Speech Genre Research Paper

Introduction, gossip genre, literary genre, essentially masculine genre.

A speech genre can be defined as a relatively stable type of expression that matches a specific characterized situation. Speech genres consist of daily communication activities like greetings, conversations, military commands and many more. Most speech genres are based on social, economic and relationship status between the sources of the speech and the target audience. It is important to note that, each speech genre consists of a unique tone.

However, the presenter of a speech genre is free to use accent to express individuality and is capable of mixing genres from diverse spheres. Since this is a daily conversation and communication process, the better we use genre commands, the more effective we implement an open speech plan which allows us to mix genres comfortably.

Basically, speech genre can be referred to as an utterance. It is true that utterance never comes to an end when it ends another one emergences and a response becomes an utterance to reply the previous one. Vocal statement is always created and formed as a response to previous statement/s and is always created in anticipation of a responding statement. There is no complete language, all language is sporadic, provisional unfinished and can be compared with to a connecting web of utterances. (Crowston 2000:234-238)

In this article we are going to discuss gossip as our genre and look into deep the causes and effects associated with gossiping. Mostly, the effects of gossip are normally negative and they do affect a person professionally, socially and even psychologically.

On the other hand gossip can be taken as an excellent bonding opportunity that provides an advance warning of possible potential crises with your company. They enable an individual to set his/her boundaries before in advance. Always it’s very painful; and damaging to the person who is a target of gossip. (Crowston, 2000:246)

Gossips mostly originate from one close friend who knows you in deep and discuss your characters with other on your back. They are common mostly in work place where maybe a person who originates with the gossip aims at receiving a favor and damaging other person reputation. Whenever giving rumors about the other person its good to understand the risks behind the scene, for gossips are taken as defamation and one can be convicted of a slander and be prosecuted. (Dillon, 2000:678)

For the gossip tellers its good to put in consideration some of the issues before spreading the rumors such as you have to weigh the importance a gossip is, check whether the rumor will affect someone career so if it’s a serious allegation its good to address the issue to the supervisor or the Human Resource Manager rather than gossiping about it.

Always keep it light and instead of gossiping it is good to be a trustworthy person who can keep friends secrets and in some extent company’s secrets. Always assume whatever you utter will be spread and be blamed to be the source and avoid gossiping during work hour for it can lead to disciplinary action, ensure you gossip during tea break or lunch hour.

Finally, to the gossip teller never put it in writing no matter how legitimate the allegations are, avoid using e-mails or instant messages for some organizations monitor all correspondences and it can be very risky if your boss walks in with a printed e-mail or message to be evidence against you.

With invention of new media rumors and gossip spread rate increased to thriving one. People are nowadays using internet, e-mail, social media e.g. Facebook, twitter, Skype and even mobile phones to communicate with their friends on some selected topic.

It has proofed to be very dangerous with the way news are spreading with a very short span of time and lack of identification where people use different names and holds more than one account with the email providers and the social networks making it difficult to monitor the correspondences flowing in the social sites.

We can be sure that if a gossip teller gossip to us, likely we become target audience for their gossip and there are no justifiable reasons for gossiping. Those who gossips aims at ruining reputations, injure others and for no good reason than to achieve their personal ego. For those get gossiped about are not assisted but definitely harm is being done on them.

Additionally, if any one of us is not addressing the issue directly to the person but instead we are talking about them from their back we behave and become gossipers and this makes us malicious and backstabbing persons.

To define what is genre is like to embark on a conjectural journey within a theoretical minefield. Genre theory has drawn numerous debate and contemplation throughout literary history, however several conclusions have materialized. Genre types are unfixed categories whose characteristics differ considerably additionally, the role of literary history plays an important function in genre discussion for they evolve and shift with a new literary text.

There are some ways to discuss genre although challenges thrives in any approach, the subjective nature of the literary experience calls for attention to the importance of the interaction between reader and text to provide the final word on genre.( Spinuzzi,2003:75-77)

Although there is considerable theoretical debate about the definition of specific genres, the usual definition tends to be based on the idea that words or actions within a genre share particular convections of content and context such as themes, settings structure and even style. Consequently history and culture play a major role in the ever changing status of genres which are difficult to define because of their concept.

The crime fiction genre has for long period held principle antithetic to feminism. Through the ethics these principles imply that female traits are diminished and female characters marginalized to specific duties and responsibilities in a society. In Michael Ondaatje’s forensic novel “Anil’s Ghost” and also in the Alan Moore’s graphic novel “Watchmen” female crime fighters must posses’ male characters to succeed in maintaining order and administering justice.

Equally, in John Huston’s classic noir film The Maltese Falcon and Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rear Window, female characters are shown as chauvinistic or centralized ways through the engagement of Crime Fiction conventions. The female crime fighter appears to be only successful when she adopts a certain prejudiced characters. In Anil’s Ghost this is definitely true of the eponymous crime fighters who take on the principles of the hard-boiled seeker-hero, such as Huston’s Sam Spade.

While the amateur female sleuth “has been a staple of mystery novels for generation. The professional female character is an exciting newcomer to a market which is fully dominated by males.” (Jasinski, 2001:335)This is clearly shown out by Anil, she is a loner, and her family died and is abandoned by his lover and husband. Her name serves as a metaphor for her muscles as she first purchase it of her brother ironically using her sexuality and then denies her family’s attempts to emasculate her name by adding as ‘e’ at the end of it.

The significant element of the men hard boiled crime fighter is pursuit of ladies and this is confirmed by the sexual relationship experienced between Anil and Leaf. Additionally, an apart of boiled romance is that the crime fighter is never taken in by their lovers as Anil is not accepted by Cullis and does not give in herself to be controlled by him resisting forcefully.

However, Anil is basically a female character and so her basic inability to fit the masculine principle is reflected in her critical failure to achieve justice and restore order as expected by the norms of the convection.( Jasinski,2001:320)

Masculine perception in today’s world can lead to a very serious problem. Whether a male or a female both has equal potential of securing any opportunity that comes their way in life time. A sense of denial to some women mess a lot with their performance where they believes that a man is there to work better than that.

Gender equality has brought confidence in women life and make them feels superior as a normal man. Women has been in the front war line fighting and protecting the integrity on their motherland and therefore any statement which may intended to cause gender differences is highly regretted and its important for us to utilize the media that we have both electronic and print in preaching gender equality and condemn any partiality. (Kress, 2003:45-47)

Speech genre is generally supposed to support our means of communication. The way we send a message from the sender to the audience determines how our message will be received. The theme and tone of our utterances portray perceptions that we intend to send across hence one must be keen when making statements to avoid causing harm to him/her or to the others.

Once you utter a statement you become the originator and anything that protrude from the said words you tend to bare all responsibilities. Therefore, it is true that the language is naturally dialogic direct from its contexts. The sentence or phrases becomes a systematic utterance when uttered from one context of application to another.

Crowston, K. & Williams, M. (2000). Reproduced and Emergent Genres of Communication on the World Wide Web . The Information Society 16, 201-215.

Dillon, A. & Grushrowski, B.A. (2000). “Genres and the web: Is the personal home page the first uniquely digital genre?” [ [Journal of the American Society for Information Science]] , 51(2), 202-205.

Jasinski, J.(2001). Genre: Sourcebook on Rhetoric. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Kress, G. (2003). Literacy in the New Media Age . London: Routledge.

Spinuzzi, C. (2003). Tracing genres through organizations: A sociocultural approach to information design . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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Bakhtin on Genre

Influential twentieth century Russian scholar and theorist of communication, Mikhail Bakhtin, explores the nature of genre, or social different social practices producing different kinds of text or utterance.

The wealth and diversity of speech genres are boundless because the various possibilities of human activity are inexhaustible, and because each sphere of activity contains an entire repertoire of speech genres that differentiate and grow as the particular sphere develops and becomes more complex. Special emphasis should be placed on the extreme heterogeneity of speech genres (oral and written). In fact, the category of speech genres should include short rejoinders of daily dialogue (and these are extremely varied depending on the subject matter, situation, and participants), everyday narration, writing (in all its various forms), the brief standard military command, the elaborate and detailed order, the fairly variegated repertoire of business documents (for the most part standard), and the diverse world of commentary (in the broad sense of the word: social, political).

And we must also include here the diverse forms of scientific statements and all literary genres (from the proverb to the multivolume novel). It might seem that speech genres are so heterogeneous that they do not have and cannot have a single common level at which they can be studied. For here, on one level of inquiry, appear such heterogeneous phenomena as the single-word everyday rejoinder and the multivolume novel, the military command that is standardized even in its intonation and the profoundly individual lyrical work, and so on. One might think that such functional heterogeneity makes the common features of speech genres excessively abstract and empty. This probably explains why the general problem of speech genres has never really been raised. Literary genres have been studied more than anything else. But from antiquity to the present, they have been studied in terms of their specific literary and artistic features … and not as specific types of utterances distinct from other types … . Rhetorical genres have been studied since antiquity (and not much has been added in subsequent epochs to classical theory). But here, too, the specific features of rhetorical genres (judicial, political) still overshadowed their general linguistic nature. Finally, everyday speech genres have been studied (mainly rejoinders in everyday dialogue), and from a general linguistic standpoint….

The extreme heterogeneity of speech genres and the attendant difficulty of determining the general nature of the utterance should in no way be underestimated. It is especially important here to draw attention to the very significant difference between primary (simple) and secondary (complex) speech genres (understood not as a functional difference). Secondary (complex) speech genres—novels, dramas, all kinds of scientific research, major genres of commentary, and so forth-arise in more complex and comparatively highly developed and organized cultural communication (primarily written) that is artistic, scientific, sociopolitical, and so on. During the process of their formation, they absorb and digest various primary (simple) genres that have taken form in unmediated speech communion. These primary genres are altered and assume a special character when they enter into complex ones. They lose their immediate relation to actual reality and to the real utterances of others. For example, rejoinders of everyday dialogue or letters found in a novel retain their form and their everyday significance only on the plane of the novel’s content. They enter into actual reality only via the novel as a whole, that is, as a literary-artistic event and not as everyday life. The novel as a whole is an utterance just as rejoinders in everyday dialogue or private letters are (they do have a common nature), but unlike these, the novel is a secondary (complex) utterance.

