LINGUIST List 23.4713

Sun Nov 11 2012

Review: Discourse Analysis: Livnat (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>



Date: 11-Nov-2012
From: Ksenia Shilikhina <shilikhinyandex.ru>
Subject: Dialogue, Science and Academic Writing
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AUTHOR: Livnat, ZoharTITLE: Dialogue, Science and Academic WritingSERIES: Dialogue Studies 13PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2012

Ksenia Shilikhina, Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics,Voronezh
State University

INTRODUCTIONAcademic discourse is an important sphere of social interaction, so it comes asno surprise that researchers of academic communication pay attention to thedialogic nature of texts written by scientists: on the one hand, authors need toposition themselves in existing research frameworks and confront opponents. Onthe other hand, writers interact with readers to convince them (Hyland 2005).Livnat's major aim is to show how the constant need to respond to alternativeapproaches and the other scholar's findings contribute to the dialogic structureof research papers and how this structure is maintained throughout the text.

The book consists of six chapters, a bibliography and a list of journal articlesthe research is based on.

SUMMARYChapter 1 "Introduction" is a brief outline of the structure of the book and anintroduction to the data and research methods. Two sets of research articleswere used as source data: one is a representative corpus of social sciencestexts written in Hebrew and published in a peer-reviewed journal 'Megamot', andthe other is a corpus of English-language papers in the humanities.

The body of the book is divided into two distinct parts. Chapters 2 and 3present theoretical discussions of existing frameworks for research on thedialogic nature and persuasiveness of academic discourse. Chapters 4 and 5describe a model of dialogicity based on textual analysis.

Chapter 2 ''Approaches to dialogicity'' surveys frameworks that employ the conceptof dialogue for text analysis. Livnat starts her discussion with thediscursive-literary approach based on Bakhtin's idea of dialogism and histreatment of text as a polyphonic structure and Kristeva's concept ofintertextuality.

The next framework is Weigand's ''language as dialogue'' approach. It emerged as aresponse to the pragmatic theory of speech acts and makes a further step inmodeling the structure of discourse (Weigand 2009). Weigand distinguishes twokinds of speech actions: an initiative speech act and a reactive act. These twokinds of actions are dialogically bound and together they constitute a minimalcommunicative unit. Weigand's model can be successfully applied to academicdiscourse to explain its dialogic structure: a paper directed at a particularaudience can be treated as an initiative act and a response from the audiencecounts as a reactive act.

The third perspective is a functional linguistic analysis of multivoicedness.The major focus of the approach is on the linguistic techniques used to signalthe presence of multiple voices in the text. Livnat reviews Thompson's model(1996) with its four dimensions of analysis: the voice, the message, the signaland the attitude. Later Livnat applies the model in her discussion of variousdialogic elements in research articles. Finally, the author addresses anargumentative approach to dialogicity developed in Perelman & Olbrechts-Tuteca(1958). The roots of this approach lie in rhetoric, as all argumentation isdialogic by nature. It can also be treated as a psychological view ofdialogicity since the aim of argumentation is to create an intellectualconnection between minds. The argumentative approach explains how the image ofthe specific addressee structures the text and influences the conventions ofdiscourse.

Chapter 3 ''Academic Discourse as Persuasion'' describes the functions of theresearch article genre in the academic discursive community. The role ofrhetoric in scientific writing plays a more important role than it is generallyassumed. The success of an article largely depends on its persuasiveness. Thefindings cannot be simply presented as objective truth; rather, they have to bejustified in order to persuade readers. Academic discourse, then, faces aparadox: a writer needs to be persuasive but an article can have effect onlywhen the signs of persuasive techniques become invisible to readers.

To show how various rhetoric devices are employed to increase persuasiveness,Livnat discusses the structure of research articles and claims that ''it is notnecessarily a real reflection of the thinking and working process of theresearcher, but rather a discourse pattern that has its own goals and functions''(pp. 25-26). The main purpose of structuring a research paper is to delineatethe niche and present the writer's own stance. Other goals (e.g. presenting thesubject of the research as important, drawing the reader's attention to the gapsin knowledge on the topic under discussion, or convincing the audience that thefindings are new and valid) seem to be less structure-dependent. Livnat givesexamples from her corpora to show how writers archive their rhetorical goals andpresent the results of their research as the new facts that can be successfullyintegrated into the existing system of knowledge. She concludes that theresearch article genre requires the writer to move along three parallel lines:the line of argument (from premises to conclusions), the line of facticity (todistinguish facts from non-facts) and the line of time (from the past to thefuture).

Dialogicity of a scientific text adds to its persuasive potential by variouslinguistic techniques. Four of them, namely, citations, concession, we-forms andquestions are discussed in Chapter 4 ''The Dialogic Dimension of AcademicDiscourse''.

The starting premise is the idea that research articles simultaneously appeal topreviously published texts, readers and the disciplinary community in general.The model of dialogicity developed by Livnat contrasts the two kinds ofinteraction: the writer -- reader dialogue vs. the writer -- disciplinarycommunity dialogue. For the latter category there is also a further distinctionbetween the dialogue with a specific or non-specific member of the community andthe community as a whole. The discussion of linguistic techniques for creating adialogue aims at clarifying these distinctions.

The author bases her analysis of patterns of citations on the formal distinctionbetween integral and non-integral citations suggested by Swales (1990). Integralcitations contain the name of the cited author as the subject of the citedsentence. Non-integral citations refer to the author outside the sentence,placing the name in parentheses or footnotes. The form of references leads totheir functional differentiation: integral references are more personal bynature, and non-integral ones make the discussed subject, but not the author,the focus of attention.

