeansto construct"masculinity".
Toastingactivitiesmay even lead to
ritualizedcompetitionsamong men. Those men at the table who lack rhetoric
abilitiesof toasting"are consideredunmanly"(Kotthoff in press).Whereas,in informalsituations,
wornenonce in a while mziytake over the role of toast-masters,
in formalsituationsthe toast-masterhas to be a man. Women are traditionallyin
chargeof preparingand servingthe rneals:They tend to stayin the kitchen,forming
a separateand lesstormal conversation
group,immersingthemselvesin their own
Keenan(1914)demonstratesthat in a Malagasycommunitythere appears
to be a cleandivisionbetweenthe two sexesconcerningthe communicativegenres
theyuse.Whereaswomen are excludedfrom a major fbrmal genrewhich is oratory;
menare excludedfrom a seriesof speechactivitiesthat women engagein, such as
gossipand accusations.
The genresthat are attributed accordingto gender are
basedon the prevailingideologiesof women'sand men'sspeechbehavior:Women
Susanne Gtinthner and Hubert Knoblauch
are consideredto be direct and confrontative,men indirect and respectful.Thus, by
waysand usinggenderedgenres,speakersembody
usinglanguagein gender-specific
and recreate salient stereotypesabout the "nature"of women and men.23
Thus the repertoire of communicativegenresavailableto women and men
in a particular culture may be highly indexicalconcerningthe prevailing gender
ideologies (Gtinthner 7994b)za.
Next to social milietts and social categoies, the institutional distibution of
genres has turned out to be of particular analyticalimportance.The interactive
relevance of narratives in the legal system was demonstratedby Bennett and
Feldman (1981). Legal proceduresrely on communicativecompetenceto produce
storiesand make them plausibleby a) identiffing central story lines,b) portraying
their relation to symbolicrelationsin a consistentway and c) in allowing a test of
descriptiveadequacy(Bennett 1979).The acceptabilityof legal claimsseemsto be
measuredin terms of the narrativeplausibilitywhich forms part of legalprocedures,
investigations,reports, and argumentation(Seibert I99I; Hoffmann 1991).25
use of genresin Swahili law courts in coastalKenya is exploredby Hirsch (1992).
Narratives,which are particularlyassociatedwith women's speakingpracticesand
are negativelyevaluatedby the persistingideologyare mainly used by women and
thus undercuttheir speechin divorcesuits.In contrastto women'suseof narratives,
in which hardly any explicit evaluationsof the presentedeventsare uttered, men
predominantlyuse non-narrativegenres,in which they assessthe presentedevents,
provide interpretationsfor the judgesand formulate abstractrules - phrasedin the
languageof the Islamic law.
In his study of the Yakan concept of litigation, Frake (L97?) specifiesthe
place of variousverbal genreswithin different speechsituations.His descriptionof
lwkum 'litigation' is embedded in an "ethnographyof law" in this Philippine
Yuanfi(uiper/Shu's(1990)studyof formulae during the Cultural Revolution
A ri*ilur opposition between kroses'angr!', a genre which is highly confrontational and
which is associated with women, and 'an oratory genre" used by men, focussing on social harmony
and agreement is discussed by Kulick (1992) in his ethnography of speaking practices in a Gapun
community (Papua New Guinea). What is revealing about these gendered genres (laoses versus
oratories) is the fact that the obscenity-filled kross-making is negatively valued and speakers using
"krosesn are seen to have an immature personality; men's oratories - in contrast - are positively
valued and considered to be oriented to the well-being of the community. These two genres also
function as indexes of gender-related characteristica: Whereas women are associated with
individualism, atomicity and anti-social behavior, whose selfish actions constantly threaten the
community, men are seen as sociable, generous and temperate (Kulick 1992:287-288). As in the
Malagasy society, men tend to inform their wives whenever there are infractions that they have been
subjected to. The wives are then expected to perform lcrosand get publically angry. In doing so they
reinforce the stereotype of women being quarrelsome and loud-mouthed.
Hartog (Igg})who
analyzesgender roles in genetic counselling sessionsin Germany.
wh"."u. most research in this field uses the notion of pattern of scheme, in other areas of
research the notion of genre is more frequently referred to. This holds e.g. for research on oral and
written forms of scientific communication (Swales 1990; Dubois 1988), and especially for religious
Culturally patterned speaking practices
in China provides a revealingexample of how socio-politicalchangesmay affect
speakingpracticesand communicativegenresin the realm of institutionalsettings.
