Claim-making and Claim-challenging in English and Polish Linguistic Discourses

by Grzegorz Kowalski (Author)
©2015 Monographs IX, 366 Pages


The book presents the results of multi-parameter corpus research on Polish and English scientific discourses in the field of Linguistics. Highlighting the relevance of contextual variables (including time, culture, L1 vs. L2 language) in research framework, the study develops a discourse model of the scientific article, integrating paradigmatic, interpersonal and textual dimensions. The model is applied to investigate distribution patterns of linguistic exponents of claim-making and claim-challenging, i.e. two processes fundamental to scientific argumentation. The results show the changes which English and Polish linguistic discourses underwent between 1980 and 2010, and the extent to which English as lingua franca of modern science affects Polish L1 and English L2 linguistic discourses.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Preface
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Part 1. Perspectives on scientific community
  • 1.1. Scientific community in discourse perspective
  • 1.2. Alternative approaches to discourse community
  • 1.3. Scientific community in sociological perspective
  • 1.4. Typology of scientific communities
  • 1.5. Evolution of scientific communities
  • 1.5.1. Evolution and asymmetry
  • 1.5.2. Evolution and components of scientific community
  • 1.6. Communication in scientific communities
  • 1.6.1. Intra-group communication (communication within scientific communities)
  • 1.6.2. Inter-group communication (communication with non-members)
  • Part 2. Scientific article : discourse perspective
  • 2.1. Scientific article as a core genre of scientific community
  • 2.1.1. History of scientific article
  • 2.1.2. Scientific article: structural and functional definitions
  • 2.1.3. Scientific article: pragmatic approach
  • 2.1.4. Scientific article: contributions of ethnopragmatics and contrastive rhetoric
  • 2.2. Discourse approach to scientific article
  • 2.2.1. Scientific article as text-in-context: discourse model
  • 2.2.2. Scientific article as a process: discourse model
  • 2.2.3. Cultural and disciplinary variation of scientific article
  • 2.3. Discourse dimensions of scientific article
  • 2.3.1. Paradigmatic dimension of scientific article
  • 2.3.2. Interpersonal dimension of scientific article
  • 2.3.3. Identifying, marketing and economic functions of scientific article
  • 2.3.4. Text dimension of scientific article
  • 2.4. Scientific article under globalization
  • 2.4.1. Language uniformity
  • 2.4.2. Scientific style homogenization
  • 2.4.3. Genre homogenization
  • 2.4.4. Relaxation of style and colonization of scientific discourse
  • Part 3. Methodology and corpus
  • 3.1. Aims of the research
  • 3.2. Limitations of previous research and relevance of the present study
  • 3.3. Claim-making and claim-challenging
  • 3.4. Methodology
  • 3.4.1. Units of analysis
  • 3.4.2. Hedges – Text dimension: research categories
  • Accuracy-oriented hedges (reliability hedges)
  • Writer-oriented hedges
  • 3.4.3. Author – reader dialogicity – Interpersonal dimension: research categories
  • 3.4.4. Self-promotion and other-depreciation – Paradigmatic dimension: research categories
  • 3.5. The corpus
  • 3.6. Research tools
  • Part 4. Empirical analysis
  • 4.1. Text dimension: Hedges
  • 4.1.1. Reliability hedges
  • Epistemic modality
  • Judgmental speculative and evidential verbs
  • Markers of the author’s limited knowledge
  • 4.1.2. Writer-oriented hedges
  • Research-related subjects (“abstract rhetors”)
  • References to other scholars to support the writer’s own argumentation
  • References to shared knowledge
  • 4.2. Interpersonal dimension: Author–audience dialogicity
  • 4.2.1. Inclusive we
  • 4.2.2. Directives
  • 4.2.3. Second-person pronouns
  • 4.2.4. Direct questions
  • 4.3. Self-promotional strategies
  • 4.3.1. First-person singular pronouns
  • 4.3.2. Exclusive we
  • 4.3.3. Self-citing references
  • 4.3.4. Positive evaluation of the writer’s own work
  • 4.4. Claim-challenging
  • 4.4.1. References to works which are challenged
  • 4.4.2. Negative evaluation of the works of other scholars
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Appendix: The corpus