The difference between primary and secondary (ideological) genres is very great and fundamental, but this is precisely why the nature of the utterance should be revealed and defined through analysis of both types. The very interrelations between primary and secondary genres and the process of the historical formation of the latter shed light on the nature of the utterance (and above all on the complex problem of the interrelations among language, ideology, and world view).

A study of the nature of the utterance and of the diversity of generic forms of utterances in various spheres of human activity is immensely important to almost all areas of linguistics and philology. A clear idea of the nature of the utterance in general and of the peculiarities of the various types of utterances (primary and secondary), that is, of various speech genres, is necessary, we think, for research in any special area. To ignore the nature of the utterance or to fail to consider the peculiarities of generic subcategories of speech in any area of linguistic study leads to perfunctoriness and excessive abstractness, distorts the historicity of the research, and weakens the link between language and life. After all, language enters life through concrete utterances (which manifest language) and life enters language through concrete utterances as well. The utterance is an exceptionally important node of problems.

Bakhtin, M. Speech Genres & Other Late Essays, (trans. by Vern W. McGee) . Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1986, pp. 60-63. || Amazon || WorldCat

Table of Contents

Collaboration, information literacy, writing process.

  • © 2023 by Joseph M. Moxley - University of South Florida

Genre may reference  a type of writing, art, or musical composition; socially-agreed upon expectations about how writers and speakers should respond to particular rhetorical situations; the cultural values; the epistemological assumptions about what constitutes a knowledge claim or authoritative research method; the discourse conventions of a particular discourse community . This article reviews research and theory on 6 different definitions of genre, explains how to engage in genre analysis, and explores when during the writing process authors should consider genre conventions. Develop your genre knowledge so you can discern which genres are appropriate to use—and when you need to remix genres to ensure your communications are both clear and persuasive.

tiny tin men made from old parts

Genre Definition

G enre may refer to

  • by the  aim  of discourse
  • by discourse conventions
  • by  discourse communities
  • by a type of technology
  • a social construct
  • the situated actions of writers and readers
  • the situated practices and epistemological assumptions of discourse communities
  • a form of  literacy .

Related Concepts: Deductive Order, Deductive Reasoning, Deductive Writing ; Interpretation ; Literacy ; Mode of Discourse ; Organizational Schema; Rhetorical Analysis ; Rhetorical Reasoning ; Voice ; Tone ; Persona

Genre Knowledge – What You Need to Know about Genre

Genre plays a foundational role in meaning-making activities, including interpretation , reading , writing, and speaking.

In order to communicate with clarity , writers and speakers need to understand the expectations of their audiences regarding the appropriate content, style, design, citation style, and medium. Genres facilitate communication between writers and readers, authors and audiences, and writers/speakers and readers/listeners. Genre and genre knowledge increase the likelihood of clarity in communications .

Writers use their knowledge of genre to jumpstart composing: a genre presumes a formula for how to organize a document, how to develop and present a research question , how to substantiate claims–and more. For writers, genres are an efficient way to respond to recurring situations . Rather than reinvent the wheel every time, writers save time by considering how others have responded in the same or a similar situation . Genres are like big Lego chunks that can be re-used to start a new Lego creation that is similar to past Lego creations you’ve created.

In turn, readers use genres to more quickly scan information . Because they know the formula, because they share with the author as members of a discourse community a common language, common topoi , archive , canonical texts , and expectations about what to say and how to say it in, they can skip through a document and grab the highlights.

Six Definitions of Genre

1. genre refers to a naming and categorization scheme for sorting types of writing.

“… [L]et me define “genres” as types of writing produced every day in our culture, types of writing that make possible certain kinds of learning and social interaction.” (Cooper 1999, p. 25)

G enre  refers to types of writing, art, and musical compositions. For instance

  • alphabetical texts may be categorized as Expository Writing, Descriptive Writing, Persuasive Writing, or Narrative Writing .
  • movies may be categorized as Action & Adventure, Children & Family Movies, Comedies, Documentaries, Dramas.
  • music may be categorized as Artist, Album, Country, New Age, Jazz, and so on.

There are many different ways to define and sort genres. For instance, genres may defined based on their content, organization, and style. Or, genres may be defined and categorized based on

  • Examples: Drama, Fable, Fairy Tale, etc.
  • Move 1 Establish a territory
  • Move 2 Establish a niche
  • Move 3 Occupy the niche (Swales and Feak 2004)
  • A research article written for a scientific audience most likely uses some for of an “IMRAC structure”–i.e., an introduction, methods, results, and conclusion
  • An article in the sciences and social sciences would use APA  style for citations
  • by the type of technology used by the sender and the receiver of the information.

speech genre definition

2. Genre is a Social Construct

“Genres are conventions, and that means they are social – socially defined and socially learned.” (Bomer 1995:112) “… [A] genre is a socially standard strategy, embodied in a typical form of discourse, that has evolved for responding to a recurring type of rhetorical situation.” (Coe and Freedman 1998, p. 137)

Genre is more than a way to sort types of texts by discourse aim or some other classification scheme: Genres are social, cultural, rhetorical constructs. For example,

  • writers draw on their expectations about what they believe their readers will know about a genre–how it’s structured ( what it’s formula is! ) and when it’s socially useful.
  • readers draw on their past experiences as readers and as members of particular discourse communities. They hold expectations about the appropriate use of particular textual patterns in specific situations.

Or, consider this example: in the social situation of seeking a job, an applicant knows from  the archive , the culture,  the conversations about job seeking , that they are expected to create a  letter of application  and a  résumé . More than that, they know the  point of view  they are to take as well as the  tone –and more.

Writers and readers develop textual expectations tacitly — by reading and speaking with others — and formally: by studying genres in school. Students are inculcated in textual practices of particular disciplines (e.g., engineering or biology) as part of their academic and professional training.

3. Genres Reflect the Situated Actions of Writers and Readers

“a rhetorically sound definition of genre must be centered not on the substance or the form of discourse but on the action it is used to accomplish” (Miller 1984, p. 151)

Carolyn Miller (1984) extends this social view of genre in her article Genre as Social Action by operationalizing genre from a rhetorical perspective. Miller asserts genres are the embodiment of situated actions. In her rhetorical model of genre, Miller theorizes

  • writers enter a rhetorical situation guided by aims (e.g., to persuade users to support a proposal ). The writer assesses the rhetorical situation (e.g., considers audience , purpose , voice , style ) to more fully understand the situation and the motives of stakeholders.
  • For instance, a researcher could dip into a research study seeking empirical support for a claim . A graphic designer could open a magazine looking for layout ideas.

4. Genres Embody the Situated Practices and Values of Discourse Communities

“Genre not only allows the scholar to report her research, but its conventions and constraints also give structure to the actual investigations she is reporting” (Joliffe 1996, p. 283).

The textual practices of discourse communities reflect the epistemological assumptions of practitioners regarding what constitutes an appropriate rhetorical stance , research method , or knowledge claim . For instance, a scientist doesn’t insert their subjective opinions into the methods section of a lab report because they understand their audience expect them to follow empirical methods and an academic writing prose style

Academic documents, business documents, legal briefs, medical records—these sorts of texts are grounded in the situated practices of members of particular discourse communities . Practitioners — e.g., scientists in a research lab, accountants in an accountancy firm, or engineers in an engineering firm— share assumptions, conventions, and values about how documents should be researched, written, and shared. Discourse communities develop unique ways of communicating with one another. Their daily work, their situated practices, reflect their assumptions about what constitutes knowledge , appropriate research methods, or authoritative sources . Genres reflect the values of communities . They provide a roadmap to rhetors for how to engage with community members in expected ways. (For more on this, see Research ).

5. Genre Knowledge Constitutes a Form of Literacy

Genres  are created in the forge of recurring  rhetorical situations . Particular  exigencies  call for particular  genres . Applying for a job? Well, then, a résumé and cover letter are called for. Trying to report on an experiment in organic chemistry? Well, then a lab report is due. Thus, being able to recognize which  genre  is called for by  a particular exigency, a particular call to write , is  a form of literacy : If you’re unfamiliar with a genre and your reader’s expectations for that genre, then you may as well be from mars.

Genre Analysis – How to Engage in Genre Analysis

When we enter a rhetorical situation , guided by a sense of purpose like an explorer clutching a compass, we invariably compare the present situation to past situations. We reflect on whether we have read the work of other writers who have also addressed the same or somewhat equivalent rhetorical situation , the topic, we’re facing. If you have a proposal due, for instance, it helps to look at some samples of past proposals–particularly if you can access proposals funded by the organization from whom you are seeking support. 

For genre theorists, these are acts of typification –a moment where we typify a situation: “What recurs is not a material situation (a real, objective, factual event) but our construal of a type” (Miller 157).

In other words, genres are conceptual tools, ways we relate situated actions to recurring rhetorical situations. When first entering a situation, we assess whether this is a recurring rhetorical situation and whether past responses will work equally well for this new situation—or if we’ll need to tweak our response, our text, a bit. For instance, if applying for a job, you might look at previous drafts of job application letters

Genres are like prefabricated Lego pieces that we can use to jumpstart a new Lego masterpiece.

We abbreviate the experiences of our lives by creating idealized versions–i.e., metatexts that capture the gist of those experiences. Or, we access the archive , or our memory of the archive, and seek exemplars — canonical texts , the works of others who addressed similar exigencies , similar rhetorical situations.

