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If the concept of genre appears inadequate and the definitions of forms are vague, if the arguments about classifications are tiring and the debates about standards seem futile, the fault is not only in the genres, but also in ourselves. The terms for genres are an integral part of any language. They are the words for speaking about speech and for conceiving of categories of tradition. Myth, tale, legend, and song, and their correlates in other languages, existed long before the idea of folklore dawned upon scholars. When folklore became a discipline, and its research assumed scientific garb, we took these existing terms and canonized them as scientific concepts. We transferred them from the context of 'natural language' in which ambiguities, ambivalences, and multiplicity of meanings appear to reign, and attempted to consider them terms in the language of science, whose meanings are clear and specific referents.
Originally published in Studia Fennica © 1977 SKS
Ben-Amos, D. (1977). The Concept of Genre in Folklore. Studia Fennica, 20 30-43. Retrieved from https://repository.upenn.edu/nelc_papers/140
Date Posted: 19 February 2019