In recent years there can be observed an increased scholarly interest in scientific discourse, which may in fact be motivated by the growing importance of scientific publishing. The change is not so much qualitative in character since scientific texts have always functioned as records of theoretical constructs and reports of experiments, thus stimulating the evolution of disciplines and confirming their authors’ status as members of scientific community. Rather, the ever-expanding significance of scientific publishing is mainly due to quantitative changes, in particular the exponential growth in the volume of Web-based resources. But Web-based publishing is only one of the facets of the evolution which new technologies brought into scientific community. New channels of communication have streamlined contacts between scholars operating the world over, providing opportunities to share scientific knowledge in no time. Adding to that the more and more unrestricted academic mobility – though in this case the reasons being more political and economic than technological – it becomes evident that science, like many other domains of social activity, benefits greatly from the process of globalization.

Yet globalization also exerts considerable influence on more fundamental aspects of science, including redefinition of the boundaries of scientific community, both geographically and socially. As for the former, a shift is observed from once predominant local contexts of research (i.e. national scientific communities) to global ones. As for the latter, there can now be observed frequent interactions between science and other domains of social activity, which blur the demarcation line between the scientific and the non-scientific. In science proper redefinition of the boundaries is also a corollary of constant fusions and splits of disciplines, which lead to the emergence of more specialized fields of study on the one hand, and creation of so-called ‘hyphenated’ disciplines on the other. Redefinition of identity also concerns individual scholars: with more opportunities for professional mobility they can easily change academic affiliations. More and more common are redefinitions of affiliation on a virtual and temporary basis for accomplishing specific projects, after which groups of scholars split. Global scientific community is therefore characterized in terms of complexity of disciplines, disciplinary identities and institutional alignments; a complexity which due to its fluctuating character is often difficult to grasp.

A consequence of the above-described processes is diversity of scientific discourses, all the more accentuated in the context of global scientific community. Fuzziness of inter-disciplinary borders leads to the emergence of hybrid discourses, also ones blending elements from scientific and non-scientific ← 1 | 2 → domains, which in turn foregrounds the question of defining discipline-specific discourses. A shift from predominantly national to international context of research, including greater importance generally attributed to global rather than local context of scientific publication, highlights a similar problem in relation to culture-specific scientific discourses.

Analyzing scientific discourses in the global context is a major challenge faced by discourse analysis. While early research (e.g. Knorr-Cetina 1981, Myers 1985) could provide insights into how scientific texts are produced and received, it is virtually impossible to apply the same methodology beyond a case-study. A relevant solution is offered by large-scale corpus studies, which enable a multi-parameter analysis with diverse contextual variables taken into consideration. Works by Hyland (2004, 2009, 2012) or research projects under the aegis of KIAP (e.g. Dahl 2004, Fløttum et al. 2006, Fløttum 2007) are cases in point. Needless to say, no such project can do without the support of new technologies, in particular computer-assisted tools for text annotation and search analysis (concordances, key words, collocations etc.).

The present work is also based on multi-parameter corpus analysis, focusing on the variables of language of publication (English L1, English L2 and Polish L1), culture (English vs. Polish authors) and time (scientific articles in the field of linguistics published between 1980 and 2010). Its aim is to compare and contrast English and Polish scientific discourses in the field of linguistics, in particular in terms of claim-making and claim-challenging, which processes are argued to be fundamental to scientific argumentation. Specifically, the relevant linguistic categories linked with these two processes are divided into hedges, markers of author-reader dialogicity, and markers of self-promotion and other-depreciation.

Earlier research, especially in the fields of ethnopragmatics and contrastive rhetoric, has revealed a complex interplay between cultures and styles of scientific writing, on which basis there have been developed typologies of scientific styles associated with particular academic cultures. Dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, such typologies distinguished, among others, Saxon style identified with English-language territories, and Teutonic style dominant in German-language countries and other countries in Central/Eastern Europe, including Poland. I will argue here that the validity of the typologies then proposed should be re-examined to account for the possible impact of globalization on scientific discourses. Equally important for the Polish context is the caesura of the year 1989, which signifies a transition from the communist era to the democratic rule.

