Text type

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The term text type is a central term in text linguistics . It is based on the regularity of features that enable a classification of texts to text types.


The assignment can be based on different characteristics depending on the research interest. In linguistics and text linguistics, the term “type of text” is not uniformly defined. In principle, however, the type of text can be viewed as a group (see genre ) of texts (written as well as oral) that are characterized by certain bundles of characteristics. The terms text class, text type, text type, text form or text pattern are also used with a similar or synonymous meaning . In recent years, however, there has been a consensus to relate the terms text type or text class primarily to empirically available text forms (e.g. contact ad ), while the text type refers to theory- related categories or scientific classifications (e.g. contact text ). The amount of text types in a single language depends on the classification scheme used.

Text type research

Text type research pursues the goal of assigning texts to a text type based on their characteristic features and describing them. Both internal and external factors of the texts are analyzed: the classification is based on the form and use of a text. Sometimes differences between written and oral, literary and practical texts, scientific and non-scientific texts, etc. can be identified. Research also addresses the problem of whether types of text are subject to a general typology of texts or whether they create it in individual cases.

In the history of language and literature, an assignment of texts to text types provides insights into the origin of texts, their historical forms and their development under changing linguistic, social and other aspects. a. Influences. Another interest of text type research with regard to the sociology of knowledge is the connection of text types with media and means of communication as well as their use and dissemination.

In general, a distinction can be made between text-internal and text-external criteria for determining the type of text:

The text-internal criteria are linked to the text surface and the text deep structure. Criteria linked to the text surface are, for example, phonetic paraverbal or graphic nature (in the written language area, for example, a distinction is made between handwriting, typescript and printing), the vocabulary and the sentence structure (so it is unlikely that in love letters concentrated noun constructions and to find accumulated participle structures). Criteria linked to the text's deep structure include the topic (clearly visible from the naming of many types of text, e.g. “recipe”, “instructions for use”), the connection to the topic and the course of the topic (e.g. a lecture usually uses only one Subject persisted, with private letters it often varies).

The text-external criteria are linked to the context of communication. This mainly includes the text function (e.g. "judgment vs. petition"), the carrier medium (e.g. "letter vs. phone call") and the communication situation in which a text is embedded (determined by factors such as time, place , Circumstances and social environment).

Everyday classification of text types

An intuitive classification is usually easy for speakers of a language community for common types of text, i. H. most speakers have knowledge of text types (also called “knowledge of text types”). Knowledge of text types is an ability acquired in everyday language activity to produce and understand texts in the context of situations and institutions. Proof of this is that speakers are able to repeatedly produce the same text content in different areas of communication without using the same syntax and vocabulary . So z. B. a written message in the form of a personal conversation or a story can be reproduced or an interview appear as a summarized newspaper article. In addition, speakers have evidently acquired the ability to recognize classificatory errors in texts and also to determine or signal a change of text type.

In their socialization process, speakers acquire knowledge of which content or topics and which functions or objectives are to be connected with one or the other type of text. One expects z. E.g. the expression of personal experiences or emotions in a personal letter, but not in a patent specification. This means that there is the ability to assign texts without having to include a vocabulary element in these texts as a pre-signal, which indicates which class it is.

On the other hand, there are characteristic signals for different classes (typical utterances or organizational principles) that can have a class-identifying function. Typical utterances often include characteristic text introductory or closing structures such as "Once upon a time ..." (fairy tale), "Dear Sir / Madam ..." and "With best regards ..." (letters), "In the name of the people ... “(Court judgments) etc. Under characteristic text organization principles are meant, for example, verse structures (in poems) or vacancies to fill out (in forms).

Global text structures and text schemes are both a result and a prerequisite for the linguistic activity of a human community. These change over time with changing interaction conditions, communication needs and tasks. The following example (text type: recipes ) shows how the imperative mode in early New High German has been replaced by passive constructions and even by modal infinitives in modern times. There is also a tendency to increase the accuracy and density of information.

