Table Of Contents
- Title Page
- Copyright Page
- About the editors
- About the book
- Citability of the eBook
- Knowledge dissemination in Academia
- The Communication of Expertise: Changes in Academic Writing
- Academics Online: Code Glosses across Research Genres and Public Communication
- Academic Writing vs. Blogging: Paul Krugman as a Case Study
- Retrievability, Comprehensibility and Authoritativeness: Disseminating Specialized Knowledge through Online Research Article Abstracts
- A Comparative Analysis of the Spoken and Written Versions of Nobel Prize Lectures
- Knowledge dissemination in Education
- Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice in Ethics Education: A Discourse-based Analysis of the Website Ethics. Unwrapped
- Institutional Dissemination of Legal Knowledge: An Instance of Knowledge Communication
- EdX-Learning: A Genre and Discourse Analysis of Online University Courses in Economics
- Knowledge dissemination in new genres and visual media
- Academic Medicine and Health Research Blog Posts as Interaction and Knowledge-making Resources
- Vlogging Science: Scholarly Vlogs between Scholarship and Popularization
- Visual Communication in Online Academic Genres: An Analysis of Images on Websites of Research Groups1
- Medical Video Abstracts: A Web Genre for Research Accessibility and Visibility
- Medical Infographics: Resemiotization Strategies in Specialized Discourse1
- Knowledge dissemination and popularization
- Breast Cancer and Diet: The Art of a Confusion-provoking Persuasion
- ‘…through hell and back’: Emotionality and Argument in the UK and Irish Discourse on the Ketogenic Diet
- Transferring Knowledge to the People on the Web: Academic Resources on Charles Darwin on Facebook
- Broadcasting Medical Discourse: The Dissemination of Dietary Treatments for Refractory Epilepsy through YouTube
- ‘Our aim is to transfer life-saving knowledge to large numbers of responders’: Knowledge Dissemination in the ‘E-health Era’
- Disseminating Green Knowledge: Patterns, Meaning and Metaphors in the Discourse of Eco-Cities
- Notes on Contributors
Stefania Maci / Michele Sala
The construal of specialized knowledge – that is, the establishing, on the part of experts, of domain specific contents, the formulation of disciplinary relevant concepts and the designing of methodologies, procedures and practices – is a phenomenon that is eminently language-based (Pirelli 1989; Swales 1990; Bourdieu 1991; Gotti 2003). In specialized contexts, discourse is essential for both knowledge-making and knowledge-dissemination purposes, that is to say, for the positing of meanings, the definition of the epistemology of the discipline, and for providing the basis for its possible and constant updating through processes of expansion, articulation, complexification, or even revision – which are also, in turn, essentially language-based – as well as for the circulation of such meanings among community members, for their negotiation and, ultimately, their understanding. The centrality of language as a knowledge-making resource – as has often been observed (Swales 1998; Aitken 2002; Hyland/Bondi 2006) – is due to a variety of factors. On the one hand, it may be ascribable to the diversified and global character of most expert communities (Killingswoth 1992; Bamford/Bondi 2005), where members do not (necessarily) share the same ‘spaces’, in terms of research orientation and tradition, professional environment, administrative constraints, disciplinary status (experts vs. novices), and also in terms of native vs. non-native linguistic competence; in such contexts a standardized, normalized – hence easily processable and comprehensible – way of representing disciplinary meanings is likely to make them unproblematic and easy to understand and favour interpretation (Gotti 2014). On the other hand, discourse is the tool that makes it possible to maximize the reliability and scientific soundness of the piece(s) of knowledge being presented by enhancing the idea of adequacy and acceptability (Hyland 2004; Danesi 2016) – the former condition being realized when contents are represented ←15 | 16→in ways that reflect and correspond to a given discipline’s epistemological framework, thus making them disciplinary relevant; the latter when writers textualize disciplinary competence by evidencing their ability to handle and master discipline-specific discursive and semiotic conventions and practices.