To make this less abstract, let’s consider what might go through the mind of a writer who wants to write a New Year’s party invitation. If the writer were an American, they might reflect on the ritual ball drop in Times Square in New York City. They might recall past texts associated with New Year’s celebrations (party invitations, menus, greeting cards, party hats, songs, and resolutions) as well as rituals (fireworks, champagne, or a New Year’s kiss). They might even conduct an internet search for New Year’s Eve party invitations or download a party template from Google Docs or Microsoft Word. Over time, that writer’s sense of the ideal New Year’s party invitation becomes typified —a condensation of the texts and rituals and stories.

Because we tend to have unique experiences and because we have different personalities, motives, and aims , our sense of an ideal New Year’s Eve invitation might be somewhat different from those of our friends and family—or even the broader society. Rather than assuming it’s a good time to go out and party and dance, you may think it’s a good time to stay home and meditate. After all, as writers, we experience events, texts and rituals subjectively and uniquely. Thus, we don’t all have the same ideas about what should happen at a New Year’s party or even what the best party invite should look like. Still, when we sit down to write a party invitation for New Year’s Eve, this is a reoccurring situation for us, and we cannot help but be influenced by all of the past invitations we’ve received, what our friends and loved ones have recommended, and what we see online for party invite templates (if we engage in strategic searching).

Sample Genre Analysis

Below are some sample questions and perspectives you may consider when engaging in Genre Analysis.

1. When During Composing Should I Engage in Genre Analysis?

Early in the writing process — during prewriting — you are wise to identify the genre your audience expects you to follow. Then, engage in strategic searching to identify exemplars and canonical texts that typify the genre.

Next, you might begin your first draft by outlining the sections of discourse associated with the genre you’re writing in. For example, if you are writing an Aristotelian argument for a school paper, you might jumpstart your first draft by listing the rhetorical moves associated with Aristotelian argument as your subject headings:

  • Introduce the Topic
  • Introduce Claims
  • Appeal to Ethos & Persona to Establish an Appropriate Tone
  • Appeal to Emotions
  • Appeal to Logic
  • Present Counterarguments
  • Search for a Compromise and Call for a Higher Interest
  • Speculate About Implications in Conclusions

That said, it’s important to note that some people prefer not to think about genre at all during drafting. Research in writing studies has found that there is no single, ideal writing process . Instead, our personalities, rhetorical stance , openness to information , rhetorical situation (e.g., contextual factors such as time available and access to information )–and more — influence how we compose.

You may not want to think much about genre when

  • You’re the type of writer who needs to write your way to meaning. For you, writing is rewriting
  • Your audience may have specific expectations in mind that you haven’t addressed. You may be unfamiliar with how other writers have addressed that situation in the past. You may lack access to the information you need to research how others typically respond to the rhetorical situation you are facing

In summary, thinking about genre and reading the works of other writers addressing similar rhetorical situations will probably help you jumpstart a writing project. However, at the end of the day, only you can decide how to work with genres of discourse.

speech genre definition

Coe, R., & Freedman, A. (1998). Genre theory: Australian and North American approaches. In M. L. Kennedy (ed), Theorizing composition: A critical sourcebook of theory and scholarship in contemporary composition studies (p p. 136-147). Greenwood Press.

Joliffe, D. A. (1996). Genre. In T. Enos (ed), Encyclopedia of rhetoric and composition: Communication from ancient times to the information age (pp . 279-284). Garland Publishing.

Miller, R. (1984). Genre as social action. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70 , 151-167.

Swales, J., & C. Feak (2004). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential tasks and skills . University of Michigan Press

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  • 5.6 Editing Focus: Verb Tense Consistency
  • 5.7 Evaluation: Text as Personal Introduction
  • 5.8 Spotlight on … Profiling a Cultural Artifact
  • 5.9 Portfolio: Subject as a Reflection of Self
  • 6.1 Proposing Change: Thinking Critically About Problems and Solutions
  • 6.2 Proposal Trailblazer: Atul Gawande
  • 6.3 Glance at Genre: Features of Proposals
  • 6.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Slowing Climate Change” by Shawn Krukowski
  • 6.5 Writing Process: Creating a Proposal
  • 6.6 Editing Focus: Subject-Verb Agreement
  • 6.7 Evaluation: Conventions, Clarity, and Coherence
  • 6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career
  • 6.9 Portfolio: Reflecting on Problems and Solutions
  • 7.1 Thumbs Up or Down?
  • 7.2 Review Trailblazer: Michiko Kakutani
  • 7.3 Glance at Genre: Criteria, Evidence, Evaluation
  • 7.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Black Representation in Film" by Caelia Marshall
  • 7.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Entertainment
  • 7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations
  • 7.7 Evaluation: Effect on Audience
  • 7.8 Spotlight on … Language and Culture
  • 7.9 Portfolio: What the Arts Say About You
  • 8.1 Information and Critical Thinking
  • 8.2 Analytical Report Trailblazer: Barbara Ehrenreich
  • 8.3 Glance at Genre: Informal and Formal Analytical Reports
  • 8.4 Annotated Student Sample: "U.S. Response to COVID-19" by Trevor Garcia
  • 8.5 Writing Process: Creating an Analytical Report
  • 8.6 Editing Focus: Commas with Nonessential and Essential Information
  • 8.7 Evaluation: Reviewing the Final Draft
  • 8.8 Spotlight on … Discipline-Specific and Technical Language
  • 8.9 Portfolio: Evidence and Objectivity
  • 9.1 Breaking the Whole into Its Parts
  • 9.2 Rhetorical Analysis Trailblazer: Jamil Smith
  • 9.3 Glance at Genre: Rhetorical Strategies
  • 9.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Rhetorical Analysis: Evicted by Matthew Desmond” by Eliana Evans
  • 9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric
  • 9.6 Editing Focus: Mixed Sentence Constructions
  • 9.7 Evaluation: Rhetorical Analysis
  • 9.8 Spotlight on … Business and Law
  • 9.9 Portfolio: How Thinking Critically about Rhetoric Affects Intellectual Growth
  • 10.1 Making a Case: Defining a Position Argument
  • 10.2 Position Argument Trailblazer: Charles Blow
  • 10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence
  • 10.4 Annotated Sample Reading: "Remarks at the University of Michigan" by Lyndon B. Johnson
  • 10.5 Writing Process: Creating a Position Argument
  • 10.6 Editing Focus: Paragraphs and Transitions
  • 10.7 Evaluation: Varied Appeals
  • 10.8 Spotlight on … Citation
  • 10.9 Portfolio: Growth in the Development of Argument
  • 11.1 Developing Your Sense of Logic
  • 11.2 Reasoning Trailblazer: Paul D. N. Hebert
  • 11.3 Glance at Genre: Reasoning Strategies and Signal Words
  • 11.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Book VII of The Republic by Plato
  • 11.5 Writing Process: Reasoning Supported by Evidence
  • 12.1 Introducing Research and Research Evidence
  • 12.2 Argumentative Research Trailblazer: Samin Nosrat
  • 12.3 Glance at Genre: Introducing Research as Evidence
  • 12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran
  • 12.5 Writing Process: Integrating Research
  • 12.6 Editing Focus: Integrating Sources and Quotations
  • 12.7 Evaluation: Effectiveness of Research Paper
  • 12.8 Spotlight on … Bias in Language and Research
  • 12.9 Portfolio: Why Facts Matter in Research Argumentation
  • 13.1 The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources
  • 13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources
  • 13.3 Glance at the Research Process: Key Skills
  • 13.4 Annotated Student Sample: Research Log
  • 13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log
  • 13.6 Spotlight on … Ethical Research
  • 14.1 Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography
  • 14.2 Glance at Form: Citation Style, Purpose, and Formatting
  • 14.3 Annotated Student Sample: “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth” by Lily Tran
  • 14.4 Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing
  • 15.1 Tracing a Broad Issue in the Individual
  • 15.2 Case Study Trailblazer: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
  • 15.3 Glance at Genre: Observation, Description, and Analysis
  • 15.4 Annotated Sample Reading: Case Study on Louis Victor "Tan" Leborgne
  • 15.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About How People and Language Interact
  • 15.6 Editing Focus: Words Often Confused
  • 15.7 Evaluation: Presentation and Analysis of Case Study
  • 15.8 Spotlight on … Applied Linguistics
  • 15.9 Portfolio: Your Own Uses of Language
  • 3 Unit Introduction
  • 16.1 An Author’s Choices: What Text Says and How It Says It
  • 16.2 Textual Analysis Trailblazer: bell hooks
  • 16.3 Glance at Genre: Print or Textual Analysis
  • 16.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Artists at Work" by Gwyn Garrison
  • 16.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Text
  • 16.6 Editing Focus: Literary Works Live in the Present
  • 16.7 Evaluation: Self-Directed Assessment
  • 16.8 Spotlight on … Humanities
  • 16.9 Portfolio: The Academic and the Personal
  • 17.1 “Reading” Images
  • 17.2 Image Trailblazer: Sara Ludy
  • 17.3 Glance at Genre: Relationship Between Image and Rhetoric
  • 17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis
  • 17.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically and Writing Persuasively About Images
  • 17.6 Editing Focus: Descriptive Diction
  • 17.7 Evaluation: Relationship Between Analysis and Image
  • 17.8 Spotlight on … Video and Film
  • 17.9 Portfolio: Interplay Between Text and Image
  • 18.1 Mixing Genres and Modes
  • 18.2 Multimodal Trailblazer: Torika Bolatagici
  • 18.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Celebrating a Win-Win” by Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
  • 18.5 Writing Process: Create a Multimodal Advocacy Project
  • 18.6 Evaluation: Transitions
  • 18.7 Spotlight on . . . Technology
  • 18.8 Portfolio: Multimodalism
  • 19.1 Writing, Speaking, and Activism
  • 19.2 Podcast Trailblazer: Alice Wong
  • 19.3 Glance at Genre: Language Performance and Visuals
  • 19.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Are New DOT Regulations Discriminatory?” by Zain A. Kumar
  • 19.5 Writing Process: Writing to Speak
  • 19.6 Evaluation: Bridging Writing and Speaking
  • 19.7 Spotlight on … Delivery/Public Speaking
  • 19.8 Portfolio: Everyday Rhetoric, Rhetoric Every Day
  • 20.1 Thinking Critically about Your Semester
  • 20.2 Reflection Trailblazer: Sandra Cisneros
  • 20.3 Glance at Genre: Purpose and Structure
  • 20.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Don’t Expect Congrats” by Dale Trumbore
  • 20.5 Writing Process: Looking Back, Looking Forward
  • 20.6 Editing Focus: Pronouns
  • 20.7 Evaluation: Evaluating Self-Reflection
  • 20.8 Spotlight on … Pronouns in Context

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify key genre conventions, including structure, tone, and mechanics.
  • Implement common formats and design features for different text types.
  • Demonstrate how genre conventions vary and are shaped by purpose, culture, and expectation.

