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English and French Online Comments

A Text Linguistic Comparison of Popular Science Magazines

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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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7. Diachronic Development of Letters to the Editor

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Before examining the emergence of online comments as a new genre within the magazines’ genre profile, this chapter is going to give a short overview of the diachronic development of the genre letters to the editor in the print magazines. While this will only be done with one example for each magazine in the years 1995, 2005, and 2014/2015, the overall goal is to study stable as well as unstable features of the genre. The analyses will also reveal whether the emergence of online comments has also had an effect on the genre letters to the editor and what features continued to exist in the new genre.

Firstly, it should be noted that in all four magazines, the genre can be found somewhere on the first four unnumbered pages. Usually, there are multiple exemplars of the genre found on at least one page. Moreover, the texts are normally surrounded by advertisements. In most cases, the letters to the editor refer to an article from one of the previous issues of the magazine. Due to the communication form, this delays the printing of the texts. In the year 1995 for GEO, for example, readers make reference to articles that appear 2–6 issues before the issue in which there text was printed. This indicates a delay of 2–6 months. Secondly, the assemblages of letters to the editor are quite often decorated with images. In some cases either the readers or the editors also add images that stand in...

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