Before the Cultural revolution the classgreeting in Chinese schoolswas highly
ritualized.The teacherfirst greetedthe studentswith the formula tongxuemenlmo!
('studentswell'!) and the studentrespondedby laoshilmo ('teacherwell!'). This
greetingritual was accompaniedby nonverbalactivities:The studentshad to stand
up and thus pay respect to the teacher.However, during the Cultural Revolution
the traditional greeting formulae were replacedby the formula: Rang womenjing
zlu Mao zlnui wanshouwuqiang!('let us respectfullywish Mao chairman a long
life!'). The first part of the expressionrong wotnenjirtg zlw Mao zlttui was uttered
by all the studentmonitor and the secondpart wnnshottwttqiarEwas usuallyuttered
three times by all studentsas well as by the teacher.This secondpart is a dated
idiomaticexpressionand before the Cultural Revolution it was only used for the
Emperor.After the Cultural Revolutionand with China's"openingpolicy",however,
the traditionalway of greetingwas reintroducedin this institutionalcontext.
With respectto the religiousinstitutionalfield, Gunkel's (1933) research
alreadyhas shown that biblical psalmshave to be investigatedas genresof an oral
folk culture,and that the knowledgeabout the socialenvironmentof their use,the
Sitzim Leben,is a preconditionfor understandingthem. Analysesof genresnot only
make the critical evaluation of texts possible (Honko 1968): More and more
scholarsshare the opinion that the specificityof the "sacral"is most clearly expressedin language(Samarin 1987),and especiallyin the genresof religiouscommunication,such as prayers,sermons,"holy words" etc. This does not only hold for
written forms: Especiallythe New ReligiousMovements (which depend more on
oral forms of communication)are characterizedby phrases,formulas,sermonsand
othergenresthat exhibit specificfeaturesfor eachreligiousgroup (Zaretskylleone
1974). Religious genres are socially regulated forms solving the problem of
(Luckmann 1991);the strong
subjectiveexperiencesof transcendence
tendencyof crystallizationof religiousknowledgein communicativegenres- as e.g.
by verbalforms of divinatorypractices- resultsfrom the strongdemand of societies
to organizeand control subjectiveexperiencesof transcendence(Luckmann 1990).
The subjectiveexperienceof conversion,for instance,is regularlyexpressedby way
of a socially available form of conversion story. In the description of their
conversions,"converts seem to be guided by interpretation and interpretative
schemeswhich have been mediated and bestowedto them by the religiousgroup
in which they are members" (Ulmer 1988).This necessityto objectify subjective
experienceby meansof communicativepatternsthat render it plausibleholds also
for "paranormalexperience"(Danielson1983),storieson the secondface (Virtanen
1976),reports on UFO-sightings(Degh 1977), miraculous healings (Knoblauch
Studies in political anthropology also have pointed out the relevance of
genresfor the maintenanceof politicalunits.Especiallyin egalitarian
societieswhich do not have specializedpolitical institutions,political questions,
decisions,and traditions are discussedand nego tiated in the course of village
Genres of political communicationinclude ceremonialforms of speech,
suchas theswtmakke at political gatheringsof the Kuna Indians(Sherzer1974),the
highlystylizedceremonial,exclusivelymale kabaryat villagegatheringson Madagas-
Susanne Gtinthner and Hubert Knoblnuch
car, or the informal poetical genressuchas the kiyori amongthe Wana (Indonesia)
(Atkinson i984). Political speechgenresexhibit speciticfeatureson the level of the
internal structure;but their specialfunction accruesby the social,temporal and
spatialframe of the social occasionsin which they are used and by which they are
distinguishedfrorn other tbrms of every day talk (Duranti 1984).
Socialstructuresalso find expressionin written genres,as for examplein the
"official" languagedocumentsproduced in the 16th century colonial Yucatan. By
rnvokingdominant(Spanish)ideologicaland institutionalframeworks,the authors
of thesedocumentssustainedthe appearancethat they sharedthe samevaluesand
norms as their Spanishcolonizers.However,this framework is interspersedwith
many local Mayan discoursestructures.Becauseof the influenceof the Spanish
colonial power, hybrids develop which mlr Spanishand local Mayan elements
(H a n k s 1987) .
