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Reporting under International Conventions: A Genre Analysis

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SummaryThis article applies genre analysis to the state reports of fourteen countries in two first cycles of monitoring of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Focusing on the packaging of information and modality (level of the word), sentence length and quoted speech (level of the sentence), and thematic filling (level of the text), the article checks for the effect of experience in reporting. While novice reporters in general display more ‘conservative’ stylistic choices than experienced reporters, convergence takes place with time, as reports become more formal in the second cycle. At the level of structure of the text, the high rate of non-compliance of experienced reporters with the structural-thematic prescriptions is contrasted with the very good compliance of novice reporters. This finding, which is puzzling if genre competence is confused with perfect formal compliance with genre norm, may be explained by the difference in the meaning of monitoring for different states.

1. FN11 Saunders, quoted in G.R. Berridge, Diplomacy: Theory and Practice (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, fourth edition, 2010), p. 25.
2. FN22) R.P. Barston, Modern Diplomacy (Harlow: Pearson Education, third edition, 2006), pp. 53-54.
3. FN33) See Berridge, Diplomacy, chapter 6 on ‘Following Up’.
4. FN44) Barston, Modern Diplomacy, pp. 259-310.
5. FN55) Coral Bell, The Conventions of Crisis: A Study of Diplomatic Management (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971); Robert L. Jervis, The Logic of Images in International Relations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970); Jovan Kurbalija and Hannah Slavik (eds.), Language and Diplomacy (Malta: DiploProjects, University of Malta, 2001); Ragnar Rommetveit, On Message Structure: A Framework for the Study of Language and Communication (London: John Wiley, 1974); Raymond Cohen, ‘Diplomacy: 2000 BC to 2000 AD’, paper presented at the Annual Conference of British International Studies Association, Southampton, 1995; Christer Jönsson and Martin Hall, ‘Communication: An Essential Aspect of Diplomacy’, International Studies Perspectives, vol. 4, no. 2, 2003, pp. 195-210; and Geert Hofstede, ‘Diplomats as Cultural Bridge-Builders’, in Hannah Slavik (ed.), Intercultural Communication and Diplomacy (Malta: DiploFoundation, 2004), pp. 25-38.
6. FN66) This type of analysis is just emerging and is still virtually absent from the literature. See Sivan Cohen-Wiesenfeld, ‘Le Discours Diplomatique dans la Correspondance Franco-Allemande, 1871-1914’, Argumentation et Analyse du Discours, vol. 1, 2008.
7. FN77) Olga M. Pasinich, ‘Functional and Structural Specificities of Diplomatic Communication Texts’, unpublished doctoral thesis (in Ukrainian), Kiev State University, 2001; Olga Doncheva-Navratilova, ‘Interpersonal Meanings in the Genre of Diplomatic Addresses’, Brno Studies in English, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 129-143; Hafriza Burhanudeen, ‘Diplomatic Language: An Insight from Speeches Used in International Diplomacy’, Akademika, vol. 67, 2005, pp. 35-50; Hafriza Burhanudeen, ‘Registers in International Diplomacy: Language of Speeches’, in Wilaiwan Khanittanan and Paul Sidwell (eds.), SEALSXIV: Papers from the 14th Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society (2004), vol. 1, 2008, pp. 59-66.
8. FN88) Germana D’Acquisto and Stefania D’Avanzo, ‘The Role of “Shall” and “Should” in Two International Treaties’, Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines, vol. 3, no. 1, 2009, pp. 36-45.
9. FN99) See a recent overview in, for example, Linda L. Putnam, ‘Negotiation and Discourse Analysis’, Negotiation Journal, April 2010, pp. 145-154.
10. FN1010) Julia Isabel Hüttner, Academic Writing in a Foreign Language: An Extended Genre Analysis of Student Texts (Berlin: Peter Lang, 2007), p. 19.
11. FN1111) Mikhail Bakhtin, Speech Genres and Other Late Essays (Austin TX: University of Texas Press, 1986), pp. 60-64.
12. FN1212) According to Swales, ‘The principal criterial feature that turns a collection of communicative events into a genre is some shared set of communicative purposes’; in John Swales, Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 46.
13. FN1313) Douglas Biber and Edward Finegan, Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Register (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 35.
14. FN1414) Douglas Biber, ‘An Analytical Framework for Register Studies’, in Douglas Biber and Edward Finegan (eds.), Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Register (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 31-56, quote from p. 33.