The multimodal genres of writing are based on the idea that modes work in different ways, with different outcomes, to create various vehicles for communication. By layering, or combining, modes, an author can make meaning and communicate through mixed modes what a single mode cannot on its own. Essentially, modes “cooperate” to communicate the author’s intent as they interweave meanings captured by each.

For example, think of a public service announcement about environmental conservation. A composer can create a linguistic text about the dangers of plastic pollution in oceans and support the ideas with knowledge of or expertise in the subject. Yet words alone may not communicate the message forcefully, particularly if the audience consists of people who have never considered the impact of pollution on the oceans. That composer, then, might combine the text with images of massive amounts of human-generated plastic waste littering a shoreline, thus strengthening the argument and enhancing meaning by touching on audience emotions. By using images to convey some of the message, the composer layers modes. The picture alone does not tell the whole story, but when combined with informational text, it enhances the viewer’s understanding of the issue. Modes, therefore, can be combined in various ways to communicate a rhetorical idea effectively.

Audience Awareness

As with any type of composition, knowing your audience (the readers and viewers for whom you are creating) will help you determine what information to include and what genre, mode(s), or media in which to present it. Consider your audience when choosing a composition’s tone (composer’s attitude toward the audience or subject), substance, and language. Considering the audience is critical not only in traditional academic writing but also in nearly any genre or mode you choose. Ask yourself these questions when analyzing your audience’s awareness:

  • What (and how much) does the audience already know about the topic? The amount of background information needed can influence what genre, modes, and media types you include and how you use them. You don’t want to bore an audience with information that is common knowledge or overwhelm an audience with information they know nothing about.
  • What is the audience’s viewpoint on the subject? Are you creating for a skeptical audience or one that largely agrees with your rhetorical arguments?
  • How do you relate to your audience? Do you share cultural understanding, or are you presenting information or beliefs that will be unfamiliar? This information will help you shape the message, tone, and structure of the composition.

Understanding your audience allows you to choose rhetorical devices that reflect ethos (appeals to ethics: credibility), logos (appeals to logic: reason), and pathos (appeals to sympathy: emotion) to create contextually responsive compositions through multiple modes.

It important to address audience diversity in all types of composition, but the unique aspects of multimodal composition present particular opportunities and challenges. First, when you compose, you do so through your own cultural filter, formed from your experiences, gender, education, and other factors. Multimodal composition opens up the ability to develop your cultural filter through various methods. Think about images of your lived experiences, videos capturing cultural events, or even gestures in live performances. Also consider the diversity of your audience members and how that affects the content choices you make during composition. Avoiding ethnocentrism —the assumption that the customs, values, and beliefs of your culture are superior to others—is an important consideration when addressing your audience, as is using bias-free language, especially regarding ethnicity, gender, and abilities.

Blogs, Vlogs, and Creative Compositions

Among the modes available to you as a composer, blogs (regularly updated websites, usually run by an individual or a small group) have emerged as a significant genre in digital literature. The term blog , a combination of web and log , was coined in 1999 and gained rapid popularity in the early 2000s. In general, blogs have a relatively narrow focus on a topic or argument and present a distinctive structure that includes these features:

  • A headline or title draws in potential readers. Headlines are meant to grab attention, be short, and accurately reflect the content of the blog post.
  • An introduction hooks the reader, briefly introducing the topic and establishing the author’s credibility on the subject.
  • Short paragraphs often are broken up by images, videos, or other media to make meaning and supplement or support the text content.
  • The narrative is often composed in a style in which the author claims or demonstrates expertise.
  • Media such as images, video, and infographics depict information graphically and break up text.
  • Hyperlinks (links to other internet locations) to related content often serve as evidence supporting the author’s claim.
  • A call to action provides clear and actionable instructions that engage the reader.

Blogs offer accessibility and an opportunity to make meaning in new ways. By integrating images and audiovisual media, you can develop a multimodal representation of arguments and ideas. Blogs also provide an outlet for conveying ideas through both personal and formal narratives and are used frequently in industries from entertainment to scientific research to government organizations.

Newer in the family of multimodal composition is the video blog, or vlog , a blog for which the medium is video. Vlogs usually combine video embedded in a website with supporting text, images, or other modes of communication. Vlogging often takes on a narrative structure, similar to other types of storytelling, with the added element of supplementary audio and video, including digital transitions that connect one idea or scene to another. Vlogs offer ample opportunities to mix modalities.

Vlogs give a literal voice to a composer, who typically narrates or speaks directly to the camera. Like a blogger, a vlog creator acts as an expert, telling a narrative story or using rhetoric to argue a point. Vlogs often strive to create an authentic and informal tone, similar to published blogs, inviting a stream-of-consciousness or interview-like style. Therefore, they often work well when targeted toward audiences for whom a casual mood is valuable and easily understood.

Other creative compositions include websites, digital or print newsletters, podcasts, and a wide variety of other content. Each composition type has its own best practices regarding structure and organization, often depending on the chosen modalities, the way they are used, and the intended audience. Whatever the mode, however, all multimodal writing has several characteristics in common, beginning with effective, intentional composition.

Effective Writing

Experimenting with modes and media is not an excuse for poorly developed writing that lacks focus, organization, thought, purpose, or attention to mechanics. Although multimodal compositions offer flexibility of expression, the content still must be presented in well-crafted, organized, and purposeful ways that reflect the author’s purpose and the audience’s needs.

  • To be well-crafted, a composition should reflect the author’s use of literary devices to convey meaning, use of relevant connections, and acknowledgment of grammar and writing conventions.
  • To be organized, a composition should reflect the author’s use of effective transitions and a logical structure appropriate to the chosen mode.
  • To be purposeful, a composition should show that the author addresses the needs of the audience, uses rhetorical devices that advance the argument, and offers insightful understanding of the topic.

Organization of multimodal compositions refers to the sequence of message elements. You must decide which ideas require attention, how much and in what order, and which modalities create maximum impact on readers. While many types of formal and academic writing follow a prescribed format, or at least the general outline of one, the exciting and sometimes overwhelming features of multimodal possibilities open the door to any number of acceptable formats. Some of these are prescribed, and others more open ended; your job will inevitably be to determine when to follow a template and when to create something new. As the composer, you seek to structure media in ways that will enable the reader, or audience, to derive meaning. Even small changes in media, rhetorical appeal, and organization can alter the ways in which the audience participates in the construction of meaning.

Within a medium—for example, a video—you might include images, audio, and text. By shifting the organization, placement, and interaction among the modes, you change the structure of the video and therefore create varieties of meaning. Now, imagine you use that same structure of images, audio, and text, but change the medium to a slideshow. The impact on the audience will likely change with the change in medium. Consider the infamous opening scene of the horror movie The Shining (1980). The primary medium, video, shows a car driving through a mountainous region. After audio is added, however, the meaning of the multimodal composition changes, creating an emphasis on pace—management of dead air—and tone—attitude toward the subject—that communicates something new to the audience.

Exploring the Genre

These are the key terms and characteristics of multimodal texts.

  • Alignment: the way in which elements such as text features, images, and particularly text are placed on a page. Text can be aligned at the left, center, or right. Alignment contributes to organization and how media transitions within a text.
  • Audience: readers or viewers of the composition.
  • Channel: a medium used to communicate a message. Often-used channels include websites, blogs, social media, print, audio, and video-hosting sites.
  • Complementary: describes content that is different across two or more modes, both of which are necessary for understanding. Often audio and visual modes are complementary, with one making the other more meaningful.
  • Emphasis: the elements in media that are most significant or pronounced. The emphasis choices have a major impact on the overall meaning of the text.
  • Focus: a clear purpose for composition, also called the central idea, main point, or guiding principle. Focus should include the specific audience the composer is trying to influence.
  • Layering: combining modes in a single composition.
  • Layout: the organization of elements on a page, including text, images, shapes, and overall composition. Layout applies primarily to the visual mode.
  • Media: the means and channels of reaching an audience (for example, image, website, song). A medium (singular form of media ) can contain multiple modes.
  • Mode: the method of communication (linguistic, visual, audio, or spatial means of creating meaning). Media can incorporate more than one mode.
  • Organization: the pattern of arrangement that allows a reader to understand text or images in a composition. Organization may be textual, visual, or spatial.
  • Proximity: the relationship between objects in space, specifically how close to or far from one another they are. Proximity can show a relationship between elements and is often important in layout.
  • Purpose: an author’s reason for writing a text, including the reasoning that accounts for which modes of presentation to use. Composers of multimodal texts may seek to persuade, inform, or entertain the audience.
  • Repetition: a unifying feature, such as a pattern used more than once, in the way in which elements (text features, typeface, color, etc.) are used on a page. Repetition often indicates emphasis or a particular theme. Repetitions and patterns can help focus a composition, explore a theme, and emphasize important points.
  • Supplementary: describes content that is different in two or more modes, where a composer uses one mode to convey primary understanding and the other(s) to support or extend understanding. Supplementary content should not be thought of as “extra,” for its purpose is to expand on the primary media.
  • Text: written words. In multimodal composition, text can refer to a piece of communication as a whole, incorporating written words, images, sounds, and movement.
  • Tone: the composer’s attitude toward the subject and/or the audience.
  • Transitions: words, phrases, or audiovisual elements that help readers make connections between ideas in a multimodal text, including connections from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, and mode to mode. Transitions show relationships between ideas and help effectively organize a composition.

