Blurb as a Discourse Genre (on material from English and Georgian)

Nino Daraselia


The paper examines 100 English (British & American) and Georgian novel blurbs from the perspectives of discourse analysis (Brown &Yule 1983), socio-semiotics (Holsanova et al 2006; Van Leeuwen 2006) and stylistics (Verdonk 2007), viz.: the paper aims to:
(a) reveal general discoursal peculiarities of the novel blurbs under discussion (for the given purpose the empirical data have been analysed from the standpoint of Hymesean context features – addressor, addressee, topic, channel, code, purpose, key);
(b) state recurrent frame structures evidenced in the given discourse subgenre;
(c) explore general stylistic peculiarities typical of the English and Georgian novel blurbs in question;
(d) analyse different ways the semiotic space is represented on the back covers of the novels under discussion: in this respect the following issues are examined: typographic peculiarities, specificity of punctuation usage, graphical means of paragraph arrangement, the ways the author’s photo is displayed on the semiotic space of novel blurbs.
The study has shown that, being one of the varieties of advertisement, novel blurbs are not homogeneous in character; there have been singled out 5 frame structures and consequently 5 subtypes of the subgenre in question, viz.: the blurb:
1. which is of hybrid nature combining the peculiarities of a book review and an advertisement; the given type is prevalent in the data and can be further subdivided;
2. mainly consisting of two or more excerpts taken from different reviews;
3. presenting the author’s biography and brief evaluation of his/her work;
4. imitating the author’s style;
5. compiled for a particular edition of a book, emphasizing the advantages of the edition in question.
All the 5 frame structures are evidenced in the English data, whereas in the Georgian data only types (1) and (3) are encountered.
The Georgian novel blurbs under discussion are more informative rather than persuasive, and stylistically and typographically plain. The English data reveals stylistic versatility ranging from dramatic plainness to metaphorically rich and flourishing style.
The observations have shown that on the back cover of a novel, as on a specific kind of semiotic space, meaning is created through the interplay of verbal and non-verbal means of expression; (a) in the English data such visual means as bold type, italics and capitalization serve to indicate the relevance of a particular piece of information.
(b) in English, as well as in Georgian novel blurbs, paragraphs are quite often separated by horizontal lines.
(c) in the English data the punctuation marks: a dash and dots are frequently used conveying the following meanings:
A dash is used with parenthetical clauses; precedes a relevant piece of information; indicates a suspense.
Dots are employed: to end an incompletely presented plot, thus intruiging a potential reader and stimulating him/her to buy the book; indicates a suspense in the narrative.
In the English data deviations from the norms of punctuation usage have been evidenced, e.g: omission of the Genitive case marker in the plural can be explained by the economy principle and redundancy factor ever active in language.
The usage of punctuation marks in the Georgian data follows the traditional rules typical of Standard Georgian.
Of particular interest are different ways the author’s photo is presented on the back cover, these are:
1. top left corner, in the given case the photo serves as the topic to the comment whose funcrion is performed by the text; the given distribution is mostly characteristic of the Georgian data.
2. in the top right corner the author’s photo is the bearer of the new information, having the identifying function, all the verbal information on the left is attributed to the author.
3. in the left bottom corner the author’s photo serves as the continuation of the preceding text.
4. in the middle of the cover a large photo of the author preceding or following the text serves as the agent.

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