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English and French Online Comments

A Text Linguistic Comparison of Popular Science Magazines


John Marcus Sommer

In recent years, text and media linguistics have focused on genres in the new media. This is almost always accompanied by the question of the establishment and development of such content. Due to the diversity of genres and their dynamic development one can speak of an almost inexhaustible field of research. The book is located in this field of research. Its goal is to examine the origin and nature of readers’ comments by readers of French and English popular science magazines. Media content is dissected by using text linguistic tools. Transmedial cultures are explored across time, platforms, languages, and editing houses.

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4. Previous Research


The genre of letters to the editor enables people to participate in all kinds of public discourses. Letters to the editor emerged along with commentaries as a new genre in the 19th century. At that time most letters to the editor were anonymous, which may be due to the fact that people did not trust their freedom to publish their thoughts without censorship (Burger & Luginbühl 2014: 57). The origins of letters to the editor remain somewhat unclear, although it is assumed that it derives from the open letter “thus borrowing some of the journalistic features, and not viewed as life writing, characteristic of the epistolary genre” (Magnet & Carnet 2006: 175). Although letters to the editor can be seen as the beginning of a participatory culture in which people could state their opinions publicly, they were controlled by institutional constraints. Newspapers did not publish all letters and in most cases they were adapted. Reasons for the selection were the discussion of recent topics, relevance and comprehensibility. Editors made use of their institutional rights by shortening, editing and reformulating texts. Additionally, they adapted the texts graphically to their layout. Furthermore, editors added headlines, references and structured the arrangement (Burger & Luginbühl 2014: 100).

Letters to the editor fulfil a wide array of communicative functions. They may be written to criticize an article, giving additional information and arguments, criticizing a journalist’s opinion, and evaluating. In some cases they present personal experiences, corrections of false facts, criticism of...

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