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LINGUIST List 24.565

Thu Jan 31 2013

Review: Applied Ling.; Disc. Analysis; Socioling.: Pérez-Llantada (2012)

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

Date: 15-Dec-2012
From: Daniel Fryer <dlfryergmail.com>
Subject: Scientific Discourse and the Rhetoric of Globalization
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-1875.html

AUTHOR: Carmen Pérez-Llantada
TITLE: Scientific Discourse and the Rhetoric of Globalization
SUBTITLE: The Impact of Culture and Language
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Linguistics (formerly Continuum Linguistics)
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Daniel Lees Fryer, Göteborg University

SUMMARY
“[H]ow is the experience of living in a globalized world affecting
contemporary scholarly life? What is the scope of the changes produced by
globalization in academic and research settings and can changes have motives?
[…] How are individual scholars and their research practices affected by these
global changes across cultural contexts? How is scientific knowledge
disseminated by the current discourse practices of scholars today? And […]
what role does the English language play […]?” (p. 1). These are some of the
questions Carmen Pérez-Llantada explores in Scientific Discourse and the
Rhetoric of Globalization: The Impact of Culture and Language.

As a response to the above and related questions, Pérez-Llantada takes a
combined corpus-linguistic, ethnographic, and sociocultural approach,
examining the products, processes, and social practices of scientific research
across disciplines and across cultures and languages. As a specific case,
Pérez-Llantada investigates similarities and differences in the textual and
contextual preferences and practices of a group of Anglophone scholars from
North America communicating in English and a group of Spanish scholars
communicating in both English and Spanish, across four broad academic
divisions: humanities and arts, social sciences and education, physical
sciences and engineering, and biological and health sciences. The book also
situates this case study in a wider perspective, reviewing and comparing
similar or related work on scientific discourse, from a variety of linguistic
and cultural contexts, from across Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa.

Scientific Discourse and the Rhetoric of Globalization is divided into eight
chapters, and includes a reference list and index. Chapter 1, “The Role of
Science Rhetoric in the Global Village,” lays out the motivations and
rationale (see opening paragraph), and the theoretical and methodological
bases for the work, and provides a general overview of the organization and
scope of the volume. Pérez-Llantada introduces and briefly defines key
concepts such as discourse and discourse construction (based primarily on Gee
1996), globalization (Giddens 1990), plurilingualism, commodification and
marketization, and nativization and hybridization (of second-language [L2]
English scientific discourse). The book takes a genre-oriented and rhetorical
approach, drawing on influential works by Swales (1990, 2004) and Miller
(1984), among others, and chapter 1 defines the book’s intended audience as
including scholars of rhetoric and composition, applied linguists and genre
analysts, English for academic purposes (EAP) practitioners, translators and
editors, policymakers in the field of language policy and
internationalization, and scholars on whom the book focuses.

In chapter 2, “Scientific English in the Postmodern Age,” Pérez-Llantada
explores the role of English in constructing scientific knowledge, and the
commodifying forces at play in academia. In doing so, Pérez-Llantada draws on
the work of Lyotard (1984) to comment on the provisionality of scientific
knowledge and the effects of increased technology-driven interconnectedness
and collaboration on the production and exchange of research-based
information. In knowledge-oriented economies, particularly those in North
America, Asia, and Europe, research is increasingly viewed as a commodity.
Research output (and not just scientific results), from the humanities to the
physical/natural sciences, has both socioeconomic and institutional value,
attracting university funding and determining international rankings and
student and researcher mobility, as well as being one of the main criteria for
tenure and promotion. English plays a dominant (and increasingly dominating)
role in this research output, for a variety of socioeconomic and
sociohistorical reasons, and its use as a lingua franca is spurred by an
“interdependence between information technology and society’s demands for open
communication” (p. 40). Pérez-Llantada presents selected English-language
textual norms or preferences regarding, for example, argumentation, voice, and
organization, and discusses their relevance for non-native speakers of English
as they adopt (“nativize”) or deviate from (“hybridize”) these norms,
introducing discourses, genres, and styles from different cultural contexts.

