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Genre Change in the Contemporary World

Short-term Diachronic Perspectives


Edited By Giuliana Elena Garzone, Paola Catenaccio and Chiara Degano

This volume focuses on the evolution of genres in specialized communication under the pressure of technological innovations and the profound social changes triggered by globalization in the contemporary world, in a context where rapid and extensive changes in communicative practices, patterns and technologies have deeply affected the generic configuration of professional and disciplinary domains.
These developments call for a reconsideration of the repertoires of conventions traditionally identified in each specific genre as well as for a reassessment of the analytical tools used to investigate them, about three decades after the emergence of genre analysis.


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GIULIANA GARZONE - Why Do Genres Change? 21


GIULIANA GARZONE Why Do Genres Change?* 1. Introduction In a world that is increasingly interconnected and globalized, informa- tion and communication flows have intensified more than one might have predicted only few decades ago. By necessity this has led to a rapid diversification and evolution in the texts, genres and discourses exchanged: as Bakhtin points out, “each sphere of activity contains an entire repertoire of speech genres that differentiate and grow as the par- ticular sphere develops and becomes more complex” (Bakhtin 1986: 60). This phenomenon of ‘generification’ – as John Swales (2004: 4-6) has proposed to call it – involves an ever more rapid process of change, with the evolution of existing genres, their diversification into a variety of sub-genres, and the emergence of totally new ones. 1.1. Aim and method Generification in domain-specific and professional communication is the object of investigation in this chapter, which looks at the ex- tremely rapid process of genre change that has occurred in the last few decades, and aims to identify and systematize the main factors that have contributed to determining it. Here the expression ‘genre change’ is used in broad terms, to indicate not only the process of evolution undergone by many existing genres, but also the appearance of new * The research on which this chapter is based contributes to the National Re- search Programme Tension and Change in Domain-specific Genres funded by the Italian Ministry of University (COFIN Grant No. 2007JCY9Y9). 22 Giuliana Garzone genres, especially – but not exclusively – under the pressure...

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