Three research questions are formulated and investigated: (1) How have English and Polish linguistic discourses changed during the period 1980–2010?; ← 2 | 3 → (2) What are the similarities and differences in linguistic discourses in articles written by Polish authors in their mother tongue and in English?; (3) To what extent does the status of English as the lingua franca of modern science affect scientific discourses in languages other than English?

Questions (2) and (3) are directly related to the problem of the obfuscation of the boundaries between culture-specific scientific discourses and evolution of hybrid styles in scientific writing. Previous research (e.g. Eggington 1987, Duszak 1994, Čmejrková and Daneš 1997, Moreno 1997, Halimah 2001, Salager-Meyer et al. 2003) shows that this problem is common to English L2 scientific writing, in which there can be found elements identified with Saxon style and the style associated with the author’s scholarly tradition. My second research question focuses on the extent to which this phenomenon may be present in English L2 linguistic articles by Polish authors; by contrast, the third question concerns what I term secondary hybridization, that is a situation when elements of Saxon style are further transferred to scientific publications in national languages other than English (here: Polish L1 linguistic articles).

A theoretical prerequisite for the corpus study was to define scientific article from a discourse perspective. For that purpose I developed a model, taking as a point of reference Fairclough’s ([1989] 2001) general schema of discourse, represented as a concentric model with text constituting the innermost dimension, the context of interaction being the middle one and the context of society as the outermost one. In my model the related dimensions of scientific article are termed, respectively, text dimension, interpersonal dimension and paradigmatic dimension. In particular, text refers to structural and stylistic aspects of a scientific article; interpersonal layer describes its role in an act of scientific communication, especially in terms of establishing interaction with the reader; finally, the paradigmatic dimension is related to the role of scientific article as a vector of scientific theory in the context of scientific community. Moreover, at the intersection of the interpersonal and paradigmatic dimensions there are further distinguished three functions: (1) identifying function, related to scientific article’s role as a token of membership in a scientific community and its author’s alignment with a particular research tradition; (2) marketing function, which enables the author to promote him-/herself and other scholars as authorities in the field; (3) economic function, which refers to the role scientific articles play in the pursuit of power and rank in scientific institutions.

Analysis of context-bound phenomena involved in claim-making and claim-challenging made it necessary to extend the scope of research beyond grammatical and semantic parameters and include pragmatic ones as well. The latter were essential to elicit exponents of positive and negative evaluation of scholarly work embedded in specific disciplines, with many examples of ← 3 | 4 → evaluative elements interpretable as such in the context of given theory, school or paradigmatic tradition, and neutral outside. In the light of contextual relativity of evaluation, which translates into a division into universal and local scales of categorization, correct annotation of the related markers requires sufficient familiarity with the field of research; for this reason my analysis includes only scientific articles in linguistics.

The book is divided into four parts. In Part 1 scientific community is defined from a discourse perspective. The following sections are devoted to channels, genres and conventions of communication in scientific community, in both intra- and inter-group dimensions.

Part 2 presents a definition of scientific article, considered to be the key genre in intra-group communication. A concise historical account is followed by a review of selected definitions of the genre, from structural approaches through descriptions highlighting stylistic features to functional models. In view of the aims of the study a discursive model of scientific article is proposed, which, as has been noted, can be considered an instantiation of the more general model of discourse presented by Fairclough (2001). The closing sections of Part 2 discuss tendencies in the evolution of scientific discourse in the context of globalization of formerly prevalent national scientific communities, in particular in the light of language uniformity, style and genre homogenization, relaxation of style, and colonization of scientific discourse.

Part 3 presents the methodology of the empirical analysis. It begins with definitions of claim-making and claim-challenging, whose linguistic exponents are analysed in this work. Specific discursive categories identified with these two processes are hedges, markers of dialogicity and markers of self-promotion and other-depreciation. At the same time these three broad categories are correlated with the three dimensions of scientific article, namely hedges with text dimension, dialogicity with interpersonal dimension, and self-promotion and other-depreciation with paradigmatic dimension.