Chapter 3, “Problematizing the Rhetoric of Contemporary Science,” examines the
effects of “the commodifying, marketized nature of scientific production and
dissemination” and the “‘selling’ of the science” (p. 47) on the
phraseological/lexicogrammatical, organizational, and rhetorical features of
contemporary science discourse. Pérez-Llantada describes several social
framing contexts related to whether exchanges operate at intra- or
transnational levels, and she discusses how these contexts determine the
extent of deferentiality in academic conversations. This chapter, indeed the
book as a whole, focuses primarily on the research article as a written
instance par excellence of this academic conversation, and three common
discipline-specific subtypes are identified: the argumentative essay
(primarily in the arts and humanities), the
Introduction-Methods-Results-and-Discussion (IMRaD) structure (primarily in
biomedicine and physical sciences), and the problem-solution text (commonly
used in subdisciplinary fields such as mechanical engineering and applied
economics). A number of lexicogrammatical features common to or characteristic
of these text types are presented and briefly discussed, including specialized
vocabulary (both discipline specific and general academic), nominalizations,
certain high-frequency collocational clusters, discourse markers, hedges and
boosters, stance markers, references/citations, and grammatical voice. The
chapter concludes by emphasizing text as process and text as end product.
Pérez-Llantada stresses the importance of unifying these two views and
provides a detailed visualization of how they intersect (Figure 3.3, p. 68).

In chapter 4, “A Contrastive Rhetoric Approach to Science Dissemination,”
Pérez-Llantada uses contrastive rhetoric and corpus-linguistic techniques to
examine “how scientists across cultural contexts textualize new scientific
knowledge in adapting their discourse to textual conventions, socio-cognitive
and social constraints” (p. 72). Using the Spanish English Research Article
Corpus (SERAC) of the Interpersonality in Academic Written Discourse
(InterLAE) research group, this chapter explores the convergences and
divergences of textual features of North-American English (ENG) and Spanish
English (SPENG) academic texts, and compares these with similar features in
Spanish-language (SP) texts, across the four above-mentioned disciplinary
fields. The approach is both corpus based and corpus driven. Standardized
type-token ratios, word-class frequency lists, and lexical bundles (3-, 4-,
and 5-grams) of differing function, such as markers of intertextuality,
metadiscourse, modality, evaluation, and argumentation, are compared. What
Pérez-Llantada finds is that, overall, the SPENG texts represent a hybrid form
of discourse that, both qualitatively and quantitatively, lies somewhere
between the two L1 profiles (ENG and SP); for example, there is more
promotional lexis such as “important” and “interesting” in the SPENG texts
than in the SP texts, but less than in the ENG texts, to name one of many
hybridized features. Although less focus is given to cross-disciplinary
variation, divergences and convergences are occasionally flagged, such as the
different lexical profiles of the four academic divisions (Tables 4.2 and 4.3,
pp. 76-77).

Chapter 5, “Disciplinary Practices and Procedures within Research Sites,”
takes an ethnographic approach to “the actual social scenarios where
scientific discourse is produced, the subjects (scientists) and their relation
to their social context” (p. 105). Similar to the previous chapter, chapter 5
compares and contrasts the experiences of scholars in two geographic locations
(the United States and Spain) writing in English (L1 and L2) and Spanish (L1).
Using a semistructured interview of researchers at the University of Michigan
and the University of Zaragoza, Pérez-Llantada explores three main themes:
scholars’ views on the epistemology of their field and the perceived role of
globalization on their academic activities; their actual discourse practices
and procedures; and their attitudes toward the role of English as a lingua
franca. Some of the findings corroborate those of the previous chapter, such
as the Spanish scholars’ struggles to find what they feel to be the
appropriate argumentative style, or the Spanish and US scholars’ awareness of
common stock phrases as a means of maintaining clarity and brevity. Both
groups of scholars, in their comments as writers and as reviewers
(gatekeepers), acknowledge the importance of having a common language for
scientific exchange, and both acknowledge the potential difficulties faced by
non-native speakers of English, as well as the advantages afforded to native
speakers.

