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Investigating Specialized Discourse

Third Revised Edition

Maurizio Gotti

Investigating Specialized Discourse is a shortened and revised textbook edition of the monograph Specialized Discourse (2003). This book analyses the various features of specialized discourse in order to assess its degree of specificity and diversification, as compared to general language. Prior to any analysis of such traits, the notion of specialized discourse and its distinctive properties are clarified. The presence of such properties is accounted for not only in linguistic but also in pragmatic terms since the approach is interpretative rather than merely descriptive. Indeed, the complexity of this discourse calls for a multidimensional analysis, covering both lexis and morpho-syntax as well as textual patterning. Some lexical aspects, morpho-syntactic features and textual genres are also examined from a diachronic perspective, thus showing how various conventions concerning specialized discourse have developed over the last centuries.

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I. Defining the Notion of ‘Specialized Discourse’ -9

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I. Defining the Notion of ‘Specialized Discourse’ Interest in specialized discourse dates back to the early decades of linguistic investigation.1 In the 1920s-1930s, scholars belonging to the Prague school turned their attention to the so-called ‘functional style’ which characterises scientific and technical discourse (cf. Fried 1972). At first, their approach was conservative, since it tended to classify such discourse at a lower level, totally separate from the language of everyday use. Scholars sought above all to produce clear-cut defini- tions of the differences between specialized and general discourse: Differences between current English and technical English can be found at all linguistic levels and they manifest themselves in a different way both qualita- tively and quantitatively. (Bares 1972:129) Yet the specific features of word morphology (foreign words retaining their original plural suffix, obsolete forms of verbs and adjectives) and formation (the use of typically classical prefixes, certain types of nominal premodification) pointed out in those studies are not limited to scientific or technical discourse, though they certainly occur more frequently and regularly in such varieties. Research into the concept of ‘register’ published after the Second World War attempted to identify the morphosyntactic, lexical and stylistic features that characterise specialized discourse. Studies on register analysis were part of a wider enquiry into language varie- ties – an enquiry inspired by a new perspective on linguistic phenome- na. The transition from an uncontextualised view of language, typical of the Chomskyan tradition, to its perception as a highly flexible means of communication employed in...

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