15. FN1515) Noam Chomsky, Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1965).
16. FN1616) Michael A.K. Halliday, Explorations in the Function of Language (London: Edward Arnold, 1973).
17. FN1717) Bakhtin, Speech Genres and Other Late Essays.
18. FN1818) Gyorgy Szondi, ‘Public Diplomacy and Nation Branding: Conceptual Similarities and Differences’, Discussion Papers in Diplomacy, vol. 112 (The Hague: Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’, 2008); and Simon Anholt, Another One Bites the Grass: Making Sense of International Advertising (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000).
19. FN1919) Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson, Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); and Erving Goffman (ed.), Interactional Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1967).
20. FN2020) Swales, Genre Analysis.
21. FN2121) This section uses information from interviews with members of the Advisory Committee and its Secretariat and with officials involved in the process of drafting from Finland and Estonia.
22. FN2222) Biber, ‘An Analytical Framework for Register Studies’, p. 41.
23. FN2323) Biber and Finegan, Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Register, p. 40.
24. FN2424) Biber and Finegan, Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Register, p. 41.
25. FN2525) Stanko Nick, ‘Use of Language in Diplomacy’, in Kurbalija and Slavik, Language and Diplomacy, pp. 39-47 at p. 44.
26. FN2626) Edward Pascual, ‘Pragmatics in Diplomatic Exchanges’, in Kurbalija and Slavik, Language and Diplomacy, pp. 225-232 at p. 231.
27. FN2727) Biber and Finegan suggest the following epistemological stances: belief; conviction; and doubt. However, their list is open and is not meant to be exhaustive (Biber and Finegan, Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Register, p. 41).
28. FN2828) The first Outline gives very precise instructions as to the content of each suggested subsection of the report. Thus, for each article, five types of information should be present: 1) ‘narrative’, with the description of the current situation and recent developments; 2) ‘legal’, mentioning all the relevant legislation (to be also attached in appendix); 3) ‘state infrastructure’, describing the institutional setup; 4) ‘policy’, depicting concrete measures and programmes; and 5) ‘factual’, with the evaluation of implementation with statistics and survey data. See Advisory Committee of the FCNM, ‘Outline for Reports to be Submitted Pursuant to Article 25 Paragraph 1 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities’, 1998.
29. FN2929) For the support of this view, see Cohen-Wiesenfeld, ‘Le Discours Diplomatique dans la Correspondance Franco-Allemande, 1871-1914’, pp. 3 and 8.
30. FN3030) Douglas Biber, Susan Conrad and Randi Reppen, Corpus Linguistics: Investigating Language Structure and Use (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 75-76.
31. FN3131) Biber, Dimensions of Register Variation.
32. FN3232) The reports (only text, without tables, headings and footnotes) were tagged with Stanford POS tagger (see online at Statistics on the frequency of parts of speech were obtained with the help of MAXQDA 10 (see
33. FN3333) Jamshed J. Safarov, ‘Structure of Diplomatic Discourse and its Lexico-Phraseological Composition (on the Material of English)’ (in Russian), unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Tashkent, 2000.
34. FN3434) Biber, Conrad and Reppen, Corpus Linguistics, p. 68.
35. FN3535) Those nominalizations ending in ‘-ment’, ‘-ity’, ‘-ness’, ‘-sion’ and ‘-tion’ were taken into account.
36. FN3636) Nominalizations are nouns produced from verbs (or adjectives), such as ‘movement’, ‘proclamation’, or ‘continuity’. Since in most cases a verb phrase may be used to convey the same idea, the use of nominalized nouns is a stylistic choice. Here is an example from Guidelines for Document Designers: ‘The specification of the company is that employees work between 9 and 5’ versus ‘The company specifies that employees must work between 9 and 5’; see Daniel Felker, Frances Pickering, Veda Charrow, V. Melissa Holland and J. Redish, Guidelines for Document Designers (Washington DC: American Institute for Research, 1980), p. 35, emphasis in the original. Nominalizations usually make the text more difficult to read, wordier (mainly by multiplying strings of noun phrases) and more formal.
37. FN3737) The list of 41 nominalizations included in the ‘non-stylistic’ group is available from the author by request.