Chapter 6, “Triangulating Procedures, Practices and Texts in Scientific
Discourse,” consolidates findings from the previous two chapters and proposes
a view of scientific discourse from three interrelated perspectives or
scenarios. The first, “disciplinary procedures,” includes reading the
literature, thinking critically, and understanding the disciplinary ethos. The
second, “discourse community practices,” involves enculturation to discourse
norms, research group interactions, and ongoing feedback. The third
intersecting scenario is represented by the “texts” themselves, as both
process and product (see chapter 3), and involves developing ideas in plenum,
outlining and drafting, and writing and revising a host of generic text types,
including occluded or interstitial genres. Pérez-Llantada discusses ways in
which globalizing processes might impact these scenarios. For example, in
considering research output as a commodity, scientific texts not only
contribute to knowledge communication across national borders; they also act
to strengthen the power of global and local economies. Might, then, this
competitive economic landscape, as Pérez-Llantada contends (pp. 142-143), also
effect or impact upon the promotional features of scientific texts?

In chapter 7, “ELF and a More Complex Sociolinguistic Landscape,” the book
examines in more detail the implications of English as a medium for academic
discourse. In particular, Pérez-Llantada debates the “threats” and
“opportunities” of English as a lingua franca (ELF). With regard to the
threats, which are widely discussed in the EAP literature, ELF may represent
an obstacle for non-Anglophone scholars, restricting access to and
dissemination of new knowledge. There is also the potential for domain loss
and the threat this poses to the existence and development of minority
languages within academia. Its extended use may even lead to the epistemicide
of culture-specific intellectual traditions. On the other hand, ELF allows for
relatively standardized peer-to-peer exchange of ideas across cultural
boundaries, and, according to the findings presented, particularly in chapters
4 and 5, ELF can accommodate and preserve “a rich variety of culture-specific
traits and rhetorical traditions among its users” (p. 173). ELF, says
Pérez-Llantada, may also consolidate polyglotism and raise awareness of “the
value of multicompetence, plurilingualism and intercultural competence”
(ibid.). In addition to a discussion of the legacy of ELF and previously
dominant lingua francas such as Greek, Latin, French, and German, this chapter
provides an interesting reminder that other lingua francas do in fact coexist
with English. While their influence and reach is undoubtedly being limited by
the continued expansion of English, it is worth bearing in mind that Spanish,
Portuguese, French, and German, among others, also act as important vehicles
for transnational scientific communication. Chapter 7 concludes with a section
on EAP pedagogy and includes useful suggestions for learner-centered course
design.

The final chapter, chapter 8, “Re-Defining the Rhetoric of Science,” stresses
the importance of academic ELF as a “‘hybrid third’ […], a discourse in which
Anglophone normative rules merge with culture-specific linguistic features
instantiating a rich variety of non-normative writing styles” (p. 192). Rather
than view the impact of globalization on academic cultural identities as part
of an imperialistic or neocolonial agenda, Pérez-Llantada prefers to focus on
the fluent communication of scientific ideas between native and non-native
English-speaking scholars in local, intranational, and transnational settings.
She does, however, advocate being critical of the ways in which languages are
used in the construction of scientific knowledge, and emphasizes the important
role education plays as an instrument of awareness and change. The chapter
(and book) concludes with a series of pertinent questions for current EAP
research and pedagogy: what impact does multiculturalism have on both local
and global scientific communication; what standardizations and codifications
are needed to find “an egalitarian fulcrum between normative models and
culture-specific traits”; what “culture-specific linguistic fingerprints” can
be identified in scientific ELF, and how can these be traced longitudinally
(pp. 211-212)?

EVALUATION
Part corpus linguistics, part ethnography of communication, part sociocultural
theory, Pérez-Llantada’s ambitious work provides fascinating, contemporary
insights into the interrelatedness of science, language, culture, and the
processes of globalization. Her holistic approach is reminiscent of work by
Mauranen (1993, inter alia), whose studies are frequently referred to
throughout the book; I was also reminded to a lesser degree of Ivanič’s (1998)
exploration of writing and identity.

