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Mapping Academic Values in the Disciplines

A Corpus-Based Approach


Davide Simone Giannoni

A broad strand of applied linguistic research has focused on the language of science and scholarship, stressing its role in the construction and negotiation of knowledge claims. Central to the success of such texts is the use of evaluative expressions encoding what is considered to be desirable or undesirable in a given domain. While the speech acts relevant to evaluation have been extensively researched, little is known of the underlying values they encode. This volume seeks to fill the gap by exploring the main facets of academic value in a corpus of research articles from leading journals in anthropology, biology, computer science, economics, engineering, history, mathematics, medicine, physics and sociology. The collocations and qualified entities associated with such variables in the corpus provide insights into how scholars draw on a repertoire of conventional, largely unqualified, axiological meanings instrumental to the production of new knowledge in their field.


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1. Introduction 13


13 1. Introduction The notion of value is central to the development of Western thought. For the OED (2009) ‘value’ is “The relative status of a thing, or the estimate in which it is held, according to its real or supposed worth, usefulness, or importance [...] the personal or societal judgment of what is valuable and important in life” – a definition that reflects the relativity of value and its dependence upon social interaction. Human transactions rely heavily on this notion and a whole strand of economic research is devoted to the investigation of value theory. The concept is equally prominent in the social sciences, psychology and theology. In philosophy it is the domain of axiology, which targets the investigation of what is both ethically and aesthetically appropriate in human experience. As discourse reflects and reinforces the values prized by a given community, its investigation is likely to provide textual evidence of which qualities or aspects of reality are regarded as desirable or undesirable by its members. Whatever the field of enquiry, knowledge claims are being constantly challenged and (re)negotiated through language. This area of linguistic research has particularly attracted scholars concerned with the wording of scientific writing, which “illustrates one way in which the values of academic communities are articulated in discourse meanings” (Hyland 1997: 20). Some of the most often-quoted values that guide the academic community are collegiality, competitiveness and empiricism. The aim of the present study is to extend our understanding of what values are most prominent in...

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