A new paper by John Swales has just appeared in the journal English for Specific Purposes. In this paper, John continues his long line of research about differences in the linguistic and narrative structure of different genres of writing. The full bibliographic information of this article, including an abstract, is given below.

Swales, John M. (2015) Configuring image and context: Writing ‘about’ pictures. English for Specific Purposes, 41:22-35.

Humanities texts have been little studied in ESP, and the few analyses attempted have not always been as successful as those directed at the social sciences, life sciences and natural sciences. However, in largely post-industrial communities, the growth of museums and galleries (as well as the corresponding increase in museum studies programs) suggests that humanities texts in this sector might now warrant attention. Since, outside English-speaking countries, these texts about artworks or cultural artifacts are typically produced both in English and the local language, there is clearly potential here for ESP development. In this case study of a small corpus of one-page accounts of pictures, analysis shows that the interpretations are rarely organized in a general-specific or specific-general manner, but rather oscillate between reference to the micro image and the broader context, as in the 26-sentence example in the image below (Con = Context; Image = Im).

This kind of patterning is teachable, as are more specific features, such as the exegetic role of comparisons, the subdued versus prominent employment of intertextual references, and the judicious use of parenthetical information and qualifying hedges. The article closes with an illustrative learner task designed to raise awareness of the oscillating pattern.