The relationship between specialized knowledge and discourse in the process of knowledge construction has been extensively studied from a variety of perspectives, ranging from discourse analysis to genre analysis (Swales 1990, 2004; Bhatia 1993, 2004; Gotti 2003; Hyland 2004), from text analysis to pragmatics (Widdowson 1979; Bazerman 1988; Myers 1992, 2010; Schnurr 2013) and to critical discourse analysis (Fairclough 1992, 2001, 2003). Instead, the mechanisms of knowledge dissemination – although they constitute an intrinsic dimension of knowledge-making – are the focus of a relatively new domain of investigation, whose main purpose is no longer the analysis of the conventions and most standardized ways of content codification, but rather of the discursive resources which are exploited to make disciplinary contents more appealing and accessible (Calsamiglia/van Dijk 2004; Garzone 2006; Popp et al. 2015) and, more specifically, of the changes in textual patterns, discursive standards and rhetorical strategies. In this view, disciplinary textual, generic, stylistic and register conventions are indeed still important, but they represent only one of the possible resources meant to facilitate the circulation of knowledge. In other words, the focus shifts from disciplinary conventions to their bending, merging and contamination (Bhatia 2004, 2012).
Two main factors have contributed to the diversification of communicative practices even in expert domains. On the one hand, the conflation of different interests and requirements (institutional, administrative, etc.) in the way research activities are carried out, where purely scientific aims are now coupled with performance-related concerns, need for impact and societal relevance, and commercial and marketing purposes (Lam 2011; Bhatia 2004; Hughes et al. 2016). This prompts a different perspective to the approach of specialized contents: that of the stakeholder and the lay user, who, as prospective readers, need to be addressed in ways that are accessible and suitable for their relatively limited disciplinary expertise and domain specific linguistic competence. On the other hand, a pivoting factor for change is represented ←16 | 17→by the development of new media, up-to-date communication technologies, and, especially, of the Web (Martinec/van Leeuwen 2009; Campagna et al. 2012). However, the wider circulation of specialized material and the possibility of reaching wider audiences do not per se coincide with or entail an effective communication of said material. In actual fact, in order to fully exploit the affordances of the digital medium, the traditional forms and style of specialized and academic communication need to be adjusted to the new scenario in order for contents not only to be available, but also accessible and appealing to a diverse audience which includes – besides experts of the discipline – novices, experts of other disciplines, stakeholders and even possibly members of the media.
Given this articulated scenario, the present volume sets out to explore knowledge dissemination practices according to two main orientations; first, with respect to the target audience (i.e. scholars vs. novices), and then in relation to the channels (i.e. multimodal and web-based platforms) and changing strategies (i.e. popularization resources).
1. Knowledge dissemination in Academia
The first section discusses the impact that emerging conventions and multimodal affordances have had on the codification and transmission of specialized contents on the part of academics. The opening chapter, by Ken Hyland, assesses the dynamic relationship existing between the changing contexts of academic knowledge-making and the development of new styles and strategy of knowledge dissemination. As noted above, the marketization of knowledge, the role of funding bodies, the need for research outcome to produce impact, excellence, output and usability, the wider circulation of the material, and the possibility of reaching wider and diverse audiences (experts, stakeholders, lay people, and even members of the media), are all factors which have led to major changes in the way scholarly activities are conceived and carried out. This is also reflected in the way such activities are textually represented. The chapter analyzes the changes in the writing of research ←17 | 18→articles (in Applied Linguistics, Sociology, Electronic Engineering and Biology) through a corpus of texts published over a time span of 50 years, with a specific focus on the use of interpersonal features like stance and engagement – i.e. the way of conveying attitude and to represent reader interaction – with the purpose of measuring forms of continuity over time or instances of variation that can be interpreted as indicative of a progressive adjustment to the users’ changing needs and expectations and to new institutional requirements.
