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The Dissemination of Contemporary Knowledge in English

Genres, Discourse Strategies and Professional Practices


Rita Salvi and Janet Bowker

This volume brings together a series of studies on the nature of the dissemination of specialist knowledge in English, its various principles, conceptualizations, constructs and pragmatic dynamics, over a range of discourse genres: knowledge discourse is addressed to a number of audiences, expert and lay, in a variety of fields, legal, political, economic, institutional, academic, organizational and professional. The authors explore the use of language in the creation and diffusion of knowledge, in its transformation from being a mere repository of information, achieved through complex discursive processes. These processes use both general pragma-linguistic textual resources, and also derive from the communicative practices specific to the discourse communities in question. The studies as a whole demonstrate the multi-levels of knowledge, its very varied typology, and its dynamic nature in ongoing co-construction, maintenance and updating among heterogeneous audiences.
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Unbottling the Truth about Water: the Discursive Construction of Water as a ‘Strategic’ Resource


1. Introduction

This chapter is a linguistic investigation into the discourse and narratives of water and water resource management. The increasing concern about water quality and water scarcity, associated with problems of access and denial for millions of people, has drawn water more frequently into discourses within the realms of economics, politics, as well as social, environmental and health issues. In such contexts, water joins oil and certain minerals as a ‘strategic’ resource, involving a variety of social actors and stakeholders competing to determine issues, priorities, and solutions related to the management of water.

Research-based knowledge on water quality and water scarcity, and well-documented data on the pressures of increasing population and climate change, appear to point to an approaching potential global water crisis (National Geographic 2010). However, what happens when a body of well-established knowledge is disseminated and communicated in different contexts and genres involving the recontextualization and reinterpretation of scientific information? What is more, this ‘translation’ of discourses into new contexts (Bazerman 2004) is carried out by a variety of social actors, each with ‘vested’ interest. The recontextualization process, in turn, affects how the information is conceived and ‘consumed’, ‘consumption being a highly political act that may result in the reproduction of the original into different kinds of views or actions’ (Fairclough 1992: 82). The discourses which evolve from different sources of scientific knowledge about water, and from different interpretations of the concept of water, have important socio-economic implications. Therefore, the main...

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