Understanding Minimalist Communication: A Study of Short Text Genres



Danguolė Kalinauskaitė
Vytautas Magnus University

What?
“Efficient communication relies not on how much can be said, but on how much can be left unsaid” (Brown, Duguid 2000: 205). This is one of the main aspects of minimalist communication (for the term, see Humez et al. 2010). Minimalist communication refers to different forms of communication, that are specific in their greater or lesser constraint on the size. They constitute a vast and miscellaneous group of text genres, short text genres, and even form their own language. The ongoing research is intended to shed light on how particularity of genre influences each separate form of minimalist communication, including both its structure and content (generally speaking). To understand different forms of minimalist communication, their analysis aims to involve the external (a) and internal (b) aspects:
a) form, sphere, and object of communication; communication situation; communication participants; function of text;
b) means of text cohesion; functional sentence perspective; syntactic features; grammatical categories; vocabulary; thematic peculiarities; the way of theme development; etc.

How?
Genres are perceived as “staged, goal-oriented social processes: as social processes because members of a culture interact with each other to achieve them; as goal-oriented because they have evolved to get things done; and as staged because it usually takes more than one step for participants to achieve their goals” (Martin et al. 1994: 233). To make sense of short text genres, they must also be understood as meaningful communicative actions: if we know conventions of particular genres, we are able to do things with language in proper situations and thus our communication is meaningful.

Why?
Some researchers treat text genre linguistics as a separate branch of text linguistics (see Heinemann 2000, Gansel 2011). Given that the notion of genre is “central to understanding the social, functional, and pragmatic dimensions of language use” (Coe, Freedman 1998: 41), the study of short text genres goes beyond the limits of linguistics. It requires interdisciplinarity in both the methodology (a) and theoretical perspectives (b):
a) the study combines the methods and theory of semantics, pragmatics and text linguistics. To collect different forms of minimalist communication in one place and thus represent language use in both the public and private spheres, a corpus of short text genres is created. So corpus linguistics is of specific importance in the study. Next stage, corpus-based analysis of texts, stands on the knowledge of domains of IT and language technologies;
b) the study develops genre theory and thus continues linguistic, literary and rhetorical traditions, as well as ones of language philosophy and communication theory. Naturally, it is also based on them. Due to its touch with communication, the study provides valuable insights not only into humanities, but also into social sciences.

Thus the study of separate forms of minimalist communication contributes to understanding of human communicative behavior in general.


References
Brown, J. S. and P. Duguid. 2000. The Social Life of Information. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Coe, R. M. and A. Freedman. 1998. Genre theory: Australian and North American approaches. Theorizing Composition: A Critical Sourcebook of Theory and Scholarship in Contemporary Composition Studies. M. L. Kennedy (ed.). Westport: Greenwood Press. 136–147.
Gansel, Ch. 2011. Textsortenlinguistik. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Heinemann, W. 2000. Textsorten. Zur Diskussion um Basisklassen des Kommunizierens. Rückschau und Ausblick. Textsorten. Reflexionen und Analysen 1, 9–29.
Humez, A., N. Humez and R. Flynn. 2010. Short Cuts. A Guide to Oaths, Ring Tones, Ransom Notes, Famous Last Words, and Other Forms of Minimalist Communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Martin, J. R., F. Christie and J. Rothery. 1994. Social processes in education. Language, Literacy and Learning in Educational Practice. B. Stierer and J. Maybin (eds.). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. 232–247.