New media have a significant impact on the way academics communicate expert knowledge to lay audiences. In addition to traditional research articles, scholars have begun to use social networks, and in particular blogs, to disseminate domain-specific contents not only within their own disciplinary community but also outside their community. The chapter by Marina Bondi investigates the way scholars use discourse to communicate specialized contents through blogs, intended as sites for interaction and meaning negotiation where purposes of knowledge construction and dissemination combine with forms of self- expression and identity management. In this context, the concept of writer authoritativeness – which is central in order to boost the reliability of the contents being discussed – may be managed by emphasizing reader inclusion and solidarity through the use of code glosses, which are metadiscursive engagement markers employed to clarify, rephrase or explain meanings. This chapter analyzes a corpus of posts published on two different blogs run by two renowned American economists – Paul Krugman and Tyler Cowen – and compares the glosses used in such platforms with those found in journal articles authored by the same scholars, pointing out that, while such strategies do not differ in terms of quantity and frequency in the two genres, glosses in blog posts tend to have a more marked engaging function since they appear to be primarily meant to stimulate reader participation and discussion rather than simplify the expression of expert contents.
Along the same lines, the chapter by Donatella Malavasi examines the differences in language and discourse strategies used to codify specialized knowledge targeted at experts, on the one hand, and at lay users, on the other, by comparing two corpora of texts both authored by Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman. The first consists of RAs published in scholarly journals, while the second collects posts published on the ←18 | 19→blog The Conscience of a Liberal, run by Krugman himself. With the support of corpus linguistics tools, a sample of scientific papers and a selection of blog entries are analyzed on the basis of their keywords and phraseological patterns. The analysis points out that the typical argumentative structure of Economics research articles, hinging on theories and models, tends to be combined with more dialogistic and interactive forms of meaning-making, taking, for instance, the form of a critical and collaborative debate on the latest economic and political events.
The next chapter, by Michele Sala, analyzes the genre of research article abstracts and their discursive and rhetorical modifications when moving from the print format to the digital one. The generic function of abstracts is to both attract potential readers and anticipate the content of the associated RA in a concise, reliable and appealing way. Due to its affordances, the electronic medium is the privileged channel for this type of dissemination, in that it favours the circulation and availability of specialized material. On this basis, the analysis examines the changes in meaning representation which are arguably meant to both facilitate retrieval and simplify understanding on the part of the users. Based on a sample corpus of abstracts in Applied Linguistics published over a period of 40 years, including texts originally published only in written format (1987), in both formats (1997 and 2007) and only in digital format (2017), this chapter examines and compares how factors like purpose, gap or centrality are represented through verbs and verbal expressions pointing to acts of research discourse and argumentation.
In her chapter, Judith Turnbull analyzes a corpus of lectures given by winners of the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology. These lectures were first delivered before an audience and later published. This study compares the oral and the written versions of the same texts (both available on the Nobel Foundation website), in order to identify possible commonalities or trends of variation between the two semiotic realizations. Nobel Prize winners do not need to persuade the scientific community of the value of their work, but simply communicate their knowledge to a broad audience. For such knowledge transfer to be effective it has to work on two equally important levels, namely, the cognitive one, concerning the actual transmission of information, and the communicative one, involving the way speakers/writers use language to negotiate the social relationship with their audience. The findings of the study show ←19 | 20→that the Nobel Prize lectures (whether presented orally or in their written form) remain a difficult genre to be pinned down, mainly due to the fact that the laureates’ use of communicative strategies varies considerably in terms of personalization, use of colloquial forms, marked lexis, humour, narratives, etc., and this depends as much on each author’s personal style as on the semiotic channel of its realization.
2. Knowledge dissemination in Education
The second section of the volume deals with knowledge dissemination in pedagogical settings, and opens with a chapter by Paola Catenaccio, who studies the discourse of ethics education with the purpose of providing an outline of recognizable popularizing traits and recurrent patterns of reasoning meant to facilitate cognitive processing and readers’ interpretation. The analysis is based on the materials found on the award-winning website Ethics.Unwrapped – an online training course run at the University of Texas and targeted at undergraduate students for them to access and comprehend basic ethical notions and concepts – and assesses the (necessary) balance between domain specificity and specialized-discursive framing, on the one hand, and popularization, on the other. The emphasis on disciplinary specificity is, in fact, an important requirement for the contents dealt with to acquire scientific validity and for the source displaying them to acquire reliability. The tendency towards popularization (in the form of sender-inclusive resources, personalization, directives, definitions, and explanations) is instead meant to maximize reader-centredness and user identification.