Another example,of how socialstructuresmay give rise to particulargenres,
stemsfrom Chinii. During the Song-Dynasty(960-1279)in the province of Hunan
a special"women'swriting system"was developed,which has been used right up
until the 20th century exclusivelyby women. Women used this writing systemfor a
speciticgenre, the "women'sletters" (ntishtt)which for centuriesturned out to be
a very common form of communicationamongwomen in certainparts of Hunan.
When women married,they movedinto their husbands'houseand very often were
extremelyisolated from their own family and friends, rttisltu had the function of
keepingin touch with other women: In this genrewomen narratedtheir sorrowful
experiencesin the husband'sfamily, oftered comfort, provided help and created a
female publicity. (Sternfeld 1990:24tf.). Ntislruwere written in the local dialect,
usingpaper,cotton ur fans aswritingmaterial.Thus,besidesoral lamentinggenres,
this written genrewas developed,to allow women who were very isolatedfrom their
familiesand triendsto communicatetheir grievances
and seek comfort.
The notion of genre also turns out to be useful in the analysisof media
communication.Startingfrom Labov'sschemeof narration,Montgomery (1991)
identifies radio shows as discoursegenres with fixed structures:The opening
consistingof a frame and an focus;the secondpart of a complication,a closing,an
orientationand an evaluation,leadingto a coda,and the closingsectionconsistsof
a resum6, a moral and a final framing. Alvarez-CaccamoKnoblauch's(1992)
analysisof communicativepatternsin leavingmessageson answeringmachines
revealsthat not only the outgoingmcssages
arc constitutedby stereotypical
(greeting, identification, instruction etc.) resembling minimal forms (Wojcik
are organizedaccordingto certain pat1987/88),but also the incomingmessages
weremadewith respectto electronicmail (Murray 1988).
5" Ethnotheory, linguistic ideolory and the communicativebudget
In accordancewith Hanks (1987) we argue that communicativegenres can be
treated as historicallyand culturallyspecificconventionsand ideals accordingto
which speakerscomposetalk and recipientsinterpret it. In choosinga particular
genre, a speaker makes use of culturallysegmentedsolutionsto communicative
problems,and at the same time - due to their prepatterning- genresnot only
"relieve"the speaker but also assistthe recipientsin limiting the interpretative
Cutturalty patterned speaking practices
of utterancesby relatingthem to the specificgenre.The orientation
towards generic forms is an important component of inference processesin
link their utterancesto "generalized
By usinga particulargenre,interactants
or abstractedmodelsof discourseproductionand reception".Through this kind of
(1992: 147)- in applyingBakhtin'sconceptof intertexlinkagethat Briggs,{Bauman
tuality - describeas "intertextualrelationship",texts are rendered as "ordered,
and openunified,and boundedon the one hand,and fragmented,heterogeneous,
ended on the other". By reproducing a genre, a prior discourse becomes
and the speakercreateslinksto historicaland socialconnections:
That is, s/he recontextualizesthese connectionsin the current discursivesetting.
that is, detached from their
However,genres may also be "decontexualized",
traditionalcontextualuse (Bauman,tsriggs1990).The strategiesused for creating
politicaland ideologicalfactors.
genericlinks are affectedby socio-cultural,
The interrelationshipbetween generic speaking practices and social
valuesand ideologiesmay be detectedby scrutinizingthe prevailing
"ethnotheories"of communication, i.e. members' explicit knowledge about
communicativetorms and practices.Irvine's (1979) study of speaking practices
amongthe Wolof of Senegalillustratesthe connectionbetweenethnotheoriesof
and socialstructuresin this male dominatedand hierarchicallyorganized
In this society,rhetoricalcompetenceand talk abilityare not esteemed
amongthe high rankedstatusgroups,as theseabilitiesprove a person'slow status.
Keepingsilent,on the other hand,is indicativeof belongingto the high castesand
The hierarchicalorder is produced(amongother things)by speech:Men
andwomenof lower rankstend to talk a greatdeal,whereasaristocraticmen hardly
speak at all. The latter even hire professionalspeakersto take their roles in
speaking.In Burundi, on the other hand, another caste society organized along
stronglyhierarchicallines,eloquenceis highly esteemed(Albert 1972).Young boys
of the upper castestart receivingspeechtraining at the age of ten: They are taught
an "elegant"vocabulary,"elegant" speaking manners, as well as receiving voice
trainingand lessonsin lyrics.Thus the rhetoricalabilitiesturn out to be of some
of socialhierarchies(asbetweencastesand gender).
