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The Dissemination of Contemporary Knowledge in English

Genres, Discourse Strategies and Professional Practices


Edited By 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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Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt(Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 5.6)

The key role played by knowledge communication in the present world is undeniable. Knowledge has not only grown to measures that are difficult to map with the certainty that characterised for example the 18th century and its hope to be able to capture universal knowledge into an encyclopaedia; it has also become so central to economic development that no innovation seems to be possible without knowledge transfer. Knowledge can no longer be hemmed in by neatly-packed and restricted communicative products: today’s globalized and digital environment has increasingly destructured the élitarian fences of knowledge communication and knowledge communication is gaining centrality in a plurality of contexts, from the strictly specialized ones to the more general lay milieus.

The fundamental vehicle of knowledge transfer is obviously language. Wittgenstein’s statement can thus be used to point at the complex contribution of language to knowledge creation and its importance in knowledge construction and dissemination: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”. Knowledge is communicated through language and discourse, and expanding knowledge involves an expansion of one’s communicative potential. In particular, just as the fields that build up human knowledge are diverse, so are their different materializations in discourse genres that serve as bridges between the members of a specific epistemic and discourse community, between the different communities in general, and between them and their lay counterparts. A capillary network of...

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