Part 3 concludes with a presentation of the corpus and criteria of text selection. The study is based on an original corpus of 210 scientific articles in the field of linguistics, published in leading Polish and English journals, in the period 1980–2010. The corpus has been divided into three sub-corpora: (1) texts written in English by native speakers of English; (2) texts written in Polish by native speakers of Polish; (3) texts written in English by native speakers of Polish.

Part 4 presents the results of the corpus analysis of claim-making and claim-challenging strategies in Polish and English linguistic discourses. A number of examples excerpted from the texts in the corpus are provided to illustrate the topics discussed. The final part, Conclusions, summarizes the results obtained ← 4 | 5 → and offers insights into the tendencies observed. I also present the possible future trends in the distribution of the parameters analysed, which globally can indicate the dominant profiles of claim-making and claim-challenging in the discourse of linguistic scientific articles. ← 5 | 6 → ← 6 | 7 →

Part 1. Perspectives on scientific community

This chapter provides a theoretical outline of selected linguistic and sociological approaches to the concept of scientific community. As for the former, the focus is on works analyzing scientific community as a discourse community, most of which originate in Anglo-Saxon discourse analysis. As for the latter perspective, a common issue of sociological accounts is the condition of scientific community, which is characteristic to Polish literature on the topic, in particular in terms of the transition period of Polish politics, economy and society after 1989. From a sociological perspective, Anglo-Saxon and Polish scientific communities are thus contrasted as subject to, respectively, evolutionary and revolutionary modes of development.

Having presented the dominant approaches to scientific community in Anglo-Saxon and Polish contexts, I argue for the relevance of a discursive definition of scientific community, combining both sociological and linguistic aspects. Central to this approach is the recognition of dynamics which applies to different dimensions of scientific community, not only to its paradigmatic foundation, as has been foregrounded in philosophical essays by Kuhn (1957, 1970) or Ziman (1968), but also to membership and power relations and patterns of communication, which are of particular relevance for the present study. It is postulated that the dimensions do not evolve independently of one another, but are reciprocally conditioning. The closing sections of Part 1 are devoted to the issue of scientific communication, its essential genres and evolution, with a distinction made between communication within scientific community (intra-group communication) and with outsiders (inter-group communication).

1.1.Scientific community in discourse perspective

In this section I focus on the discourse perspective on scientific community, which is characteristic of Anglo-Saxon scholarly publications. The evolution of discourse analysis, with its main postulate of investigating speech and writing in use, has stimulated research on communication in specific social settings, including insights into both the micro-context of interaction and the underlying macro-level context of social and cultural background. The then existing models originating in descriptive linguistics have generally proved insufficient in that they could offer only a static view on texts and utterances as end-products. Needless to say, scientific community and its patterns of communication have quite early become one of the areas of inquiry in discourse research. The seminal work of Swales (1990) may be considered a symbolic turning point in ← 7 | 8 → the application of discourse approach to scientific community, and for this reason it is further discussed in detail. More recent studies of discourse communities also integrate a critical stance, focusing on such factors as hegemony and power relations, and the resulting asymmetries in the access to community’s resources and decision-making.

The concept of discourse community is generally contrasted with an earlier concept of speech community (Hymes 1975), with a rough distinction made between the former’s distinction along the criteria related with professional activity, and the latter’s being determined geographically and ethnically (for a review of theories and concepts related to speech community, see e.g. Patrick 2004). Methodologically, the shift of research focus from speech community to discourse community involves a major change from macro-level sociolinguistic analysis into qualitative studies in more specific domains (Meyerhoff 2004: 542–543). Epistemologically, the change involves a shift from systemic, abstract models of language, based on structuralist and generative-transformative paradigms, into a functional perspective. More specifically, the Rules and Rules+Norms models (Patrick 2004), which have been used to delimit speech communities, have been replaced with models based on concepts of genre competence or discourse competence (e.g. Duszak 1998a, Swales 1990). The resulting perspective offers a more dynamic view of membership compared with a relatively static image conveyed in definitions of speech community.