In his chapter, Jan Engberg investigates institutional knowledge dissemination in the legal domain, focussing specifically on how legal concepts, objects and roles are communicatively made accessible and transparent for (young) audiences of non-experts by analysing a corpus of visual texts (videos) available on the Danish Court Administration website and expressly targeted at students (15 to 18 years of age). The chapter analyzes the pedagogical function of popularization in this very specific type of context, where the goal is not the disciplinary didactics of domain-specific content (i.e. for users to become experts, as is the ←20 | 21→case of University pedagogy), but rather the dissemination of knowledge about norms, institutional identities and procedures so they are easily understood and assimilated. The focus on the interplay between the verbal and the visual mode found in the videos is meant to evidence the processes of knowledge expansion with respect to domain-specific knowledge (i.e. the ‘secondary’ culture), supplementary knowledge (i.e. used to create links between the ‘secondary’ culture and the popular culture of the reader) and orientational knowledge (i.e. the one needed to navigate and orientate in multimodal texts).
The development of the Internet has made new possibilities available for the organization of academic activities and practices, and new web-mediated textual resources by which to adjust traditional scholarly genres to multimedia environments. Among them, massive open online courses (MOOCS), in particular, are specifically designed to offer university courses to a global audience of learners. The chapter authored by Antonella Napolitano and Maria Cristina Aiezza examines the virtual education platform edX (a MOOCs provider), focussing on a selection of Economics and Finance courses offered by the initiatives HarvardX and MITX, from a genre analytical and multimodal perspective. In particular, the chapter discusses how the features of academic English and the genre of the academic business lecture can be integrated in order to meet addressees’ expectations in the online communicative environment, especially in terms of recurring macrostructure and possible variation. The chapter also includes a pilot study aimed at exploring students’ perception of online-delivered courses, which indicates a clear preference for courses engaging them in project-based learning and authentic tasks, thus having immediate professional application and developing problem-solving abilities.
3. Knowledge dissemination in new genres and visual media
The third section of the volume discusses the designing and formation of emerging genres or the changes in established ones as a consequence of the interactive and multimedia affordances provided by ←21 | 22→digital communication technologies and, notably, by the Internet. The opening chapter of this section, authored by Girolamo Tessuto, examines medicine and health academic research blogs as sites for blogger/reader interaction meant for knowledge-making and dissemination. In the last two decades, the genre of Web blogs has become an important and widely used communicative tool allowing bloggers to quickly share contents on a variety of topics with wider and diverse audiences, whose members are able to respond to and comment on what they read. This immediacy in content-sharing and feedback makes interactional identities, communicative roles and meaning-making practices particularly relevant, especially when blogs are used to disseminate disciplinary and specialized contents. This chapter discusses the ways interactional meanings are established and represented in blog posts by focussing on proximity resources (proximity of membership and proximity of commitment) through an in-depth analysis of metadiscursive strategies (i.e. markers of epistemic modality, of attitude, of personalization, etc.) which evidences how stance and engagement are used by writers to create argument, imply discursive roles and negotiate meanings.
The chapter by Giorgia Riboni analyzes the case of expert-run science vlogs (on Genetics, Biology and Climate Physics) with the purpose of finding out whether they are primarily meant for esoteric and inter-scientific communication or, instead, as tools for exoteric and inter-scientific dissemination. Based on a corpus of 15 science vlogs (posted on popular science YouTube channels), the linguistic analysis is framed within the premises of Mediated Discourse Analysis (CMDA) and the main analytical tool employed is the metadiscursive principle of proximity, whose parameters – i.e. organization, argument structures, credibility, stance, reader/viewer engagement – make it possible to locate and measure the strategies used by writers to position themselves and their contents with respect to the prospective audience’s expectation in order to maximize effectiveness and reliability. The chapter indicates that expert vloggers attain proximity by resorting more markedly to popularizing strategies (i.e. stressing novelty and impact, using glosses, clarifications and analogy, exploiting forms of dialogism and interdiscursivity, maximizing personalization, expression of stance and engagement) than to those typically found in scientific papers.←22 | 23→
The next chapter assesses the use of visuals in research group websites. More specifically, María José Luzón investigates the role played by images in a sample of scholarly websites (on subjects such as History, Food Science, Geography, Geology, Chemistry and Engineering) produced at the University of Zaragoza. The purpose is to discover the types of images most commonly used, their textual function and their relevance with respect to the accompanying text. From a multimodal discourse analytical perspective, this chapter analyzes logos (i.e. the research centre’s or others), pictures of people (i.e. individuals, groups, researchers, etc.), of phenomena under investigation (i.e. images, diagrams, graphs, maps, etc.), of the research activity and its output (i.e. covers of publications, event posters, newspaper clips, etc.), and of research spaces (i.e. equipment and location). The study shows that these sites may include images usually found in expert communication (i.e. graphs, diagrams, etc.) or dissemination (i.e. pictures of people or activities) as well as in promotional genres (i.e. logos and pictures of publications). The findings reflect the hybrid nature of research group websites, which are meant precisely to disseminate scientific knowledge and, at the same time, promote the activity and image of the research group.