Citations are also important for academic writing because they function assignals of authenticity and responsibility. Since citations interact with thewriter's stance and necessarily involve double-voicing in the Bakhtinian sense,they become an important tool for establishing the social context for thewriter's acceptance.

Livnat shows that the functions of citations depend on the part of the textwhere they occur: when used in introductory sections, they create research spaceand demarcate the writer's own stance. In 'Discussion' and concluding sections,however, they serve to relate new findings to existing knowledge.

Chapter 5 ''Scientific Dialogicity in Action'' presents a detailed account ofverbal behavior of writers who engage in scientific conflicts. This kind ofevaluative interaction is inevitable when the researchers confront other pointsof view to secure their own niche. Livnat refers to Martín-Martín (2005) andshows how an academic conflict can develop along the three parallel dimensions:personal vs. impersonal, direct vs. indirect, and writer-mediated, non-mediatedor reported.

The discussion of conflict in written academic discourse brings us to thequestion of politeness. In academic discourse politeness is a strategy thatallows a writer to engage in a dialogue and create a relationship with othermembers of the discursive community. Politeness as a strategy is also acriterion to distinguish polite dialogicity from the conflicting style ofwriting. The latter is used when a researcher presents data or conclusions thatrun counter to previous publications on the topic. Livnat analyzes severalarticles to show how polite and conflicting styles differ in terms of theirevaluativeness and discusses different forms of conflicting patterns of writing|.

Livnat starts by describing the classic pattern of dialogicity in which conflictis toned down and the presence of the author is minimal. The writers mitigatetheir criticism by using hedges or referring to other writings in very generalterms (e.g. 'in most books'). The second pattern of writing discussed by Livnatis what she calls 'a confrontational paper'. In this pattern, a researchtradition or a particular group of scholars becomes the target of the author'scriticism. The researcher directly confronts the criticized approaches with theaim of refuting them. The dialogue is created using techniques discussed inChapter 4. However, citations and references (most of which are non-integral)reflect the text's confrontational character. Openly evaluative adjectives (e.g.'inadequate' or 'erroneous') add to the direct criticism and question thelegitimacy of the opponents' approach. The choice of pronouns and concessionstructures also reflect the major aim of the paper: to attack and directlycriticize the particular approach at hand.

The third kind of dialogue in written academic discourse is a conflictingpattern of writing when the author aims criticism at a particular researcher.The writer questions the opponent's authority and the reliability of his/herresearch findings. Such personal criticism tends to take direct forms since theyare the easiest way to discount the opponent's stance.

Livnat also discusses what she calls "the ping-pong pattern" -- a particulartype of interaction in academic writing when two researchers debate andcriticize each other in a succession of at least three papers. The first paperinitiates a discussion, the second paper is a response to the first, and thethird paper is a response to the response. The particular case analyzed byLivnat shows how confrontation emerges at the personal level and then transformsinto a more acceptable dispute between two scientific approaches.

In the final section of Chapter 5 Livnat addresses the issue of face-to-faceinteraction. She analyzes a printed version of a symposium held in a televisionstudio. The discussion analyzed is a clear example of an over-dialogicinteraction: four Biblical historians and archeologists with opposing viewsdiscussed the issue of existence of the United Monarchy of David and Solomon.Livnat concludes that spoken academic discourse as a primary genre in manyrespects differs from written discussions (which are secondary genres, accordingto Bakhtin's classification of genres). For instance, in the face-to-face debatefewer references to published sources were made and personal pronouns were usedmainly as a tool for distinguishing different groups of scholars.

In Chapter 6, "Conclusions", the author summarizes the results of her research.She gives a brief account of how citations, personal pronouns, concessionstructures and questions serve the purpose of creating a dialogic structure ofresearch papers.

EVALUATIONThere is a longstanding tradition of regarding academic discourse as a way ofdisseminating "objective truth". In this sense ''Dialogue, Science and AcademicWriting'' is a timely book: the author disspells a number of myths about academicdiscourse, including objectivity. Scientific writing is not as objective as itis usually assumed to be; rather, it is a competition among various points ofview. In order to "win the competition" researchers employ conflicting dialogicstrategies, and this tendency breaks another myth -- the myth of impartiality ofacademic writing.

Livnat's work also succeeds in integrating independent theories of dialogism.The author combines the strengths of various models of dialogicity to explainhow dialogue is created and what strategies researchers use to positionthemselves in the existing system of knowledge.

Livnat's model of dialogue in academic writing has wider applications in thestudy of academic discourse. The research methods suggested by Livnat can beapplied to academic communication in other languages with a further perspectiveof comparative analysis. I would also suggest using Livnat's model for studyingacademic discourse diachronically.

REFERENCESHyland, Ken. 2005. Metadiscourse. London; New York: Continuum.

Martín-Martín, Pedro. 2005. The Rhetoric of the Abstract in English and SpanishScientific Discourse. Bern: Peter Lang.

Perelman, Chaïm & Olbrechts-Tuteca, Lucie. 1958. The New Rhetoric: A Treatise onArgumentation, John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver (trans.). Notre Dame:University of Notre Dame Press, 1969.

Swales, John. 1990. Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thompson, Geoff. 1996. ''Voices in the text: Discourse perspectives on languagereports''. Applied Linguistics 17 (4): 501-530.

Weigand, Edda. 2009. Language as Dialogue. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERKsenia Shilikhina is an Associate Professor of linguistics atVoronezh
State University, Russia. Her main research interests includesemantics and
pragmatics with a special focus on verbal irony. Another areaof interest
is corpus linguistics. She teaches courses in LinguisticTypology,
Semiotics, Applied and Computational Linguistics and FormalModels in
Linguistics.

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