The Dissemination of Contemporary Knowledge in English
Genres, Discourse Strategies and Professional Practices
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Re-contextualizing Specialized English: from Legislation to Business
- Unbottling the Truth about Water: the Discursive Construction of Water as a ‘Strategic’ Resource
- Evidential Devices in English Medical Journals
- On the State of Public Health: Discourse and Sharing Practices in Annual Medical Reports
- Online Knowledge Dissemination: How to Make the Dismal Science Less Dismal
- Directive Acts and Narration in Corporate Training Events: Framing Structures and Processes through Language
- Notes on Contributors
- Series Index
Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt
(Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 5.6)
The key role played by knowledge communication in the present world is undeniable. Knowledge has not only grown to measures that are difficult to map with the certainty that characterised for example the 18th century and its hope to be able to capture universal knowledge into an encyclopaedia; it has also become so central to economic development that no innovation seems to be possible without knowledge transfer. Knowledge can no longer be hemmed in by neatly-packed and restricted communicative products: today’s globalized and digital environment has increasingly destructured the élitarian fences of knowledge communication and knowledge communication is gaining centrality in a plurality of contexts, from the strictly specialized ones to the more general lay milieus.
The fundamental vehicle of knowledge transfer is obviously language. Wittgenstein’s statement can thus be used to point at the complex contribution of language to knowledge creation and its importance in knowledge construction and dissemination: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”. Knowledge is communicated through language and discourse, and expanding knowledge involves an expansion of one’s communicative potential. In particular, just as the fields that build up human knowledge are diverse, so are their different materializations in discourse genres that serve as bridges between the members of a specific epistemic and discourse community, between the different communities in general, and between them and their lay counterparts. A capillary network of horizontal and vertical discourses has been established whereby knowledge is spread and shared.
The ongoing process of democratization of knowledge has also led to an in-depth analysis of popularization. This is no longer assumed ← 7 | 8 → to be a mere top-down process and simplification is no longer considered as the main characteristic of the communication between experts and non-experts. Rather, a sophisticated chain of mediations is involved whereof recontextualization, reconceptualizations, transmediation and en-textualization (given the progressively multimodal and cross-media essence of knowledge dissemination) are the bulwarks of effective popularizing. The audience can disambiguate and encompass difficult concepts when guided by mediating textual and linguistic strategies, bridging the gap between discourse communities.
The book originates from this composite scenario. Knowledge dissemination is seen as including different areas of knowledge communication that are intended to transfer knowledge from its place of production to different addressees, including the general public (as in popularising) but also experts in other fields. The multi-layered and dynamic nature of any discourse on knowledge is hence mirrored by the multiplicity of discourses under examination in the present volume and of theoretical frameworks used by its authors: legal, political, economic, institutional, academic, organizational and professional discourses are placed under the microscope to be studied from different perspectives, from conversational analysis and narratology to Functional Linguistics and CADS, corpus-assisted discourse studies. Yet, the fil rouge inside the pages of this book is, as underlined in its introduction, the use of language in the creation and diffusion of knowledge.
With this in mind, different types of corpora have been studied – written, oral, and multimodal – including different genres characterizing a range of British, European and North American organizations and institutions. Even if sometimes relatively small, they have brought to light another inexorable tendency in the management of knowledge: a tabula rasa view of the addressee of knowledge dissemination has been abandoned to leave room for a consumer-centred idea. Addressees are seen as “knowledge consumers”: the demands, rights and obligations of the general public to whom certain discourses are addressed come to define and dictate the features of informative texts.
Another strength of the volume is that it reveals an important paradigmatic change in the perception of a binary relationship between discourse and context. Not only are discourses shaped by the socio-cultural ← 8 | 9 → context wherein knowledge is produced, but also discourses are seen as agents of change, affecting, in turn, their ever more “knowledge-able” surrounding world, in a continuous and active interplay. As the editors – Rita Salvi and Janet Bowker – rightly emphasize, at the core of the studies there is a multifaceted description of contextualization and its actualizations in discursive resources allowing people’s access to knowledge. Indeed, by unveiling knowledge-sharing practices, all the textual aspects and pragma-linguistic patterns examined are the springboard for a wider consideration of the diverse and complex nature of the interactions between language use, discourse, and knowledge creation and dissemination.
The volume shows great coherence in the work of the editors and the authors – Rita Salvi, Ersilia Incelli, Renzo Mocini, Chiara Prosperi Porta, Judith Turnbull and Janet Bowker – and offers interesting insights into the ongoing debate on more transparent and equally-distributed knowledge as well as on a more effective development of those competencies necessary for a full participation in contemporary society. ← 9 | 10 →
Knowledge is an extremely complex phenomenon, as is the nature of discourse, and any investigation into the relationship between the two poses a not insignificant challenge for researchers in the linguistic sciences. For our present purposes, we shall adopt van Dijk’s definition of knowledge (2003: 85) as “the consensual beliefs of an epistemic community”. We shall also specify “knowledge dissemination” as the spread of knowledge within and across settings, with the expectation that the knowledge will be used conceptually, as learning, enlightenment, or the acquisition of new perspectives, attitudes and behaviours (Barba Navaretti et al 2010).
This volume brings together a series of studies on the nature of the dissemination of specialist knowledge in English, its various principles, conceptualizations, constructs and pragmatic dynamics, over a range of discourse genres: knowledge discourse is addressed to a number of audiences, expert and lay, in a variety of fields, legal, political, economic, institutional, academic, organizational and professional. The authors explore the use of language in the creation and diffusion of knowledge, in its transformation from being a mere repository of information, achieved through complex discursive processes. These processes use both general pragma-linguistic textual resources, and also derive from the communicative practices specific to the discourse communities in question.
Relatively small, original, specialized corpora have been constructed by the scholars for this purpose: oral, written and multimodal in type. These include European and British legislation on the regulation of electricity and the websites of the Big Six Energy Suppliers in the UK; corporate websites, on-line documents from The World Bank, UN Declarations, material from NGO organizations; research articles in medical journals; annual epidemiological reports issued by the E.U. ← 11 | 12 → and the UK; the websites of two central banks, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank; internal organizational and corporate training and development webcast audio-conferences. The use of data retrieved from web 2.0 technologies is important in these investigations not so much for a study of the linguistic choices afforded and constrained by internet genres but for insight into the shaping of authorial purposes and their textual expression. In a time of “digital democratization”, the distinctions between expert and non-specialist audiences, public and private communication domains, are becoming blurred. The demands, rights and obligations of the general public in the global knowledge-sphere are changing, informative texts are increasingly being drafted with interested “consumers” in mind, and consequently “strategic texts” are taking centre stage in research agendas. These are texts which offer a rethinking of the way in which knowledge is managed: how it is built, elaborated and distributed.
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Softcover)
- Publication date
- 2015 (December)
- Genre English Language Specialized English ESP Discourse
- Bern, Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 170 pp.