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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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8. Relevance markers 175


175 8. Relevance markers The fourth and last category of markers identified in the global WL centres on the notion of ‘relevance’, conceptualised here as a quality attached by RA authors to referents deemed to be important/pertinent in a given context. Relevance is a key aspect of the academic value system in that it signals aspects of research deserving special attention on the interlocutor’s part. As an analytical category it is dealt with (albeit differently) also elsewhere: Hunston (1994: 199) lists ‘relevance’ as one of the three functions of evaluative speech acts, alongside ‘status’ and ‘value’; more recently, Thompson and Hunston have argued that ‘importance or relevance’ is one of the four parameters of evaluation (the other three being good/bad, certainty and expected- ness) and that its function is largely metadiscoursal: It is part of the discourse itself that is evaluated as important, directing the reader towards the main point of the text. This is typically signalled through adjectives and adverbs such as important and significantly. [...] Evaluation along the importance parameter appears to play a key role in the organization of texts, as indications of the importance or relevance of information are found especially at the beginning and end of paragraphs or discourse sections. (Thompson/Hunston 2000: 24) Turning from evaluative discourse in general to the explicit lexicalisa- tions of this parameter, it is useful to recall that relevance is also among the seven analytical categories – indicating “how closely related something is to the topic or field being discussed” – identified in...

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