Francesca Coccetta investigates the emerging genre of video abstract, which has the function of summarizing the contents of the associated RA by merging linguistic material with other multimodal forms of meaning representation (images, audio, and video), thus making this genre effective for the target audience of experts but also accessible to wider audiences. The chapter examines a sample of medical video abstracts published in The BMJ (formerly known as British Medical Journal) in order to find recognizable trends in generic structure and possible similarities or differences with respect to the written genre of medical abstracts. Through a method that integrates the criteria of genre analysis and multimodal discourse analysis, this study manages to track forms of continuity between the written and the visual text in the use of similar functional units or moves; however, while the written format requires a linear sequencing of such parts, the affordances of the visual and audio channels allow for more structural freedom and for the co-occurrence of different units within the same stretch of visual text.←23 | 24→
The next chapter, by Stefania Consonni, addresses the genre of digital infographics – a genre conflating visual and verbal language in the graphic visualization of data and information – so as to facilitate cognitive processes. The main aim is to see how this new genre is used in the specialized domain of medical studies and to what effect, especially in the light of the fact that the resemiotization process inherent to infographics is a leading strategy for today’s medical communication in order to corroborate the norms of coherence and verification of evidence-based clinical knowledge, both within and outside the medical community. Through the linguistic framework of Systemic Functional Grammar metafunctions, and drawing from social semiotics and medical discourse analysis, this contribution compares the use of epistemic modality resources in the scriptural mode and visual mode in order to assess the extent to which medical communication is shaped by the emergence of new digital genres, where specialized meanings and paradigms have to account for (or even play with) epistemological boundaries and multiple semiotic resources.
4. Knowledge dissemination and popularization
The final section of this volume opens with the contribution by Laura Pinnavaia and Matteo Incarbone, whose main purpose is to investigate knowledge dissemination from a particularly interesting angle, that is by considering the possible gap existing between expert communication and popularizations not just in linguistic and discursive terms, but also, and significantly, on a referential level, therefore in terms of content and its correspondence with evidence-based knowledge. The aim is to see how, in popularized communication, scientific evidence can be disregarded, manipulated or mystified, and how this cognitive and knowledge gap can be compensated, minimized or concealed by way of rhetorical work. By considering a corpus of 15 popular books about breast cancer and diet, the chapter examines their contents (even comparatively, when possible) and stylistic strategies, and then proceeds to measure their scientific value and reliability against medico-scientific ←24 | 25→findings, evidencing the important role played by ethos (i.e. the writer’s identity, personality and stance) and pathos (i.e. the expression of emotion, evaluation, etc.) – especially when scientific evidence is opaque – precisely because such texts, even those which are scientifically based, are meant to attract and persuade readers as much as (if not more than) inform them.
The next chapter, authored by Davide Mazzi, assesses the expression of emotion as a possible textual function in argumentative discourse, where emotive meanings can be associated with the codification of given information in order to call for emotive and participative responses on the part of the reader, which may guide and bias the interpretation of the ideational content. More specifically, the chapter addresses this discursive phenomenon as occurring in web-mediated communication about healthcare matters – in this case, the ketogenic diet – and targeting the general public. On the basis of two small corpora of texts providing information about the ketogenic diet in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, the chapter indicates that emotions and appeals to emotions (both negative, like despair and anger, or positive, like relief), analyzed in terms of intensity/quantity and consequences, are common in the two corpora and can be instrumental in establishing standpoints (i.e. the right of users to make informed decisions about their health) and expressing commitment, thus representing a significant asset for the argumentative structuring of the text.