A smart game. Diz is a smart spise. a brain should be taken vnd mel vnd apples and eyer and amount of it with spices and strokes it on a spiz vnd bratez gently and give it. daz heats the brains roasted, and you do the same to a lung that is sunk. "

Translation: “ A fine meal. This is fine food: take a brain, flour, apples and eggs. Mix this with spices, stick it on a skewer, fry it well and serve. This is called "fried brain". You can do the same with a boiled lung. "

Bean soup with bacon. You boil a piece of bacon in water until soft and strain the broth through. Then the beans are boiled soft, poured off, half sifted through, the bacon sauce poured on top and burned off until fluffy. Then you pour in the beans that have not been cracked through, let this cook for ¼ hour and pour the pieces of bacon in. "

Bulgarian rice meat. Ingredients: 400 g meat, 250 g rice, 1L meat broth, 4 tomatoes, 4 onions, 2 peppers, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 2 cloves of garlic, ¼ teaspoon pepper, 2 teaspoons sweet paprika, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon salt . Preparation: The meat is cut into small pieces and fried in oil for 10 minutes. Add spices, tomato paste and hot broth, bring to the boil and cook covered. Cut the pitted peppers into strips, peel and quarter the onions. Peel and quarter the tomatoes. Then mix in rice, peppers and onions and let everything cook. Add the tomatoes in the last five minutes of preparation. Season to taste at the end. Mixed bread and a glass of red wine are good accompaniments to this dish. Per serving 2,938 kJ (= 701 kcal). "

Text types that are intuitively accessible or known to a speaker are empirically found in linguistic usage, are mostly common and are called "traditional text types".

Linguistic classification of text types

The linguistic search for classification schemes to recognize or structure text types can be based on four possible methodological approaches:

Overview of the methods of a text type classification

  • a. One starts from the traditional types of text and tries to determine the characteristics of each type of text.
  • b. You first develop a text theory and then check whether this results in a useful text typology.
  • c. When working out a text theory, the aim is to apply it to a text typology in such a way that the traditional types of text can be defined.
  • d. A text typology is developed within the framework of a text theory and independent of the traditional types of text.

Ways to a text typology

The everyday classification of texts took place long before linguistics dealt with questions of typology. So z. B. the literary genres and genres classified into "novel", "story", "novella", "sonnet", "poem" etc., the different legal texts in "constitution", "ordinance", "order", "implementation provision" , “Submission”, “Court verdict”, “Indictment” etc., educational texts in “teaching texts” and “exercise texts” etc. All of these can be understood as text types because they are specific text types with their characteristic properties. As a result, any word with lexicon characters can be recorded as a text type which corresponds at least partially in its meaning to the definition of the general text term . One of the ways to a linguistic typology of texts is to analyze more and more empirically available text types and to generalize their results. The aim is to achieve a taxonomy of text types and a theory of text composition inductively . Special investigations concerned such types of text as “narrative texts”, “jokes”, “letter types”, “interviews”, “appeals and calls”, “travel information”, “sales talks”, “presentations of problems in the therapy situation” etc. For a linguistic classification of texts However, the great heterogeneity of the texts created a difficult problem - by far not all types of text in a language community could be classified without contradictions. A theory of text composition that could describe and explain the global structures and organizational principles of texts has not yet been developed from this approach and remains a desideratum for some linguists.

Another way to a linguistic typology of texts lies in the assumption that a typology is reached automatically or (deductively) as soon as text theory is able to uncover the complex structure and function relationships of texts. This turned out to be a methodological miscalculation, because this assumption led to text-linguistic research neglecting the typological questions for a very long time or deliberately excluding them. It was not until the late 1960s that different text type classifications developed in text linguistics. Text-analytical linguistics reflects the dominant linguistic conceptions of the epoch in which they arose, which are expressed in the following text type models.

Grammatical-structuralist models

Grammatical-structuralist text analysis: Nouns and pronouns refer to the same referent and thus connect the sentences to a text

The classification models of the 1970s were based on criteria of the text surface and text-internal structures. This includes typographical features, vocabulary and sentence structure (e.g. nominal style vs. verbal style ). A text type or class of text is viewed as a grammatical structure (text grammatical models). Since these models focused exclusively on language-internal properties and their relationships with one another, they were criticized for being limited. Well-known representatives are Roland Harweg and Harald Weinrich .

Theme models

Theme models also classify texts into text types using text-internal structures. In these models, the contexts of meaning and their relationships in texts are particularly taken into account. Criteria linked to the text's deep structure relate to the text topic, the topic connection and the course of the topic.

