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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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10. Conclusions 231


231 10. Conclusions 10.1. Theoretical insights The results of this study shed some light on a small but highly prominent group of variables embedded in the discourse of research, whose presence shows how authors flag fundamental aspects of knowledge linked to the value system shared by the members of a given disciplinary community. The phenomenon is consistent with Reed’s (1996) interpretation of values as ‘regulatory mechanisms’ that mediate between the self and its social environment, reflecting an individual’s stage of socialisation as well as his/her personal growth. The lexical evidence yielded by the RA corpus assembled here suggests that by simply mentioning such variables, an author: recognises their role as basic evaluative parameters applicable to the discipline and its judgements; claims the presence of an axiological common ground among researchers in the discipline despite their different approaches and orientations; signals potential tensions in the research process, that is aspects whose interpretation is controversial and thus negotiable. Though often mentioned in the literature on academic discourse, few applied linguists have attempted to define the notion of ‘value’ and, what is more, its analytical implications remain largely unexplored. Among EAP specialists there is, however, a general recognition that academic literacy includes an awareness of the values that orientate research. Paltridge, for example, argues that learning to write in the academy is “learning to acquire a repertoire of linguistic practices which are based on complex sets of discourses, identities, and values” (2004: 90). Hyland warns that analysts should not underestimate the variability and...

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