In her chapter, Kim Grego reports a study exploring online academic resources and research projects which are meant to collect and disseminate Charles Darwin materials and ideas, namely the Darwin Correspondence Project and Darwin Online. The criteria for this choice were, on the one hand, the open-source character of both sources and, on the other, their use of Facebook pages as a communicative tool with users. The main aim is to assess how such scholarly sources communicate with wide and possibly diverse audiences and to see the linguistic and discursive features exploited for this form of knowledge dissemination. Through an in-depth qualitative analysis, the author points out that, despite some surface – hence noticeable – features (i.e. informal style and use of markers of personalization), the overall structuring and the argumentative strategies found in the corpus are similar to those traditionally exploited in scholarly discourse, both in the case ←25 | 26→of informative texts and also promotional ones, evidence that the two online sources under investigation are mainly intended for the circulation and dissemination of the content for already competent users rather than their re-creation in popularizing terms.
Silvia Cavalieri analyzes the dissemination of health-related matters through digital media. In particular, the chapter examines the linguistic and rhetorical features of YouTube multimodal texts as sources of expert information meant to facilitate comprehension in expert-lay communication. The corpus consists of videos published on the YouTube channel The Charlie Foundation, where specialists (i.e. dieticians, neurologists and pediatricians) take the floor to provide information about the ketogenic diet as a treatment to control and contrast diseases like epilepsy, neurological disorders and some forms of cancer. By analysing the corpus in terms of knowledge dissemination strategies (i.e. description, definition, exemplification, scenario, reformulation, etc.) and metadiscourse resources (especially self-mentions and engagement markers), the study evidences the important role played in asymmetrical contexts by ‘concretization’ – that is, the marked tendency towards making abstract notions accessible to lay users by relating them to everyday life situations – and by personalization, in order to confer authoritativeness to experts and to rhetorically enhance engagement, solidarity and inclusion.
Along the same lines, the chapter by Giulia Adriana Pennisi discusses e-health discourse, that is the web-mediated communication of health information, focussing on processes of re-contextualization of specialized contents when moving from the expert domain of medicine to the one of public health, intended as a more participative form of medicine aimed at informing lay audiences so as to enable them to make informed decisions concerning their health. Comparing three e-health websites, this study aims at identifying and describing the main features of this relatively new genre (which combines digital technologies, specialized meanings and popularizing aims), organizing them according to two levels, namely the level of multimodal components and the level of communicative strategies. The study points out that multimodality in these platforms (i.e. images, infographics, videos, etc.) seeks to attract readers by turning abstract contents into concrete representations, while strategies which are used to facilitate users’ comprehension consist in ←26 | 27→explanations, glosses and reformulations of specialized meanings, in some cases coupled with personalization and use of metaphorical and evaluative language.
In the final chapter of this section, Ersilia Incelli assesses the ways ‘green’ knowledge (i.e. consciousness of ecological and environmental issues) is constructed, disseminated and fostered in academic contexts, where scholars – engineers, architects, urban planners and ecological scientists – describe, discuss or make reference to eco-cities, that is ecological urban sites conceived of as models of urban living aimed at reducing all forms of pollution, combatting energy waste and maximizing sustainability, recycling, etc. Investigating a corpus of research papers from three specialized domains, namely, Environmental Sciences, Architecture and Geography/Urban Planning, the chapter analyzes the way in which the micro-linguistic resources, such as lexical items, metaphors and compounds constructed with high frequency words, are exploited to control attitudinal meanings and corroborate given interpretations of the represented reality, so as to favour the understanding of eco-cities not just as physical urban constructs but rather as structures embodying and reflecting dominant and appreciated social values.
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- ISBN (PDF)
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- Publication date
- 2020 (February)
- Knowledge dissemination Academic discourse Specialised Genres
- Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 530 pp., 34 fig. col., 17 fig. b/w, 54 tables.