In contrast to structural and normative models, the concept of discourse community has proven more effective in providing insights into the actual relationship between language use and groups of users. The interest in large-scale phenomena has no longer been prevalent, giving priority to research focused on smaller units of social organization. This new analytic perspective, adopted not only in studies on discourse communities, but also in more recent alternative models (e.g. communities of practice, see below), can also been discussed in terms of a general methodological shift in humanities, from the positivist paradigm towards relativism (Meyerhoff 2004). The restricted focus of investigation allows for obtaining empirically verifiable evidence, and avoids the trap of such abstract representations as ideal language user, ideal competence etc. Ethically, discourse approach does not falsify the actual variety of small subgroups forming the complex amalgam of society.

Historically, the first theoretical foundations underlying the concept of discourse community may well be traced back to the 1980s, yet it is only in the following decade that the concept has been researched systematically (e.g. Swales 1990, Bhatia 1993, Paltridge 1995, Connor 1996). Ontologically, the concept was discussed in relation to the ideal/actual dichotomy, represented at the grammatical level as the distinction between discourse community ← 8 | 9 → (uncountable) and a discourse community (countable). As Ivanič (1998: 78) remarks, the former denotes an abstract collectivity gathered around a socio-culturally established system of values and beliefs. Since such systems are not directly amenable to analysis, but only through the intermediary of discourses in which they are represented, the actual research needs to focus on the empirically observable discourse practices performed in a specific discourse community, which provide insights into the underlying axiology of a given group. As opposed to the abstract concept of discourse community, the definition of a discourse community highlights the fact that norms and standards are not the property of an idealized grouping, but of the actual people who operate in its framework.

Ivanič (1998: 80ff) makes further insights into discourse community and its validity in relation to the more general concept of community as understood in social sciences. She argues that both approaches are based on the atomistic view of society divided into groupings, which are characterized by specific worldviews and axiologies manifested in everyday practices of their members. Among them discourse practices are perhaps the most direct vehicle for conveying the community’s opinions and beliefs. The major difference between community and discourse community is methodological. Specifically, in social sciences the top-down analysis aims to specify the extent to which community-specific value systems are represented in its actual practices, including discourse practices. By contrast, discourse analysis starts with the community’s discourses and discourse practices in order to reveal its underlying axiologies.

Among the existing definitions of discourse community in linguistics Swales’s (1990) is perhaps the most frequently referred to, having inspired a number of follow-up models, more or less critically related to the original. Prior to the formulation of a comprehensive definition Swales (1990: 9) roughly describes discourse communities as “sociorhetorical networks that form in order to work towards sets of common goals”. Crucial for the operation of a discourse community is therefore shared awareness of the goals pursued. In this respect discourse communities differ from “non-teleological” (Holmes and Meyerhoff 1999: 179) speech communities.

Moreover, in terms of setting a distinction is made between a speech community’s geographical integrity and irrelevance of geographical boundaries in the case of a discourse community. More fundamentally, the difference lies in priority given to the spoken medium in the case of a speech community, in contrast with a discourse community’s focus on both spoken and written media. A speech community’s reliance on the spoken medium is a direct corollary of the spatial proximity of its members, which enhances opportunities of face-to-face interaction and favours socialization through conversation. By contrast, a ← 9 | 10 → discourse community, being primarily focused on the achievements of some pre-established objectives, does not need to be dependent upon the physical proximity of its members. As the interpersonal element is of secondary importance, it is possible for a discourse community to be geographically dispersed. Speech and face-to-face interaction may even not be exploited at all, as in the case of the now expanding virtual communities.


IX, 366
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (December)
Diskursanalyse linguistischer Diskurs Wissenschaftsgemeinde lingua franca
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. X, 366 pp., 11 tables, 22 graphs

Biographical notes

Grzegorz Kowalski (Author)

Grzegorz Kowalski is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Applied Linguistics at the University of Warsaw. His research interests include academic and scientific discourse analysis and corpus linguistics. He also authored, edited and contributed to works in the fields of critical linguistics and systemic-functional linguistics.


Title: Claim-making and Claim-challenging in English and Polish Linguistic Discourses