Self-improvement books: A genre analysis

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Institution: Victoria University of Wellington
Program: School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2015

Author: Jeremy Koay

Dissertation Title: Self-improvement books: A genre analysis

Dissertation URL:

Dissertation Director(s):
Jean Parkinson
Elaine Vine

Dissertation Abstract:

The aim of the thesis is to explore the characteristics of self-improvement
books as a genre. Studies within genre theory tend to have a focus on academic
and professional (e.g., legal, medical) settings, and their goals are mainly
to describe the rhetorical structure and lexicogrammatical features of a
particular genre. Often, interview data is utilised to complement textual
analysis. Although self-improvement books are a widely read genre,
particularly in the Western world, none to my knowledge has examined the
linguistic features of this genre in detail.

The thesis draws on the three main schools of genre theory: English for
Specific Purposes, Systemic Functional Linguistics, and the New Rhetoric, and
begins by investigating the sections (e.g., acknowledgement, introduction
chapter) in self-improvement books and the typicality of the sections.
Focusing on three sections: introduction chapters, body chapters, and ‘about
the author’ sections, I examined how authors structure the sections by
analysing the moves and steps. This study also examined the stories in
self-improvement books by analysing the purpose of the stories and their
structure. To analyse the genre at a register level, the study examined the
most unambiguous aspects of engagement: personal pronouns focusing on you,
imperative clauses, and questions, and the lexicogrammatical feature of
self-improvement book titles. To examine whether the features are unique to
self-improvement book titles, the study compared them to the titles of
historical biographies. Drawing on interview data and literature on the
American Dream, American individualism, Neoliberalism, and New Age beliefs,
the thesis explains the linguistic characteristics of self-improvement books
and how the genre reflects these ideologies.

Forty self-improvement books were selected based on a set of criteria that I
developed, and in various analyses subsets were selected from the main
dataset. The study included ‘specialist informants’ interview data that
consisted of three categories of interviewees: readers of the genre,
non-readers of the genre, and authors of the genre. It is arguable that
non-readers of the genre are not ‘specialist informants’ but in this study
they might provide insights from the other side of the coin.

Paying attention to the obligatory rhetorical moves, move analysis indicated
that the main purpose of introduction chapters, and ‘about the author’
sections are persuading readers to read the book, and establishing
credibility, respectively. Authors always persuade readers to read their books
by listing reasons to read them. The body chapters present the problem that
readers potentially experience, present the authors’ message, recommend
practical applications, and encourage readers to apply them. From a genre
perspective, the purpose of all the stories in my analysis is to illustrate
the authors’ message.

Register analysis, and drawing on interview data, suggests that authors use
the personal pronoun you, imperative clauses, and questions to engage readers.
The abundance of the personal pronoun you, suggests that self-improvement
books are a reader-oriented genre. The analysis of the imperative clauses
using Halliday’s process types suggests that the main way to improve our
lives, the authors recommend, is to change how we think.

Finally, my thesis suggests that the social purpose of self-improvement books
is to help potential readers improve their lives, and the approach of
improving one’s life has an individualistic orientation.

The Integration of Prosody and Gesture in Early Intentional Communication

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Institution: Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Program: Cognitive Science and Language
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2014

Author: Núria Esteve-Gibert

Dissertation Title: The Integration of Prosody and Gesture in Early Intentional

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Dissertation Director(s):
Pilar Prieto

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation comprises four experimental studies which investigate the
way infants integrate prosody and gesture for intentional communicative
purposes. The first study is a longitudinal analysis of how a group of infants
produce gesture and speech combinations in natural interactions, with results
that show that already at 12 and 15 months of age infants temporally align
prosodic and gesture prominences. The second study uses a habituation/test
procedure to test the infants’ early sensitivity to temporal gesture-prosodic
integration, showing that 9-month-old infants are sensitive to the alignment
between prosodic and gesture prominences. The third study analyzes the
longitudinal productions of four infants at the pre-lexical stage and provides
evidence that infants use prosodic cues such as pitch range and duration to
convey specific intentions like requests, statements, responses, and
expressions of satisfaction or discontent. Finally, the fourth study examines
how infants responded at 12 months of age to different types of
pointing-speech combinations and shows that infants use prosodic and gestural
cues to comprehend communicative intentions behind an attention-directing act.
Altogether, this dissertation shows that the temporal integration of gesture
and speech occurs at the early stages of language and cognitive development,
and that pragmatic uses of prosody and gesture develop before infants master
the use of lexical cues. I further claim that infants’ integration of prosody
and gesture at the temporal and pragmatic levels is a reflex of an early
emergence of language pragmatics.

Thesis: Investigating International Postgraduate Business Students’ Multimodal Literacy And Numeracy Practices: A Multidimensional Approach

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Institution: University of Adelaide
Program: European Studies and Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2014

Author: Hesham Suleiman Dawoud Alyousef

Dissertation Title: Investigating International Postgraduate Business Students’ Multimodal Literacy And Numeracy Practices: A Multidimensional Approach

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Discipline of Linguistics
Discourse Analysis
Linguistic Theories

Dissertation Director(s):
Peter Mickan
Michelle Yvette Picard

Dissertation Abstract:

The purpose of this ethnographic case study is to document multimodal literacy
and numeracy practices of seven Saudi postgraduate students enrolled in the
Master of Commerce Accounting program at the University of Adelaide,
Australia. Specifically, it aims to investigate the interrelated dimensions of
multimodal texts, literacy and numeracy practices, and contexts.

The study employs a multidimensional framework for researching the
participants’ literacy and numeracy practices in three course modules:
Accounting Concepts and Methods, Principles of Finance, and Management
Accounting. The study includes a metadiscourse analysis of collaborative wiki
literacy practices in the Intermediate Financial Reporting module. The
framework consists of three stages of analysis: description of literacy and
numeracy requirements, description of literacy events and participants’ actual
practices and their experiences, and a Systemic Functional Multimodal
Discourse Analysis (SF-MDA) of business texts. The analysis of the study is
primarily based on Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) (Halliday, 1985;
Halliday & Hasan, 1976; Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004). The findings of the
case study revealed the academic literacy and numeracy practices students were
expected to manage with in key topics in the business modules.

The analysis of the three accounting modules and the online literacy practices
revealed the multimodal and multisemiotic nature of accounting discourse,
diversity of text type, the literacy and numeracy practices, and features of
collaborative learning. The multiple-perspective framework has implications
for the investigation of tertiary students’ literacy practices in other
disciplines with the application of an SF-MDA of financial statements, graphs,
and mathematical symbolism.

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