Genres And Characteristic Of Written Language


Genres Of Written Language

In our highly literate society, there are literally hundreds of different types of written texts, a much larger variety than found in spoken texts. Each of the types listed below represents, or is an example of a genre of written language:

  • Nonfictions: reports, editorials, essays, articles, reference (dictionaries, etc)
  • Fiction: novels, short stories, jokes, drama, poetry
  • Letters: personal, business
  • Greeting cards
  • Diaries, journals
  • Memos
  • Messages
  • Announcements
  • Newspaper
  • Academic writing: short-answer test responses, reports, papers, theses, books
  • Forms, applications
  • Questionnaires
  • Directions
  • Labels
  • Signs
  • Recipes
  • Bills (and other financial statements)

When we encounter one of the above, we usually know what our purpose is in reading it, and therefore we know what to select and what not to select for short and long term memory – in other words, we bring various schemata to bear on the message that we have chosen to retain. What would happen if we did not know some of these differences? That is what our students may encounter when they read English, so part of our job as a teacher is to enlighten your students on features of these genres and to help them to develop strategies for extracting meaning from each.

Characteristic Of Written Language

1.      Performance

Spoken language is fleeting. Written language is permanent (or as permanent as paper and computer disks are), and therefore the reader has an opportunity to return again and again.

2.      Processing Time

Most reading contexts allow readers to read at their own rate. They are not forced into following the rate of delivery, as in spoken language.

3.      Distance

The written word allows messages to be sent across two dimensions: physical distance and temporal distance. The task of the reader is to interpret language that was written in some other place at some other time with only the written words themselves as contextual clues.

4.      Orthography

In spoken language, we have phonemes that correspond to writing graphemes. But we also have stress, rhythm, juncture, intonation, pauses, volume, voice quality, settings, and nonverbal cues, all of which enhance the message. In writing we have graphemes – punctuation, picture or chart lends a helping hand. But these written symbols stand alone as the one set of signals that the reader must perceive. Because of the frequent ambiguity that is present in a good deal of writing, readers must do their best to infer, interpret, and to “read between the lines”

5.      Complexity

Writing and speech represent different modes of complexity, and the most significant difference is in the nature of clauses. Spoken language tends to have shorter clauses connected by more coordinate conjunctions, while writing has longer clauses and more subordination.

6.      Vocabulary

It is true that written English typically utilizes a greater variety of lexical items then spoken conversational English. Because writing allows the writer more processing-time, because of a desire to be precise in writing, and simply because of the formal conventions of writing, lower-frequency words often appear.

 7.      Formality

Writing is quite frequently more formal than speech. Formality refers to prescribed forms that certain written messages must hold on to.

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