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Activity Types and Genres

Archer, Dawn and Jagodziński, Piotr and Jagodziński, Rebecca (2021) Activity Types and Genres. In: Cambridge Handbook of Sociopragmatics. Cambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics . Cambridge University Press, pp. 206-226. ISBN 9781108954105

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Abstract

This chapter critically compares how the concepts of activity type and genre tend to be used within the field of pragmatics. Both concepts are broadly concerned with the way in which we categorize our experiences, and develop thereby expectations about communicative behaviour within a given context. In spite of these similarities, they have very different conceptual histories. Activity types were introduced into pragmatics by Levinson (1979), having been inspired by Wittgenstein’s (1958) notion of language games. Genres can be traced back to ancient Greek literature, and have since been applied within multiple disciplines, including art and art criticism, literary studies, rhetoric, sociology, linguistics and, more specifically, pragmatics (Bazerman, 1997; Mayes, 2003). The focus of the chapter is on mapping the development and usage of these terms within the pragmatics (or a concomitant) discipline. We also comment upon concepts that seem to share “a considerable family resemblance” (Linell, 2010: 42) with activity types and/or genres. They include footing, frames (and framing), speech events, speech activities, schemas, scripts, and prototypes.

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