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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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II. Lexical Features of Specialized Discourse - 25


II. Lexical Features of Specialized Discourse This chapter analyses the main lexical features of specialized dis- course. In particular, it first reviews the findings of leading studies in the field, especially those employing controversial criteria or criteria that are not applicable to all specialized languages as such. 1. Monoreferentiality The most widely-investigated distinctive feature of specialized lexis, as compared to general language, is monoreferentiality. The term ‘monoreferentiality’ is not used here to indicate that each term has only one referent, as words generally have several referents, but to signal that in a given context only one meaning is allowed. Indeed, term and concept are related by a fixed ‘defining agreement’ whereby the term cannot be suitably substituted by a synonym but only by its definition or a paraphrase. This means that every term signals a con- cept and effectively condenses the semantic value contributed by the defining process which generated it. The need for a single referent generally means that users are forced to create new terms, rather than use existing terminology, in order to define new concepts without ambiguity or misunderstandings. Piesse summarises the prevalent rule among specialists as follows: Never change your language unless you wish to change your meaning, and always change your language if you wish to change your meaning. (Piesse 1987: 58) Monoreferentiality is, of course, limited to the disciplinary field in which a term is employed. It is not surprising, therefore, that dictiona- ries list several definitions of the same term, each applicable to...

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