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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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9. General discussion 209


209 9. General discussion 9.1. Analytical basis The analysis of disciplinary variation in academic writing conducted in this volume is inspired by recent research in applied linguistics as well as the sociology of science. More specifically, it takes on board the literature dealing with academic genres (e.g. Bazerman 1988; Swales 1990, 2004) and the disciplinary cultures that underlie such texts (Becher 1981; Becher/Trowler 2001), with a focus on the wording of evaluative speech acts (Hunston/Thompson 2000) investigated through linguistic corpora and discourse analysis (as in Biber et al. 2004). In this context it is essential to realise that, within academia, each branch of knowledge forms a separate world in terms of “goals, methods and beliefs, [...] conventions, histories or values” (Hyland 2000: 9). A discipline can thus be conceived as a relatively well-established subdivision of academic research with its own norms of enquiry and communication and a minimum degree of recognition from academic institutions and other disciplines. Among the variables that define work carried out by academics there are aspects (whether of the research process, theoretical argumentation, or written presentation stage) to which the parent disciplinary community assigns an interpretation whose polarity reflects its current standards, beliefs and practices. These signal the axiological variables favoured by each discipline within a wider academic value system. As Hyland aptly explains, “what counts as relevant issues, convincing evidence, valid inference and appropriate interpersonal conduct is grounded in disciplinary values transmitted via socialisation and secured through a system of peer judgement. The principal realisation of...

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