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Volume 6 Number 2, Summer 2009, Pages 1-231   

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Move Registers and Language Teaching

    Alex Henry and Robert L. Roseberry

Genres are now generally considered to consist of a series of obligatory and optional moves, with each move contributing to the overall communicative purpose of the genre. One concept which has been found to be useful from a language teaching perspective is the notion of the ‘move register'- the list of lexico-grammatical features found in each move of a particular genre. This paper aims to review four ways in which move registers can be used in language teaching. Firstly, the paper looks at some early work in move register analysis which recommends teachers teach the language of the moves and not the language of the genre. Secondly, the paper explores the concept of language learners as ethnographers. By using the move as the main unit of analysis, learners can be made aware of the dynamic nature of genres by using move registers to track historical change in generic structure and in important linguistic features. Thirdly, the role move registers can play in identifying problems in cross-cultural communication is highlighted using examples of scientists in Asia applying for research positions in Britain. Finally, the paper looks at how the large amounts of data mined from move register analyses can be presented to learners meaningfully.

Keywords: genre, move registers, ethnography, variation

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