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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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3. Materials and data 65


65 3. Materials and data 3.1. Disciplinary fields A total of ten academic domains, representing a broad spectrum of scientific enquiry in international English-medium scholarship, were included in the corpus assembled for this study. As argued in the previous chapter, the subdivision of scholarship into separate fields is in many ways an approximation because of the increasing specialisation and interdisciplinarity of contemporary research, with branches of knowledge that did not even exist until a short time ago (e.g. nanotechnology) now at the forefront of research. Even the basic distinction between sciences and humanities, or theoretical and applied disciplines, is not as clear-cut as might be thought. In biological parlance, disciplines are more akin to genera than species, insofar as they imply a conflation of subdisciplines that may eventually aspire to recognition as separate domains, with considerable implications in terms of status, visibility and allocation of resources and facilities. Bearing in mind these limitations, I selected for the corpus a range of disciplines representative of five scientific groupings, whose nature can be briefly described as follows: The natural sciences deal primarily with the detailed descrip- tion of phenomena occurring in the natural world that may also be relevant also to the applied sciences and technologies. The two domains from this category are BIOLOGY and PHYSICS, which in Becher and Trowler’s (2001) classification (cf. Chapter 2, Table 1) would belong to the ‘pure sciences’ group, where they are defined as hard-pure disciplines. The applied sciences deal primarily with the manipulation of reality,...

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