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Literacy and Genre

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The word “genre” was rarely used with respect to literacy, at least in the sense of composition theory and pedagogy, until the late 1980’s. “Genre,” as a term, was reserved largely for literary texts, and was understood to refer to “text-types” — categories of texts marked by linguistic and formal similarities.

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Freedman, A., Richardson, P. (1997). Literacy and Genre. In: Van Lier, L., Corson, D. (eds) Encyclopedia of Language and Education. Encyclopedia of Language and Education, vol 6. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-011-4533-6_14

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Definition of Genre

Genre originates from the French word meaning kind or type. As a literary device, genre refers to a form, class, or type of literary work. The primary genres in literature are poetry, drama / play , essay , short story , and novel . The term genre is used quite often to denote literary sub-classifications or specific types of literature such as comedy , tragedy , epic poetry, thriller , science fiction , romance , etc.

It’s important to note that, as a literary device, the genre is closely tied to the expectations of readers. This is especially true for literary sub-classifications. For example, Jane Austen ’s work is classified by most as part of the romance fiction genre, as demonstrated by this quote from her novel Sense and Sensibility :

When I fall in love, it will be forever.

Though Austen’s work is more complex than most formulaic romance novels, readers of Austen’s work have a set of expectations that it will feature a love story of some kind. If a reader found space aliens or graphic violence in a Jane Austen novel, this would undoubtedly violate their expectations of the romantic fiction genre.

Difference Between Style and Genre

Although both seem similar, the style is different from the genre. In simple terms, style means the characters or features of the work of a single person or individual. However, the genre is the classification of those words into broader categories such as modernist, postmodernist or short fiction and novels, and so on. Genres also have sub-genre, but the style does not have sub-styles. Style usually have further features and characteristics.

Common Examples of Genre

Genres could be divided into four major categories which also have further sub-categories. The four major categories are given below.

  • Poetry: It could be categorized into further sub-categories such as epic, lyrical poetry, odes , sonnets , quatrains , free verse poems, etc.
  • Fiction : It could be categorized into further sub-categories such as short stories, novels, skits, postmodern fiction, modern fiction, formal fiction, and so on.
  • Prose : It could be further categorized into sub-genres or sub-categories such as essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, autobiography , biographical writings, and so on.
  • Drama: It could be categorized into tragedy, comedy, romantic comedy, absurd theatre, modern play, and so on.

Common Examples of Fiction Genre

In terms of literature, fiction refers to the prose of short stories, novellas , and novels in which the story originates from the writer’s imagination. These fictional literary forms are often categorized by genre, each of which features a particular style, tone , and storytelling devices and elements.

Here are some common examples of genre fiction and their characteristics:

  • Literary Fiction : a work with artistic value and literary merit.
  • Thriller : features dark, mysterious, and suspenseful plots.
  • Horror : intended to scare and shock the reader while eliciting a sense of terror or dread; may feature scary entities such as ghosts, zombies, evil spirits, etc.
  • Mystery : generally features a detective solving a case with a suspenseful plot and slowly revealing information for the reader to piece together.
  • Romance : features a love story or romantic relationship; generally lighthearted, optimistic, and emotionally satisfying.
  • Historical : plot takes place in the past with balanced realism and creativity; can feature actual historical figures, events, and settings.
  • Western : generally features cowboys, settlers, or outlaws of the American Old West with themes of the frontier.
  • Bildungsroman : story of a character passing from youth to adulthood with psychological and/or moral growth; the character becomes “educated” through loss, a journey, conflict , and maturation.
  • Science Fiction : speculative stories derived and/or inspired by natural and social sciences; generally features futuristic civilizations, time travel, or space exploration.
  • Dystopian : sub-genre of science fiction in which the story portrays a setting that may appear utopian but has a darker, underlying presence that is problematic.
  • Fantasy : speculative stories with imaginary characters in imaginary settings; can be inspired by mythology or folklore and generally include magical elements.
  • Magical Realism : realistic depiction of a story with magical elements that are accepted as “normal” in the universe of the story.
  • Realism : depiction of real settings, people, and plots as a means of approaching the truth of everyday life and laws of nature.

Examples of Writers Associated with Specific Genre Fiction

Writers are often associated with a specific genre of fictional literature when they achieve critical acclaim, public notoriety, and/or commercial success with readers for a particular work or series of works. Of course, this association doesn’t limit the writer to that particular genre of fiction. However, being paired with a certain type of literature can last for an author’s entire career and beyond.

Here are some examples of writers that have become associated with specific fiction genre:

  • Stephen King: horror
  • Ray Bradbury : science fiction
  • Jackie Collins: romance
  • Toni Morrison: black feminism
  • John le Carré: espionage
  • Philippa Gregory: historical fiction
  • Jacqueline Woodson: racial identity fiction
  • Philip Pullman: fantasy
  • Flannery O’Connor: Southern Gothic
  • Shel Silverstein: children’s poetry
  • Jonathan Swift : satire
  • Larry McMurtry: western
  • Virginia Woolf: feminism
  • Raymond Chandler: detective fiction
  • Colson Whitehead: Afrofuturism
  • Gabriel García Márquez : magical realism
  • Madeleine L’Engle: children’s fantasy fiction
  • Agatha Christie : mystery
  • John Green : young adult fiction
  • Margaret Atwood: dystopian

Famous Examples of Genre in Other Art Forms

Most art forms feature genre as a means of identifying, differentiating, and categorizing the many forms and styles within a particular type of art. Though there are many crossovers when it comes to genre and no finite boundaries, most artistic works within a particular genre feature shared patterns , characteristics, and conventions.

Here are some famous examples of genres in other art forms:

  • Music : rock, country, hip hop, folk, classical, heavy metal, jazz, blues
  • Visual Art : portrait, landscape, still life, classical, modern, impressionism, expressionism
  • Drama : comedy, tragedy, tragicomedy , melodrama , performance, musical theater, illusion
  • Cinema : action, horror, drama, romantic comedy, western, adventure , musical, documentary, short, biopic, fantasy, superhero, sports

Examples of Genre in Literature

As a literary device, the genre is like an implied social contract between writers and their readers. This does not mean that writers must abide by all conventions associated with a specific genre. However, there are organizational patterns within a genre that readers tend to expect. Genre expectations allow readers to feel familiar with the literary work and help them to organize the information presented by the writer. In addition, keeping with genre conventions can establish a writer’s relationship with their readers and a framework for their literature.

Here are some examples of genres in literature and the conventions they represent:

Example 1: Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow , Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out , brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

The formal genre of this well-known literary work is Shakespearean drama or play. Macbeth can be sub-categorized as a literary tragedy in that the play features the elements of a classical tragic work. For example, Macbeth’s character aligns with the traits and path of a tragic hero –a protagonist whose tragic flaw brings about his downfall from power to ruin. This tragic arc of the protagonist often results in catharsis (emotional release) and potential empathy among readers and members of the audience .

In addition to featuring classical characteristics and conventions of the tragic genre, Shakespeare’s play also resonates with modern readers and audiences as a tragedy. In this passage, one of Macbeth’s soliloquies , his disillusionment, and suffering is made clear in that, for all his attempts and reprehensible actions at gaining power, his life has come to nothing. Macbeth realizes that death is inevitable, and no amount of power can change that truth. As Macbeth’s character confronts his mortality and the virtual meaninglessness of his life, readers and audiences are called to do the same. Without affirmation or positive resolution , Macbeth’s words are as tragic for readers and audiences as they are for his own character.

Like  M a cbeth , Shakespeare’s tragedies are as currently relevant as they were when they were written. The themes of power, ambition, death, love, and fate incorporated in his tragic literary works are universal and timeless. This allows tragedy as a genre to remain relatable to modern and future readers and audiences.

Example 2: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy . I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my cousins and my uncles. A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men. But I never thought I’d have to fight in my own house. She let out her breath. I loves Harpo, she say. God knows I do. But I’ll kill him dead before I let him beat me.

The formal genre of this literary work is novel. Walker’s novel can be sub-categorized within many fictional genres. This passage represents and validates its sub-classification within the genre of feminist fiction. Sofia’s character, at the outset, is assertive as a black woman who has been systematically marginalized in her community and family, and she expresses her independence from the dominance and control of men. Sofia is a foil character for Celie, the protagonist, who often submits to the power, control, and brutality of her husband. The juxtaposition of these characters indicates the limited options and harsh consequences faced by women with feminist ideals in the novel.

Unfortunately, Sofia’s determination to fight for herself leads her to be beaten close to death and sent to prison when she asserts herself in front of the white mayor’s wife. However, Sofia’s strong feminist traits have a significant impact on the other characters in the novel, and though she is not able to alter the systemic racism and subjugation she faces as a black woman, she does maintain her dignity as a feminist character in the novel.

Example 3: A Word to Husbands by Ogden Nash

To keep your marriage brimming With love in the loving cup, Whenever you’re wrong, admit it; Whenever you’re right, shut up.

The formal genre of this literary work is poetry. Nash’s poem would be sub-categorized within the genre of humor . The poet’s message to what is presumably his fellow husbands is witty, clear, and direct–through the wording and message of the last poetic line may be unexpected for many readers. In addition, the structure of the poem sets up the “punchline” at the end. The piece begins with poetic wording that appears to romanticize love and marriage, which makes the contrasting “base” language of the final line a satisfying surprise and ironic twist for the reader. The poet’s tone is humorous and light-hearted which also appeals to the characteristics and conventions of this genre.

