David Durian

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Eubanks, Philip, 1954-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of English


Historical linguistics; Linguistic analysis (Linguistics); Technical writing


I analyze the rhetorical and structural elements of the genre of the linguistics article, specifically within the subfield of studies of language variation and change, also known as "American sociolinguistics." As my analysis demonstrates, the genre of the linguistics article in studies of language variation and change can most profitably be analyzed as having been shaped by intellectual movements occurring during three distinct eras. During the first era (1891--1954), the variationist linguistics article was primarily a "discovery text." That is, many of the topics discussed are first studies of those topics or first studies of the communities in which particular linguistic phenomena occur. During the second era (1955--1984), the variationist linguistics article became reconfigured from discovery text into a true scientific analysis text. Throughout this era, the methods of linguistics were being refined, the autonomy of the field was being more robustly established, and the robustness of the scientific methods employed in the analysis of linguistic data were strengthened. During the final era (1985--2015), the methods of analysis, discussion, and exploration of linguistic data trends developed during the previous era became further refined and perfected. During this era, more precise statistical tools for analyzing linguistic trends developed, while the theoretical apparatus for discussing those trends matured. Ultimately, as my analysis demonstrates, the genre of the linguistics article proves interesting to study for several reasons from the perspective of genre theory. First, it provides us with a rather salient example of how genre conventions track the social action of critical commentary versus the social action of scientific study within a given field of study. Unlike many of the other scientific fields that have been studied in genre studies previously, linguistics provides a unique field for study, one that transformed quickly from one that was mostly a humanistic enterprise before the late 19th Century---that is, one considered primarily with language history and philology from the perspective of language as a lifeform---to one that become increasingly a scientific one, particularly from middle of the 20th Century onward. As the discussion of the material in Chapters 4 and 5 will show, this transformation was not only rapid, but also quite complete, once it took hold. In demonstrating this transformation, I provide the field of genre studies with a robust example of what Bazerman was attempting to demonstrate in his work on the Royal Society---the fact that a new relationship among intellectuals was emerging with the turn to the scientific in linguistics as spearheaded within variationist studies by the work of William Labov; thus, a new kind of standard writing emerged to mediate between them. A second area where my study makes a contribution to genre studies is its use and implementation of a new kind of hybrid methodology for approaching the study of the genre of scientific writing, by combining Miller's focus on genre as social action with the emphasis on the structural components of the scientific article one finds in the work of researchers such as Swales, and the structural and organizational elements of professional texts of researchers such as Bhatia and Berkenkoter and Huckin. My analysis investigates the structural aspects of the genre by employing Swales's CARS (Creating a Research Space) for exploring the structural aspects of introductions found in my data corpus throughout Chapters 4, 5, and 6, while also considering the organizational and structural elements of the writing more generally within the context of larger movements in the field. In addition, it mixes this approach to the social and the structural with Bazerman's context-rich approach of incorporating a detailed analysis and discussion of the situation and historical contexts surrounding the development of genre conventions within a field of study. In doing so, this hybrid approach provides new insights into the genre of the research article more generally.


Advisors: Philip Eubanks.||Committee members: Betty Birner; Jessica Reyman.||Includes bibliographical references.


78 pages




Northern Illinois University

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