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Academic Discourse – New Insights into Evaluation


Edited By Gabriella Del Lungo Camiciotti and Elena Tognini Bonelli

This volume assembles a selection of papers presented at an international conference held in Pontignano, Siena, (14-16 June 2003). It discusses the concept of evaluation in academic discourse and the methodological tools most apt to investigate it. All contributions focus on a crucial dimension of academic communication: the epistemic and attitudinal assessment of content and the argumentative and metadiscourse devices used to interact with audiences of scholars or novices. The assembled contributions deal with theoretical and methodological issues including diverse academic genres ranging from written and oral texts. A report of the discussion on evaluation in academic texts concludes the volume.


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PAUL TUCKER (FLORENCE): Evaluation and Interpretation in Art-Historical Discourse 161


PAUL TUCKER Evaluation and interpretation in art-historical discourse 1. Introduction This paper considers academic discourse in the field of art history and attempts to identify the mode of evaluation most characteristic of that field. I here follow Susan Hunston and Geoff Thompson (2000: 5, 22- 24) and intend the term evaluation as covering expression in text of the speaker/writer’s opinion regarding both entities (collocated on a value scale typically defined by the opposition between ‘good’ and ‘bad’) and propositions (qualified by the speaker/writer in terms of different degrees of likelihood, obviousness and relevance). These two modes of expressing subjective opinion have previously gone by a variety of names in the literature. Opinion relating to entities, for ex- ample, has been glossed in terms of attitude or attitudinal stance, af- fect and appraisal. That relating to propositions has been referred to by means of the traditional term modality or as epistemic stance (Hun- ston / Thompson 2000: 2-5). The advantages of a single cover term to group all these largely overlapping phenomena together is obvious. Yet even if we choose to follow the “combining approach” proposed by Hunston and Thompson (or again by Conrad and Biber (2000: 57) and Biber and Finegan (1989), who propose the blanket term stance), the two modes of expressing opinion mentioned above still need to be distinguished and I propose, again following Hunston and Thompson (2000: 20), to term them modal and affective evaluation respectively. Discussion of evaluation in art-history confirms both the neces- sity of...

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