tbr the construction
Ethnotheoriesconcerningmembers' discoursepractices(b. it that men and
membersof the noble castesare seenas lesstalkativeand lessarticulateas in the
Wolof communit),or as more talkativeand articulateas in Burundi) are alwaysto
be interpreted in the context of the prevailing cultural conceptualizationof
adequate,appropriate and valued communicativebehavior. Ethnotheories or
meansare thus closelyconnectedto the
conceptof "linguisticideology",that is "setsof beliefsabout languagearticulatedby
usersas a rationalizationor justificationor perceivedlanguagestructureand use"
1985).The relationshipbetweenthe culturallyvaryingdistributionof
communicativepatterns or genresand socialpracticesis in a complex way related
to thosesystemsof ideas,interestsand expectationsthrough which members of a
communityinterpret discursivestrategiesand communicativebehavior(Irvine 1992).
"ldeology"thus proves to be a fruitful conceptas it suggestsa connectionbetween
ideas about language and speaking practiceswith ideas about social status,
appropriateconductand power relationsand therebyforms what Silverstein(1992:
Susanne Gtinthner and Hubert Knoblauch
"Such a metadiscourseis semioticallysituated to advantagein being a mode of rationalizing
explanation, representing de-contextualizablecharacteristicsas the basis of how indexical
signs instance types of meaningfulness. Thus, any account of how individuals recruited to
the roles in semiotic events are indexed by certain linguistic forms, have this characteristic:
Women vs. men engage in, or are skilled at, distinct genres of discourse - extensional
observation - because,women are such-and-suchand men are so-and-so--intensionalization
in another etiological schema giving the 'essence'of the social category; these are the valued
Linguistic ideologiesdeterminethe "relevancestructures"(Schutz/Luckmann1973)
which give rise to the patterningof communicaticn,to genresand similar forms. The
investigationof the relation of linguisticideologies,communicativepatterns and
social structures,however,demandsan overarchingconcept.We would argue that
the communicative budget - which is conceived as the totality of communicative
processesinfluencing the permanenceand changesof society - provides such a
concept. It comprisesthe sum of communicativeprocesses that are available to
individual members,categoriesof actors,groups,milieus and institutionswithin a
society(Luckmann 1988: 284). The communicativebudget is not only a scientific
container for the existingcommunicativeforms in a particular culture. Similarly to
the concept of "linguisticfield" (Bourdieu 1991),it describesthe socialdistribution
of communicativeforms,which is affectedby the socialrelevanceof communicative
genres,ethnotheoriesand prevailinglinguisticideologiesin a particular community.
As the sketch of the external structure has shown, the communicativebudget of
modern societiesis stratifiedaccordingto ditferentdivisions:a) the dimensionof social categoriesof typical communicatorsand their interrelationship(such as, menwomen; children-adults;experts-laypersons;membersof a certain caste,classetc.);
b) the institutional domain suggestingthat there is a functional division in the
communicativebudgetof modern societiesso that 'similar'communicativeproblems
are treated differently accordingto the specificinstitutionalsphere (law, politics,
science, religion etc.); c) segmentarymilieu divisionswhich cut across various
spheres(suchas,family milieus,leisuregroups,life-stylemilieus).All three divisions
regulatethe accessof individualsto the meansof communicationand thus construct
their communicativecompetence.As Bourdieu(1991)suggests,
the accessto a particular "field" - or in our terminology:To a socialcategory,institutionaldomain and
milieu - is a decisivecriterion organizingthe budget.Accordingto Bourdieu (1991),
the power of the words dependson the power of the speakerof the words, which
is determined by her/his social location in a particular "field". In addition to this
view, one should stressthat the sociallocation of the speakeris itself constructed
communicativelyto a large extent,as his/heraccessto a certain field is built up by
communicativeactivities,i.e. by way of communicativeforms, patterns and genres.
Admittedly, this sketch is but a rough outline. Yet, it allows to understand
how genres are part of a cultural systemof signsand have "value loadings,social
distributions,and typical performancestylesaccordingto which they are shapedin
the course of utterances"(Hanks 1987: 670).Thus, the analysisof communicative
patterns and genres can prove to be an important link between language and
culture, as in the actual production of utterancesoriented to a specific genre,
speakersnot only produce culturally routinizedconventionsof communicationbut
also reconfirm, recreate or modify typified organizationalforms of communicative
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