Typical text-external criteria enable an assignment even without language skills

Componentity thesis / communication component theory

Accordingly, linguistic entities are constructed from elementary, discrete building blocks. Phonology and semantics have been very successful with this method for a long time. This approach defines a type of text as a combination of features (combination product) or a composition of features. So tried z. B. Barbara Sandig (1972) to achieve a differentiation of text sorts through twenty distinctive features. As with the semantic component analysis, however, the questions of how the individual features (a finite set) can be obtained, what status they have and what linguistic properties they represent, were revealed. The hierarchy principle, which is often adopted with this method, and the heterogeneous classification basis are controversial.

Situation models

After the pragmatic turn in linguistics in the 1970s, models increasingly spread that are not only based on the texts themselves, but also include the communication situation in their model. The representatives of these models take into account different situational aspects such as the area of ​​action or the surrounding situation (these are situational aspects in the narrower sense) and the area of ​​application or communication area (these are situational aspects in the broader sense, since social structures are taken into account here). A text type or text class is seen as the implementation of a communication type, so a text taxonomy largely corresponds to a situation typology.

Text type classifications according to a dominant criterion and limitation of the validity claim

The validity claim of the classifications mentioned above encompassed texts from all areas of communication. When it became apparent that the actual areas of validity are only partial, some linguists tried to plausibly limit the validity of their models. From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, text type classifications were used according to a dominant (prominent) criterion. A homogeneous typology basis was at least aimed at. So ordered Rolf own forest of texts after five global practice areas:

  1. Type of text: newspaper text (copies of text: news, report, leading article, commentary), cf. Journalistic form of presentation .
  2. Type of text: Economic text (copy of the text: economic section of a newspaper).
  3. Type of text: Political text (copies of texts: political speech, resolution, leaflet, pamphlet, mural).
  4. Text type: Legal text (copies of the text: lawyer letter, legal text, court judgment, contract text).
  5. Text type : Scientific text ( in various subject areas ).

Bärbel Techtmeier limited its classification to conversations and postulated a conversation typology based on institutional criteria:

  1. Talks in the economic field.
  2. Conversations in Education.
  3. Talks in the judiciary.
  4. Conversations in Science.
  5. Conversations in the media.
  6. Discussions in the context of social organizations.
  7. Family conversations, etc.

These approaches were criticized because of the arbitrariness of the assignment of the text copies to the global categories and because the global criteria were sometimes only seemingly homogeneous.

Functional models

Functional models are based on the communicative function of texts, i. That is, they assume that texts are produced with a specific communication intention. External criteria are tied to the context of communication. This includes text function, communication channel and communication situation in which a text is created. For the creation of text types, according to this model, their underlying function (use and purpose) is decisive, on the basis of which texts are classified as belonging to a certain text type. The text function is therefore considered to be the dominant criterion. For example, all texts whose main function is to convey information can be grouped together to form an “informative text type”. Texts that are instructions to the reader are assigned to the "directive text type" in a functional model.

However, a plausible definition of the term “text function” proves to be difficult. According to a definition of the term “text functions”, certain instructions are intentionally sent to the recipient of a text. A text function provides information about the understanding mode desired by the sender. Among other things, purely aesthetic functionality as a text function was also taken into account (the criteria were “beautiful, exciting, captivating, exciting, moving, shocking, entertaining, boring, banal, etc.”).

For the following text type classification, the functional aspects are obviously paramount:

  • Instructive (cognitive) texts
    • Here is u. a. about scientific and popular scientific texts, explanations, comparison (= discussion), statement (= dialectical reflection), definitions and explanations of terms, protocols.
  • Regulatory (normative) texts
    • This type of text includes a. Legal texts, guarantee statements, technical explanations.
  • Communicative (informative) texts
    • These include u. a. Report, message, comment (mixed form that reports and expresses an opinion), description, report, protocol, characteristic, discussion (mixed form that argues and comments).
  • Inviting (appellative) texts
    • These include, for example, advertising texts, political propaganda, appeals, advertisements, invitations and instructions .
  • Descriptive (descriptive) texts
  • Entertaining (trivial-narrative) texts
    • These are both demanding novels, e.g. B. biographical content, as well as trivial literature such as women's, homeland, doctor and detective novels, utopian novels, travelogues, stories of experiences.
  • Poetic-interpretive (aesthetic-creative) texts
    • These include narrative texts (epics), scenic texts (drama), poetry texts (poetry).