38. FN3838) Casey Mari Keck and Douglas Biber, ‘Modal Use in Spoken and Written University Registers: A Corpus-Based Study’, in Roberta Facchinetti and Frank Palmer (eds.), English Modality in Perspective: Genre Analysis and Contrastive Studies (Berlin: Peter Lang, 2004), pp. 3-25; and Douglas Biber, University Language: A Corpus-based Study of Spoken and Written Registers (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2006).
39. FN3939) ‘Should’, ‘would’, ‘will’, ‘must’, ‘may’, ‘shall’, ‘can’, ‘might’, ‘could’, and semi-modals ‘ought to’ and ‘going to’.
40. FN4040) Douglas Biber, Dimensions of Register Variation, p. 107.
41. FN4141) COCA is the only freely available important tagged corpus that allows for comparisons (see online at The sample is academic discourse on law and politics — the closest possible to the genre of state reports in COCA. ‘Tagged’ means that each word has a tag attached to it with the information on its basic grammatical characteristics (part-of-speech tagging).
42. FN4242) Austria: Federal Act concerning the Protection of Personal Data 1999; Croatia: Act on Personal Data Protection 2003; Cyprus: Processing of Personal Data Law 2001; Czech Republic: Personal Data Protection Act 2000; Denmark: Act on Processing of Personal Data 2000; Estonia: Personal Data Protection Act 2003; Finland: Act on the Openness of Government Activities 1999; Italy: Personal Data Protection Code 2003; Romania: Law on the Protection of Individuals with Regard to the Processing of Personal Data 2001; Slovakia: Act on Protection of Personal Data 2002; Spain: Organic Law on the Protection of Personal Data 1999; United Kingdom: Data Protection Act 1998. Since Ukraine’s data protection act was adopted much later, instead the Law on State Social Welfare to Needy Families 2000 and the Law of Ukraine on State Assistance to Families with Children 2001 were used. Hungary, on the contrary, had adopted the Data Protection Act in 1993, so instead the Act on Copyright 1999 was analysed.
43. FN4343) Christopher Williams, Tradition and Change in Legal English: Verbal Constructions in Prescriptive Texts (Bern: Peter Lang, 2005), pp. 113-127.
44. FN4444) Felker et al., Guidelines for Document Designers.
45. FN4545) Shading distinguishes three groups of reports according to average sentence length (<25; 25-30; >30 words). It makes clearer the tendency to longer sentences in the second cycle of monitoring.
46. FN4646) There are nine ‘pure’ cases and two cases where the ratio change between two cycles is insignificant (<10%).
47. FN4747) Only the text in quotation marks and structurally highlighted quotations were taken into account here. Reported speech (such as ‘the Committee concludes in its report that’) was not included.
48. FN4848) Advisory Committee of the FCNM, ‘Outline for Reports to be Submitted Pursuant to Article 25 Paragraph 1 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities’, p. 2.
49. FN4949) On obligatory and optional moves, see Vijay K. Bhatia, Analysing Genre: Language Use in Professional Settings (Harlow: Pearson Education, 1993), pp. 56ff.
50. FN5050) Advisory Committee of the FCNM, ‘Outline for Reports to be Submitted Pursuant to Article 25 Paragraph 1 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities’, 2003.
51. FN5151) This finding may be contrasted with Barston’s opinion on the ‘growing informality’ of diplomatic agreements, which he explains by the heterogeneity of the actors involved in diplomacy and the more technical nature of negotiated topics; see Barston, Modern Diplomacy, p. 64.
52. FN5252) Such as picking between ‘to make measurements’ and ‘to measure’.
53. FN5353) Biber and Finegan, Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Register, p. 33.
54. FN5454) Norman Fairclough, ‘Register, Power, and Socio-Semantic Change’, in D. Birch and M. O’Toole (eds.), Functions of Style (London: Pinter, 1998), pp. 111-125 at p. 113.
55. FN5555) Hüttner, Academic Writing in a Foreign Language, p. 101.
56. FN5656) Vijay Bhatia, ‘Interdiscursivity in Business Letters’, in Paul Gillaerts and Maurizio Gotti (eds.), Genre Variation in Business Letters, vol. 24 of Linguistic Insights (Bern: Peter Lang, 2005), pp. 31-54 at p. 33.

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Affiliations: 1: Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences, University of Bremen P.O. Box 330440, 28334 Bremen Germany, Email:, URL:


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