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Structure: Hierarchies and Sets

The genres of COERP can be classified into hierarchies on the one hand, and sets on the other (cf. Kohnen 2010, 2012).

Hierarchies reflect the basic constellations of the discourse participants involved in the communication. We distinguish first-, second-, and third-order genres. First-order genres contain texts issued by a superior authority or institution and directed at all the members of the discourse community. A typical example in the religious domain is the Bible (seen as "God’s word"). In second-order genres this basic constellation of the discourse participants is inverted. Here it is the members of a discourse community that address a superior authority or institution (the typical example in the religious domain is prayers). In third-order genres, members of a discourse community communicate with each other, more or less at the same level and without the direct involvement of a superior authority (e.g. religious treatises, sermons).

Genre sets are groupings of genres which reflect their relative (that is, more central or more peripheral) position in the discourse community. The basic distinction is between core, minor and associated genres. Core genres are genuinely rooted in the religious domain (e.g. prayers and catechisms). Minor genres are similarly rooted in the religious domain but are more restricted in terms of institutions and potential text users (e.g. monastic rules and liturgical prayer). Associated genres originally exist outside the religious domain but become associated with it at some point in time due to cultural or technological developments (for example, pamphlets and prefaces as a result of the invention of the printing press).


Kohnen, Thomas (2010): "Religious Discourse," in: Jucker, Andreas H.; Taavitsainen, Irma (eds.): Historical Pragmatics. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 523-547

Kohnen, Thomas (2012): "A toolkit for constructing corpus networks," in: Suhr, Carla; Taavitsainen, Irma (eds.): Developing Corpus Methodology for Historical Pragmatics. VARIENG e-journal, Volume 11