In the context of functional text models, action-oriented text typologies were created, which identified types of text with types of action or action patterns. For example B. Ernst Ulrich Große proposes a classification according to the communicative functions of a text, which incidentally has an unusually limited scope (limited to all written texts in German and French):

  1. Text class: normative texts / text function: normative function / examples: laws, statutes, contract, birth certificate.
  2. Text class: contact texts / text function: contact function / examples: letter of congratulations, letter of condolence.
  3. Text class: group indexing texts / text function: group indexing function / examples: texts of group songs such as Marseillaise .
  4. Text class: poetic texts / text function: poetic function / poem, novel, comedy.
  5. Text class: self-portraying texts / text function: self-portraying function / diary, autobiography.
  6. Text class: inviting texts / text function: solicitation / advertising, party programs, petition, request.
  7. Text class: informative texts / text function: information transfer / news, weather forecast, scientific text.
  8. Transitional class - two functions dominate equally (e.g. invitation and information transfer).

New approaches

With his "transitional class", Große tried to give his model flexibility, which made it possible to assign a text twice. In practice, a large number of texts allow multiple assignments. One typology is not enough. The fable of the clever wolf and the nine stupid wolves can be used, for example, as a “mathematical teaching text”, “narrative text”, “event text”, “fictional text”, “humorous text”, “historical text” and even as a “fable text” be successfully classified. The current state of text linguistics allows multiple classifications, whereby specifications according to text-internal characteristics as well as orientation towards the goals of the interacting parties are taken into account. The realization that typical text structuring patterns of social tasks and needs can change accordingly, led to a text typology not being viewed as a fundamental, timeless model. Instead of rigid attempts at systematization, flexible classification approaches are becoming increasingly popular.

Multi-level models

The multi-level models take into account various criteria for classification. The following principles are characteristic of multilevel models:

  • Compatibility with everyday text types: A text type model should not contradict everyday knowledge about text types
  • Multidimensionality: Components of different typing levels are the basis of the classification
  • Flexibility: No clear relationships between types of text are assumed

The basis of the multilevel classification is based on the assumption that the text pattern knowledge comes about through multidimensional assignments of prototypical representations on different levels (layers). The question of the hierarchization (weighting) of the levels remains open.

Example of a multilevel model:

  • Level I. Function types
  • Level II. Types of situation
  • Level III. Procedure types
  • Level IV. Text structuring
  • Level V. Prototype formulation samples


  • Kirsten Adamzik ​​(Ed.): Text types . Reflections and analyzes. Stauffenburg, Tübingen 2000, ISBN 3-86057-680-1 .
  • Matthias Dimter: Text class concepts in everyday language today. Communication situation, text function and text content of everyday language text classification. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1981, ISBN 3-484-31032-4 .
  • Ernst Ulrich Große: Text types. Linguistics of current communication files. Theory and description. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart / Berlin / Cologne / Mainz 1974.
  • Mechthild Habermann (Ed.): Text type typologies and text alliances of the 13th and 14th centuries. Berlin 2011 (= Berlin Linguistic Studies. Volume 22).
  • Wolfgang Heinemann: Type of text - text pattern - text type. In: Klaus Brinker u. a. (Ed.): Text and conversation linguistics. An International Handbook of Contemporary Research. 1st half band. de Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 2000, ISBN 3-11-013559-0 .
  • Wolfgang Heinemann & Dieter Viehweger: Text Linguistics. An introduction. (= German Linguistics 115 series) Niemeyer, Tübingen 1991.
  • Eckard Rolf: The functions of the types of useful text . de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1993, ISBN 3-11-012551-X .
  • Barbara Sandig: To differentiate usage-specific text types in German. In: Elisabeth Gülich, Wolfgang Raible (Ed.): Textsorten. Differentiation criteria from a linguistic point of view. 2nd Edition. Athenaion, Wiesbaden 1975, ISBN 3-7610-5702-4 .
  • Christina Gansel, Frank Jürgens: Text Linguistics and Text Grammar. An introduction. 2nd, revised and expanded edition 2007. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, ISBN 978-3-525-26544-4 .

Web links

Wiktionary: text types  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Bärbel Techtmeier: The conversation: functions, norms and structures. Akademie-Verlag, 1984.
  2. Alfons Brendel; I. Brack-v. Wins; Victoria Schmitz: Textanalysen II. Examination of texts. 10th to 13th grade, upper secondary level, college level. 2nd Edition. Manz-Verlag, Munich 1977, ISBN 3-7863-0248-0 ; 10th edition. 1982 - Here, p. 23 ff.