Synonyms of Genre

Genre doesn’t have direct synonyms . A few close meanings are category, class, group, classification, grouping, head, heading, list, set, listing, and categorization. Some other words such as species, variety, family, school, and division also fall in the category of its synonyms.

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Humanities LibreTexts

1.7: The Prose Genre

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Prose is a form of language that possesses ordinary syntax and natural speech rather than rhythmic structure; in which regard, along with its measurement in sentences rather than lines, it differs from poetry. Compared to poetry, prose sounds more like natural, every day speech.

While prose can certainly include some figurative language and connotative meanings, the messages are usually more direct. Prose often includes the voice of a primary narrator who either is (first person) or is not (third person) involved directly with the characters and plot of the work and who often explains context, action, and character descriptions to the reader.

Examples of prose include (but are not limited to) novels, short stories, essays, letters, speeches, diary entries, research articles, webpages, textbooks, newspaper stories, etc. What you are reading right now is considered a form of prose. Additionally, works such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, the novel War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, an article on the Cincinnati Bengals football team in ESPN magazine, the letter you may have written to Santa as a kid, and my creative non-fiction essay on apartment life that I wrote in college are also all examples of prose.

Writing Style and Language

You can use the prose author’s writing style to help you analyze and understand the work as well as to help you make delivery decisions. Writing style reflects the author’s attitudes toward the subject matter, and it should influence your performance. Your goal as an oral interp performer is to match the style of performance with the style of writing. The style of prose is determined by things like diction, imagery, figurative language, and syntax. Below are clues to identifying the style of a piece that can help you make decisions on how to convey meaning through your voice and body when you perform prose.

Connotative vs. Denotative Words

Some words contain richer meaning than what one may glean from simply a dictionary definition. For example, a general word such as "home" is more likely to have connotative value conjuring more feeling than specific language such as "house," which describes a type of building. These feelings will also vary among different people depending upon one’s culture, past experiences, etc.

Genre of Discourse

Prose performers must decide how words are used that indicate the kind of style the writer is trying to convey. For example, "commit homicide," "blow away," and "murder" all mean to kill someone. They come from legal discourse, vocal slang, and everyday usage. However, "blow away" and "murder" each carry a distinct connotative and emotive value. Also, "happen," "occur," "manifest," and "go down" are similar in meaning but come from distinct genres of discourse: everyday usage (happen), formal usage (occur), philosophical discourse (manifest), and slang (go down). "Happen" and "go down" could be used in everyday speech; "occur" and "manifest," being more formal, would not ordinarily be used in speech.

Allusions, Similes, and Metaphors

A writer’s use of these is an important aspect of literary style. All three can be used to convey connotative meaning.

  • Allusions refer to shared experiences many would understand. Example: “I hope tonight won’t be another Thanksgiving dinner.”
  • Similes describe things using a comparison that employs the words “like” or “as.” Example: “I feel like a million dollars now!”
  • Metaphors draw a comparison by equating two or more things that are generally unrelated as the same. For example, “He has a heart of stone” or “She’s a real piece of work.”

This includes punctuation and how words are grouped together demonstrating their relationship and importance. Your discoveries here will dictate your use of vocal elements such as pauses, rate, emphasis, volume, and inflection.

Short, simple sentences indicate a direct approach and suggest immediacy of experience. Long, complicated sentences suggest a more sophisticated and evaluative approach. Examples of punctuation may include:

  • Semicolon – marks a turn of thought or definite separation between two aspects of the same thought; and usually requires a slight pause.
  • Parentheses and double dash – mark off distinct speech phrases.
  • Single dash or colon – often marks the pause that occurs just before a summary and implies a reference to some previous portion.

All of this being said, use punctuation as a guide but not a rule. It is more for the eye than for the ear. A comma in a text does not always demand a pause. Keep in mind that how you perform punctuation might change as you begin practicing a piece for presentation.

Poetic diction

Poetic language, generally connotative, would stand out in casual conversation, so an author’s choice to include it in a prose piece would be very intentional. Unusual connotations also carry with them double meanings. For instance, the word "terrific" can be used for its connotation of terrifying;" the word "taxation" for its connotation of "taxing" or stress-inducing. Consider words such as “escape” vs. “flee,” “girl” vs. “maiden,” and “invisible” vs. “unseen.” In each of these pairings, the first usage is essentially descriptive; the latter more poetic or emotive.

The sounds of words an author has chosen are especially important for the interpreter. The sounds of the words carry meaning as well as the word itself. Pace and vocal quality are influenced by the connotative meaning of words.

Performance of Prose

Since prose is written in a style most like our natural speech, it is often the first genre you may tackle in your adventure through the world of oral interpretation.

Sometimes, a work of prose is more expository in nature rather than narrative (telling a story), focused on providing information or developing an argument as opposed to developing a plot. A narrative prose piece, on the other hand, tells a story from a first- or third-person narrator’s point of view. A performer of prose should understand the author’s intention behind the style of the work. The performer should thoroughly analyze the narrator or primary voice of the work to choose a performance approach that honors that voice’s point of view, personality, biases, feelings, etc.

Particularly in narrative prose, you will sometimes see more than one persona represented in the work. These may exist in the form of character dialogue throughout the piece. As a prose performer, you must examine these characters and determine how to perform them in a way that makes them distinct from the primary voice (narrator). You can do this using the various vocal and body language elements discussed in chapters 3 and 4. All characters should have some sort of body and/or vocal change that works with the interpretation given to that character. It can be your stance, how you hold your shoulders/head/posture, specific gestures to that character, or an accent or higher vocal tone. Do not go overboard, this should be subtle. Most importantly, be consistent with these choices, doing them each time the character speaks so as not to confuse your audience. Consider the following to add depth to your characterizations:

  • Feel free to commit to an emotion that the character experiences.
  • Consider adding reaction moments even when characters do not have anything to say. Characters can react whether they speak or not.
  • Control your body. Avoid nervous rocking back and forth or nervous twitches such as wiggling your foot or playing with your pant leg.
  • Use facial expressions. Your face should be “alive” at all times. Every narrator’s/character's facial expressions should be appropriate for that character. Practicing in front of a mirror can help.
  • Use appropriate focal points (see chapter 4 in Body Language). If you determine through analysis that the narrator or primary voice is speaking to a group of people, engage the audience with eye contact using an audience focal point. Use the layout of classroom to your advantage, scanning and picking individuals to look at for an extended time during specified intense moments add to the performance. Though, if you determine whether the primary voice is speaking to no one in particular, perhaps rather to his or herself, you may need to use the inner-expressed focal point, looking into space as one may do while talking on the phone. When interpreting character dialogue, use different off-stage focal points to indicate characters looking at one another while speaking.
  • Use appropriate vocal characteristics for the various personae. Play with tone, rhythm, volume, and all forms of dynamics. The secret with vocals is variation, and this can help make your various personae in a piece more distinct.
  • Get to know the personae of the piece beyond the words in the literature. For deeper characterization, consider the possible history, backstories, and the relationships that exist between the characters and voices of the prose. Most of the time, these conclusions will be drawn simply from your own understanding and assumptions. That is fine. You can use those to help you make performance and delivery decisions for characterization.

Often, a prose piece may be too long for you to perform it in its entirety, and you will have to make a “cutting.” This involves selecting a chunk(s) from the entire work that still fit within the theme or message the performer is aiming to convey to the audience to include within a performance. Later, this chapter addresses cutting literature for performance, but in short, it works best to select large chunks for performance rather than piecing small lines and segments together to preserve as much of the rhythm and flow of an author’s words as possible. One key exception to this might be in the cutting of “tag lines,” or the short bits of narration after a line of dialogue. These are phrases such as “he said,” “she shouted angrily,” or “they paused.” Since performers are using character vocalizations to bring literature to life for audiences, they will likely be DOING the actions indicated in these tag lines (e.g. shouting angrily or pausing). Including them when performing often seems unnecessary, and many interpers choose to omit them in performance.

Any fiction or non-fiction novel, essay, journal, or short story can be selected to be cut for a prose performance. The use of diction, facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, intonation, pace and other elements of delivery will offer a rewarding experience for both interpreter and audience. Every delivery choice made for prose should benefit the piece, help tell the story or convey the information, and aid interpretation. Performing prose effectively, particularly a narrative piece with several characters, takes lots of practice, devotion, and creativity. The more work you have done analyzing the work and understanding it, the better you can bring the piece to light for your audience. Strive to convey the crisp mental imagery you had when you read it when you perform for your audience.


Adapted from https://human.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Humanities/Book%3A_Introduction_to_Humanities_(Larsen)/08%3A_New_Page , https://moodle.linnbenton.edu/course/view.php?id=4645 .

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Bakhtin, M. M. (1986) . The problem of speech genres (V. W. McGee, Trans.). In C. Emerson & M. Holquist (Eds.), Speech genres and other late essays . Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 60-102.

Bakhtin's (1986) examples range from informal conversation (including "the single-word rejoinder," p. 81) to practical matters such as chronicles, contracts, and letters, to the literary, with a special focus on the novel.

Bauman, R. (2006) . Speech Genres in Cultural Practice. In K. Brown (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics (2nd ed., Vol. 11, pp. 745–758). Oxford: Elsevier. Hanks, W. F. (1987) . Discourse Genres in a Theory of Practice. American Ethnologist , 14(4), 668–692.  

Bauman (2006) attributes the earliest uses of the concept of speech genres to the work of the Grimm brothers in the early 19th century in developing their collections of oral folk narratives; this work, he says, was largely responsible for the centrality of classification to the efforts of folklorists.

