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Language and Identity in the English Version of Italian University Webistes: Preliminary Research Results

Author(s): Laura Ferrarotti

Journal: Studii de Stiinta si Cultura
ISSN 1841-1401

Volume: VIII;
Issue: 3 (30);
Start page: 43;
Date: 2012;
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Keywords: university websites - promotional language - English language

This study presents the preliminary results of a corpus-based research concerning the promotional language of the English version of some Italian university websites. One of the assumptions of this work is that, as many scholars have pointed out, the role of institutional and educational websites today goes well beyond the strict objective of providing information. In fact, universities in particular have clearly adopted promotional strategies to attract students. The present analysis deals with the introductory sections of 14 university websites which vary in their headings, length and focus. These introductory sections are typically entitled “About us”, “The University of…”, “The History of the University of...”, “Our History”, or that may even present a “Welcome” message by the Rector. They intend to reach out, in particular, to foreign students, and as such contribute to the construction of the university’s identity. Data are being subdivided on the basis of region: North, Center, South of Italy and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, and are analyzed on the basis of a quantitative and qualitative approach. Through a comparison of different universities’ introductory sections, it was possible to detect noteworthy differences. For instance, while for some universities the information is rather concise as it mainly presents figures and descriptions, others present long historical accounts of the institution, and even mention well-known alumni characters who studied there. What emerges is a lack of uniformity that reveals the fact that these university websites are a genre in transition caught, so to say, between a traditional approach of providing information and a clearly promotional one in constructing their own identity.
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