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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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6. Size markers 123


123 6. Size markers Unlike goodness, whose axiological significance is relatively un- ambiguous because it embodies a very central aspect of evaluation, due consideration of size as an academic value is justified both by the indeterminacy of claims made along the large-small axis and by the frequency of its markers. Also in the piloting stage, size was among the most frequent explicitly marked values observed in RAs. Lexical items in this category encode judgements that qualify an entity as ‘large’ or ‘small’ rather than specifying its exact dimensions: they rely therefore on subjective evaluations whose rationale is shared by RA authors and readers. The propensity to communicate value assessments based on size – whether these target the evidence in hand or other aspects of the knowledge-production process – is also worth investigating because of the disciplinary proclivities that may emerge during the analysis. The candidate items identified in Chapter 4 – listed again in the table below – loosely cover the semantic field of quantitative assessment. At closer examination, however, the list was found to be excessively heterogeneous, with a clear fault-line separating items that encode the notion of size (e.g. large, small) from those that refer instead to quantity (limited, enough). The distinction is an important one in this context, as it allows the analyst to focus consistently on lexis marking out a single variable, namely the perceived dimensions of an entity or phenomenon. What is assessed may be quantified literally or figuratively, as the case may be, but should always encode an...

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