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Understanding What is Meant by the Word "Genre"

What do we mean by genre? This means a type of writing, i.e., an essay, a poem, a recipe, an email, a tweet. These are all different types (or categories) of writing, and each one has its own format, type of words, tone, and so on.  Analyzing a type of writing (or genre) is considered a genre analysis project. A genre analysis grants students the means to think critically about how a particular form of communication functions as well as a means to evaluate it.

Every genre (type of writing/writing style) has a set of conventions that allow that particular genre to be unique. These conventions include the following components:

  • Tone: tone of voice, i.e. serious, humorous, scholarly, informal.
  • Diction : word usage - formal or informal, i.e. “disoriented” (formal) versus “spaced out” (informal or colloquial).
  •   Content : what is being discussed/demonstrated in the piece? What information is included or needs to be included?
  •   Style / Format (the way it looks): long or short sentences? Bulleted list? Paragraphs? Short-hand? Abbreviations? Does punctuation and grammar matter? How detailed do you need to be? Single-spaced or double-spaced? Can pictures / should pictures be included? How long does it need to be / should be? What kind of organizational requirements are there?
  •   Expected Medium of Genre : where does the genre appear? Where is it created? i.e. can be it be online (digital) or does it need to be in print (computer paper, magazine, etc)? Where does this genre occur? i.e. flyers (mostly) occur in the hallways of our school, and letters of recommendation (mostly) occur in professors’ offices.
  • Genre creates an expectation in the minds of its audience and may fail or succeed depending on if that expectation is met or not.
  • Many genres have built-in audiences and corresponding publications that support them, such as magazines and websites.
  • The goal of the piece that is written, i.e. a newspaper entry is meant to inform and/or persuade, and a movie script is meant to entertain.
  • Basically, each genre has a specific task or a specific goal that it is created to attain.
  • Understanding Genre
  • Understanding the Rhetorical Situation

To understand genre, one has to first understand the rhetorical situation of the communication. 

speech genre definition

Below are some additional resources to assist you in this process:

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Genre Analysis

Genre analysis:  A tool used to create genre awareness and understand the conventions of new writing situations and contexts.  This a llows you to make effective communication choices and approach your audience and rhetorical situation appropriately

Basically, when we say "genre analysis," that is a fancy way of saying that we are going to look at similar pieces of communication - for example a handful of business memos - and determine the following:

  • Tone: What was the overall tone of voice in the samples of that genre (piece of writing)?
  • Diction : What was the overall type of writing in the three samples of that genre (piece of writing)? Formal or informal?
  •   Content : What types(s) of information is shared in those pieces of writing?
  •   Style / Format (the way it looks): Do the pieces of communication contain long or short sentences? Bulleted list? Paragraphs? Abbreviations? Does punctuation and grammar matter? How detailed do you need to be in that type of writing style? Single-spaced or double-spaced? Are pictures included? If so, why? How long does it need to be / should be? What kind of organizational requirements are there?
  •   Expected Medium of Genre : Where did the pieces appear? Were they online? Where? Were they in a printed, physical context? If so, what?
  •   Audience:   What audience is this piece of writing trying to reach?
  • Purpose :  What is the goal of the piece of writing? What is its purpose? Example: the goal of the piece that is written, i.e. a newspaper entry is meant to inform and/or persuade, and a movie script is meant to entertain.

In other words, we are analyzing the genre to determine what are some commonalities of that piece of communication. 

For additional help, see the following resource for Questions to Ask When Completing a Genre Analysis . 

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Bakhtin Essay Analysis

Natalie Tukan

In Bakhtin’s essay The Problem of Speech Genres, Bakhtin systematically and in great detail expounds on the issues related to general beliefs about speech genres and how they relate to language style and sentences. Bakhtin begins by defining speech genres: he claims that there are diverse spheres of communication, and the generally stable utterances within each sphere constitute speech genres.  Because these genres are so diverse and heterogeneous, it is inherently problematic to ascertain the general nature of the utterance.  Bakhtin claims that it is crucial to understand the difference between primary and secondary genres, but he does not devote much time to explain why this dissimilarity of is such importance. Rather, a bulk of the essay describes why stylistic matters are inexorably linked to the utterances of speech genres.  According to Bakhtin, all utterances display individual style, but some genres are more conducive to reflecting individuality than others; a creative writing passage certainly conveys a greater sense of individual style than a brief military command.  The current problem is that the division of language style tends to be random and consequently incorrectly separates style from genres.  Part of this issue stems from a general ignorance of utterances being the real unit of speech communication.

Bakhtin’s argument is that it is vital to break down this disparity between perceived communication and the true basis of communication.  He claims that linguistics is often viewed as a passive relationship between a speaker and a listener.  In reality, however, listeners are responsive, with the roles of speaker and listener continually switching throughout conversation, both in writing and speech.  Bakhtin states that this active role is only possible when viewing communication as utterances, because rejoinders in dialogue are part of whole utterances as opposed to simple units of language.  This leads into the idea that ignoring speech genres as relatively normative utterances leads to confusion between utterances and sentences and the incorrect mentality that speech is only in stable sentences.  In reality, Bakhtin argues, a single sentence is only part of an utterance.  Sentences are generally crafted based on the entire context as opposed to solely the sentence.  It is possible that the single sentence is an entire utterance, but this is usually not the case.  Although the sentence might make logical sense, it is neutral; there is no way to know the definite sense of tone and emphasis, such as whether sarcasm or irony is intended.  Therefore, in conclusion, Bakhtin’s main contention is that to properly analyze a speech genre while taking stylistic elements into account, it is crucial to view the utterances as a whole and view them as a link to speech as a whole.

Aya Shimizu

University Honors College

Word Count: 274

Bakhtin states that although many categorize written work into genres, such as scientific work, novels, dramas, and commentary, no one has ever categorized verbal communication. He goes on to describe that there is an unlimited way to categorize speech genres because speech genres are both with each activity that someone could be doing, for example, arguing about politics, lecturing a class, or talking with another about schoolwork.

            Bakhtin argues that one of the reasons why speech genres does not exist because since there is so many genres to choose from, the categorization itself could seem pointless. Also, when primary genres, such as actual forms of communication between individuals, turn to secondary speech genres, such as scientific writing, they lose their closeness to reality and make the language more complex.

            Artistic literature provides character and therefore it is easy for the reader to understand the individuality of the writer, whereas standardized writing, such as for business and military purposes conceals the writer’s personality under a set form of writing. Therefore, it makes sense that Bakhtin states how dialogue is the most classic and easiest form of speech communication, since the speech itself can be used to determine an individual’s characteristic.

            In everyday communication, whether it is verbal or written, Bakhtin states that “utterance” is what makes speech communication exist. For example, Baktin describes how a sentence in a paragraph by itself does not give a meaning, but when with other sentences, it does convey a meaning; in that same way, utterances with other utterances give a meaning; therefore when the listener is able to respond to an utterance, it shows how that “utterance” is complete. 

Analytical Summary of Bakhtin’s “The Problem of Speech Genres”

Will Carbery

Word COunt: 466

Bakhtin’s essay on the reorganization of the fundamental units of linguistics defined many of its own terms and relationships to distance it from contemporary understandings. Within The Problem of Speech Genres rest a myriad of philosophical crossroads and strong critiques of conventional linguistic understanding. Bakhtin describes a system of categorization in linguistics that is ultimately universal rather than language-specific. Given the time period he lived in, communist Russia, and his other philosophical influences, Kant in particular, this universalizing concept is not surprising.

Bakhtin begins his foray into the structure of his new categorical system by de-structuring the conventional interpretation that is based on, in his words, the “national unity” of language. This national unity is the basis in which linguistic and rhetorical genres are defined, with their differences between each other emphasized and the common lexicon of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax in their “national language” assumed to be constant. To counteract that assumption, Bakthin proposes that the true differences between genres lies in the distinction and use of their “utterances”, which, while formed using the tools of a single language, are a common trait of languages around the world.

To fully understand “utterances”, Bahktin offers a string of definitions that seeks to clarify the difference. An utterance, as defined by Bahktin, is a unit of speech communication put forth by an individual. The utterance is bounded by a change in speaking subjects, external or internal, expected breaks in the speaker’s speech plan, and expected breaks normalized by the type of genre in use. Much like sentences are a unit of language, utterances are a unit of speech, and are finalized by causing a reaction to the “real”, external world. Specifically an utterance has a specific addressee that is either know or unknown that guarantees an utterance will cause a subsequent reaction that will be acted upon, eventually, by actions or another utterance.

From the definition of utterances come genres of speech. Arguing that all language is inherently neutral and multi-faceted, Bahktin continues to describe genres as a specific grouping of utterances that relate to each other in a recognized sphere of speech, family interaction, novellas, and scientific works being only a few examples. The problem with speech genres, so Bahktin says, is that they rely too heavily on the linguistic order of grammar and style, while ignoring the inherent qualities of how we use utterances in connection with other things. There is much philosophy in his theory: Plato’s forms and concept of truth, as well as Hegelian dialectics figure into the interaction of theses utterances, but at the most fundamental level of Bahkitn’s belief is that all language is interconnected with history, is universal, and exists specifically to interact with the past and future. Without this quality, interaction on a speech basis would be nearly impossible.

“The Problem of Speech Genres”

Sara Arnold

Word Count: 408

In M.M. Bakhtin’s “The Problem of Speech Genres,” Bakhtin identifies just what a speech genre is, and breaks down the ambiguous classification of “speech” by starting with the base unit, or communion, an utterance.  By exploring the two types of speech genres and the genres within, what language means and how it is regarded, the difference between an utterance and a sentence, as well the role of speaker and listener, Bakhtin defines speech and its units.

