Genre and Instinct

  • Yongmei Hu
  • David Kaufer
  • Suguru Ishizaki
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 5897)


A dominant trend relates written genres (e.g., narrative, information, description, argument) to cultural situations. To learn a genre is to learn the cultural situations that support it. This dominant thinking overlooks aspects of genre based in lexical clusters that appear instinctual and cross-cultural. In this chapter, we present a theory of lexical clusters associated with critical communication instincts. We show how these instincts aggregate to support a substrate of English genres. To test the cross-cultural validity of these clusters, we gave three English-language genre assignments to Chinese students in rural China, with limited exposure to native English and native English cultural situations. Despite their limited exposure to English genres, students were able to write English papers that exploited the different clusters in ways consistent with native writers of English. We conclude that lexical knowledge supporting communication instincts plays a vital role in genre development.


Chinese Student Narrative Text Student Writing Narrative Writing Cultural Situation 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yongmei Hu
    • 1
  • David Kaufer
    • 2
  • Suguru Ishizaki
    • 2
  1. 1.College of Foreign LanguagesGuizhou UniversityChina
  2. 2.Department of EnglishCarnegie Mellon UniversityUSA

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