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Article

Metapragmatics and genre: Connecting the strands

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021. Vol. 25. No. 1. P. 89-104.
Molodychenko E. N., Spitzmüller J.

Genre analysis involves at least a ‘foray’ into the social/contextual dimension framing genre-exemplars. One way to explore this dimension is drawing on the concept of metapragmatics, which is primarily associated with (American) linguistic anthropology. However, with a few exceptions, genre studies have not consistently operationalized metapragmatics, either theoretically or practically. The purpose of this article is, therefore, to explore one possible angle of such operationalization by means of studying discourse fragments reflecting on fragments of (these very or other) discourses (so-called metapragmatic discourses) vis-à-vis any generic properties of the reflected discourse. Specifically, we analyzed comments sections for a number of YouTube videos exemplifying several lifestyle genres. The results indicate that generic references can range from simply using a generic label to refer to the discourse in question (as a token of a certain type/genre) to actually discussing the generic characteristics of the genre it instantiates, as well as projecting certain (generic) metapragmatic stances. Another observation is that different wordings used by the discourse community to refer to generic models can be, as it were, ‘proper’ generic labels, but they can also be words and phrases that would hardly qualify as proper names of genres from an analyst’s point of view. Both these ‘proper’ and other - ‘genre-like’ - labels are also often used in conjunction with or are replaced by other ways of metapragmatically referring to what the speaker ‘does’ or even what they ‘are’ in/by dint of using the discourse in question. This suggests that any generic labels or cues are just part of a large pool of other possible metapragmatic meanings, knowledge, and ideologies circulating in discourse communities. More broadly, the results may indicate that genre studies should see genre as an even less ‘stabilized’ entity because what a genre is depends on what people who actually use it ‘make of it’, as well as augment their standard toolkits with methods aimed at exploring metapragmatic discourse.