Within the first paragraph of the essay, Bakhtin mentions three aspects of an utterance to help define what exactly it is. He says that “thematic content, style, and compositional structure” are directly linked to an utterance and the sphere of communication it comes from. An individual utterance is the basis of language, but, he states, “each sphere in which language is used develops its own relatively stable types of those utterances” (60), and that is what a speech genre is. Within speech genres, there are two differentiations, primary and secondary; primary being simple and secondary being more complex, like a novel or research. He also points out the three characteristics of complete utterances, stating that once a person stops speaking and another begins, and utterance is complete. Additionally, the utterance must be finalized, meaning the speaker said everything he wanted to on the subject. There’s a criterion to meet to make sure this happened; one must be able to respond to what the speaker said. Thirdly, the speaker’s utterance must have follow a typical pattern known as a generic form.

Bakhtin also analyzes the role of the speaker and listener within communication. In most cases, the speaker is thought to do the talking while the listener sits back passively and, well, listens. However, as Bakhtin points out, a listener doesn’t passively do anything. Instead, he is actively paying attention, and “sooner or later what is heard and actively understood will find its response in the subsequent speech or behavior of the listener” (69).  A listener will take the ideas of the speaker and, maybe not immediately, will be shaped and influenced by those ideas and spread them to others.

Overall, Bakhtin wants the read to come away with a sense that an utterance is a link in the chain of greater communication. It is expressive and thought of in terms of how it will be received by the speaker’s audience. A speech genre, then,is a typical form of utterance with typical forms of expression.

Bakhtin-The Problem of Speech Genres

Jenna Leah Los Banos

Word Count: 350

The main and recurring thought in Bakhtin’s essay about Speech Genres seems to be “utterances.”  He describes an utterance as a unit of speech communication and the component through which language is realized.  They reflect the conditions and goals of different regions and social spheres.  Utterances are individual and heterogeneous entities but the individual utterances of each sphere combine to create speech genres and as speech in a sphere develops and grows, the sphere grows also.

Utterances can be as complex as a novel or research paper or as simple as a single sentence or word.  Because language only requires one speaker and one object, or listener, what determines the boundary of an utterance is a change of speaker.  It is an endless cycle.  Most speakers today are not the first speakers; he or she is not the person who disturbed “the eternal silence of the universe.”  The speaker is actually a listener who is responding to an utterance and by stating their thoughts or ideas are now made into speakers.  They became speakers by taking “a responsive role to an utterance.”  This gives utterances absolute beginning and ends where beginnings are preceded by utterances of others and ends are followed by responsive utterances. 

This, however, is where confusion between utterance and a simple part of an utterance, such as a sentence, come into play.  A sentence is a unit of language.  It is a complete thought made by one speaker.  It is grammatical and has grammatical pauses but does not get responses.  Sentences, however, can be utterances but the difference is that a sentence that is an utterance pauses for a change of speakers, gets a response and gains style.   When a simple sentence changes from a sentence to an utterance, it gains these attributes because of the nature of utterances, not the nature of sentences.

Bakhtin’s emphasis is on the importance of utterances not only in written language, but also verbally.  Nor is it only important in communication with others, but also in solitary reflection.  Utterances and speech genre are an important part of literature and of life.

The Problem of Speech Genres

Word COunt: 530

            In the essay, “The Problem of Speech Genres,” Mikhail Bakhtin, Russian philosopher and literary critic, makes an argument against conventional linguistic studies and emphasizes the importance of looking at each type of utterance with all of its contextual meaning. Bakhtin introduces utterances as units of speech communication, and juxtaposes this definition with the traditional linguistic units of speech: words, sentences, and phrases. Using this as the basis for his argument, Bakhtin demonstrates the necessity of looking at different aspects of the utterance, and how this has contributed to fulfill the fundamental purpose of language- for “man’s need to express himself, to objectify himself,” (p.76).

            Bakhtin initially explains the concept of a word. He writes that “words belong to nobody, and in themselves they evaluate nothing,” (p.85). However, when we read or hear words and view them as part of an individual utterance, they gain “a more or less clearly reflected individual expression, which is determined by the unrepeatable individual context of the utterance,” (p.88). Thus, words can exist in three different aspects: as an independent, neutral word, as someone else’s word with that person’s specific utterance, or as our own with our own speech plan and expression.

            But regardless of how words are used, utterances also contain a “dialogic overtone,” which is just as important when analyzing the speech. Not only is it important to note the tones and objective of the speaker, but it is just as important to note the audience, what Bakhtin calls “addressivity.” Each utterance is “preceded by the utterances of others, and its end is followed by the responsive utterances of others,” (p.71) in order to allow another’s active response for their understanding. In this way, the utterance is only fully understood “if considered not in isolation and with respect to its author (the speaker) only, but as a link in the chain of speech communication and with respect to other, related utterances,” (p.93).

            And because of the fact that utterances are “links” between speech communications, they are never the complete original work of an individual. Bakhtin claims “our speech, that is, all our utterances (including creative works), is filled with others’ words, varying degrees of otherness or varying degrees of ‘our-own-ness,” (p.89). Similar to this is Neitzsche’s concept of truth, as something that is made up of many different perspectives. As he explained in his essay “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense,” Neitzche views one’s “truth” as part of a whole, just as Bakhtin views one’s utterance. Understanding can only be gained when taking into consideration the entire context.

            What Bakhtin realized in his essay was the difference between literary speech and everyday vernacular. Instead of only analyzing literature, Bakhtin explored the uses of utterances in a broader context, to explain the underlying problem of speech genres as a whole. Although an utterance can stand independently, the true meaning of it is only seen with the view of the speaker, objective, audience, and preceding or succeeding utterances in mind. In doing so, he made clear that embracing all aspects of style is only achieved by the “analysis of the whole utterance, and only in that chain of speech communion of which the utterance in an inseparable link,” (p.100).

Sheina Godovich

UHC ST 111, HI

Word Count: 369

      Mikhail Bakhtin uses this essay to argue that the established methodology of linguistic analysis is faulty and to propose a different version. In his opinion, the concept of speech genres is not adequately understood. He defines a speech genre as an unchanging type of utterance. An utterance, in turn, is the basic unit of speech communication. His main point is illuminating the difference between utterances and tools of language, because understanding the difference is vital to understanding speech genres.

      According to Bakhtin, communication is the main purpose of language and utterances are the tools of communication. Utterances are the link between language and reality. Technically, an utterance is bounded by a change between speaking subjects. Part of what constitutes an utterance is the fact that utterances always elicit a response, be it through speech, thought, or action. Utterances are also inherently expressive, communicating an emotion, opinion, or command, and the speaker’s own individuality. The utterance belongs to the speaker due to what he or she imbibes it with. It can also be directed towards someone. Thus, utterances are the basic unit of communication.

      On the other hand, sentences and words are the basic units of language. They are involved in utterances, but they are not the same. Unlike utterances, sentences and words are neutral, belong to no one, cannot be addressed to anyone, and cannot be inherently expressive in a context. A sentence or word in context cannot elicit a response and cannot interact with other utterances. While units of language carry their own meaning, they cannot cause their own response – only if they make up a whole utterance. Sentences or words standing by themselves can be entire utterances, but in that case they take on the characteristics of utterances as units of communication and no longer count as units of language.

      Each speech genre has a format of identifying the addressee and this is what defines it as a genre, according to Bakhtin. The utterances, expressive units of communication that can be directed at someone, are what account for the addressee. Utterances make up speech genres; therefore, it is crucial to understand the difference between units of communication and units of language in order to understand speech genres.

Nikki Snyder

Bakhtin’s “The Problem of Speech Genres”    

Word Count: 353                                             

            Every week I listen to a Pre-Lab lecture before attending the chemistry lab which it addresses. There, Professor Abrams explains experimental procedures and statistical analysis methods that we will need to understand before trying to conduct the experiment. It makes sense; you need to know the procedure before you can conduct it, just like how you need to know a word’s definition before you can use it. I think it’s interesting that I never knew the specific definition of a “sentence” or “utterance” or the many genres and spheres of language before arriving at college and reading Bakhtin’s essay, “The Problem of Speech Genres.” At the same time, I don’t think it mattered.

            In high school English class where we analyzed the language of novels, I used literary terms to classify sentences when I didn’t even know what a “sentence” was. From third grade, I remember that a sentence contains a subject, a verb, and a period. Bakhtin explains that a sentence is merely the skeleton to which utterances attach and provide meaning. Well thank you, Bakhtin. After reading nearly three pages solely devoted to explaining the difference between a sentence and an utterance, I can only conclude, “Why does it matter?” which isn’t even a conclusion. Perhaps if Bakhtin’s novel of an essay was more concise, I would think of language philosophy less bitterly. I understand that the time period and environment influence language, an idea explored in Bakhtin’s essay, and perhaps that’s why this “major status” thinker floods every sentence with big words. However this doesn’t help the reader. I found myself rereading every paragraph multiple times to extract its meaning, its purpose. Maybe the genre in which this essay belongs calls for exactly the type of writting which Bahktin delivers, but then the language of this genre should be revised. Having great ideas goes nowhere if those ideas can’t be used, and how could Bahktin’s philosophy be used if no one can understand it? His work has been translated from Russian to English, and now it needs to be translated to modern English, one which today’s people can actually understand.

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Definition of genre

Did you know.

Genre , as you might guess from the way it sounds, comes straight from French, a language based on Latin. It's closely related to genus , a word you may have encountered in biology class. Both words contain the gen- root because they indicate that everything in a particular category (a genre or a genus) belongs to the same "family" and thus has the same origins. So the main genres of classical music would include symphonies, sonatas, and opera, and the major genres of literature would include novels, short stories, poetry, and drama. But within the category of novels, we could also say that detective novels, sci-fi novels, romance novels, and young-adult novels are separate genres.

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Examples of genre in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'genre.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

French, from Middle French, kind, gender — more at gender

1770, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Phrases Containing genre

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Cite this entry.

“Genre.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/genre. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

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  1. PDF Speech Genres & Other Late Essays

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