In her advocacy of increased awareness of and sensitivity to non-Anglophone
divergences from the possible standards of Anglophone centers,
Pérez-Llantada’s position is consistent with much of the contemporary
academic-literacies and EAP literature. However, her work provides important
empirical data that suggest that the Anglophone center and ELF users are
already somewhat sensitive to those alternative voices in the discourse. This
can be seen in comments in the interviews with US and Spanish scholars
(chapter 5), as well as the fact that the SPENG papers analyzed (chapter 4)
are already published in international journals and can therefore attest to a
certain level of existing acceptance and sensitivity to non-Anglophone
standards. This is perhaps due to a diverse community of Anglophone and
non-Anglophone gatekeepers and literacy brokers. As Pérez-Llantada notes (p.
135), this area needs further investigation.

I was particularly impressed with the thoroughness of chapters 4 and 5, and,
based on the findings therein, on the usefulness of the suggestions for EAP
pedagogy provided in chapter 7. The figures and tables, although used
sparingly throughout, are also a great asset.

I would agree with the statement of intended audience (see above), but some
groups are more relevant than others. For example, while I am sure that many
scientists and policymakers would find the book interesting, I suspect that
scholars of rhetoric and composition, applied linguists and genre analysts,
and EAP practitioners, as well as students of all these fields, would find the
book most beneficial. Indeed, some sections may be more appealing to certain
groups of scholars than others; chapters 4 and 5, with their corpus-linguistic
and ethnographic perspectives, respectively, are two obvious examples. These
could be read as standalone texts, since Pérez-Llantada provides ample
introductory material at the start of each chapter. However, I recommend
reading the book as a whole, to fully appreciate the carefully constructed
arguments that run through the book.

A few minor points: in chapter 5, I would have appreciated more explicit and
consistent labeling of interview excerpts, with the inclusion of location,
seniority, and discipline (three of the main variables investigated), for all
examples. This is not always clear (e.g., p. 109), although it is sometimes
clarified in the accompanying text. Also, I was not always certain of the
discipline or disciplines being described. Except for the early part of
chapter 4 and certain sections of 5, discipline-specific products, processes,
and social practices are rarely flagged, perhaps because of relative
similarities across disciplines. This is not necessarily a problem, since the
primary focus is on cultural convergences and divergences, rather than
disciplinary ones. I mention it, however, as I wonder whether the discussion
sometimes refers to a particular discipline or limited set of disciplines,
rather than all four. For example, when phrases such as “turning knowledge
into words” and “write up disciplinary research” are used (e.g., pp. 69, 186),
they seem to assume that the knowledge or research is already there or done
and that this knowledge or research needs to be articulated, rather than
socially constructed or construed. Can such assumptions be made regarding the
processes and social practices of all four disciplinary categories, especially
given the book’s sociocultural approach? Finally, I was a little surprised not
to see Arabic mentioned, particularly in chapter 7 in the discussion of
alternative lingua francas, alongside Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German.

Overall, Scientific Discourse and the Rhetoric of Globalization is a
well-researched, thought-provoking, and timely book, with appeal to a wide
range of scholars. Its scope is ambitious, and the book provides admirable
responses to the questions posed above. Moreover, the book achieves its
overall aim “to offer an in-depth examination of today’s scientific rhetoric
and discursive practices” (p. 7) and to provide sociocultural explanations for
the adoption and hybridization of scientific discourse norms.

REFERENCES
Gee, James Paul. 1996. Social linguistics and literacies: ideologies in
discourse. London: Taylor and Francis.

Giddens, Anthony. 1990. The consequences of modernity. Cambridge: Cambridge
Polity Press.

Ivanič, Roz. 1998. Writing and identity: the discoursal construction of
identity in academic writing. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Lyotard, Jean-François. 1984. The postmodern condition. Manchester: Manchester
University Press.

Mauranen, Anna. 1993. Cultural differences in academic rhetoric: a
textlinguistic study. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Miller, Carolyn R. 1984. Genre as social action. Quarterly Journal of Speech
70, 151-167.

Swales, John M. 1990. Genre analysis: English in academic and research
settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Swales, John M. 2004. Research genres: explorations and applications.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Daniel Lees Fryer is a PhD candidate at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden,
and an assistant professor at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied
Sciences (HiOA), Norway. His research interests include systemic-functional
grammar and social semiotics, academic literacies, and scientific discourse.
He holds courses and workshops in academic writing for staff and students at
HiOA and at the University of Oslo, Norway.
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