Genre Identification and Communicative Purpose: A Problem and a Possible Solution

Inger Askehave, John M. Swales

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearch


Since the early 1980s, in much of the work within a genre-analytic approach, communicative goal or purpose has been used as an important and often primary criterion for deciding whether a particular discourse falls within a particular generic category (book review, sales letter, cross-examination, etc.). However, as the number of genre studies has increased, and as genre theory has become more complex, the concept of 'communicative purpose' has also become more complex, multiple, variable and generally hard to get at. We believe that one consequence of these developments has gone largely unnoticed: that uncertainties surrounding communicative purpose undermine its claimed role as a means of assigning genre membership. In this paper we discuss this paradox, illustrate the difficulties that can arise, and then suggest a procedure whereby 'communicative purpose' can be retained as a viable and valuable concept.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Linguistics
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)195-212
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2001
Externally publishedYes

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