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-LlantadaTITLE: Scientific Discourse and the Rhetoric of GlobalizationSUBTITLE: The Impact of Culture and LanguagePUBLISHER: 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 affectingcontemporary scholarly life? What is the scope of the changes produced byglobalization in academic and research settings and can changes have motives?[…] How are individual scholars and their research practices affected by theseglobal changes across cultural contexts? How is scientific knowledgedisseminated by the current discourse practices of scholars today? And […]what role does the English language play […]?” (p. 1). These are some of thequestions Carmen Pérez-Llantada explores in Scientific Discourse and theRhetoric of Globalization: The Impact of Culture and Language.

As a response to the above and related questions, Pérez-Llantada takes acombined corpus-linguistic, ethnographic, and sociocultural approach,examining the products, processes, and social practices of scientific researchacross disciplines and across cultures and languages. As a specific case,Pérez-Llantada investigates similarities and differences in the textual andcontextual preferences and practices of a group of Anglophone scholars fromNorth America communicating in English and a group of Spanish scholarscommunicating in both English and Spanish, across four broad academicdivisions: humanities and arts, social sciences and education, physicalsciences and engineering, and biological and health sciences. The book alsosituates this case study in a wider perspective, reviewing and comparingsimilar or related work on scientific discourse, from a variety of linguisticand cultural contexts, from across Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa.

Scientific Discourse and the Rhetoric of Globalization is divided into eightchapters, and includes a reference list and index. Chapter 1, “The Role ofScience Rhetoric in the Global Village,” lays out the motivations andrationale (see opening paragraph), and the theoretical and methodologicalbases for the work, and provides a general overview of the organization andscope of the volume. Pérez-Llantada introduces and briefly defines keyconcepts such as discourse and discourse construction (based primarily on Gee1996), globalization (Giddens 1990), plurilingualism, commodification andmarketization, and nativization and hybridization (of second-language [L2]English scientific discourse). The book takes a genre-oriented and rhetoricalapproach, drawing on influential works by Swales (1990, 2004) and Miller(1984), among others, and chapter 1 defines the book’s intended audience asincluding scholars of rhetoric and composition, applied linguists and genreanalysts, English for academic purposes (EAP) practitioners, translators andeditors, policymakers in the field of language policy andinternationalization, and scholars on whom the book focuses.

In chapter 2, “Scientific English in the Postmodern Age,” Pérez-Llantadaexplores the role of English in constructing scientific knowledge, and thecommodifying forces at play in academia. In doing so, Pérez-Llantada draws onthe work of Lyotard (1984) to comment on the provisionality of scientificknowledge and the effects of increased technology-driven interconnectednessand collaboration on the production and exchange of research-basedinformation. In knowledge-oriented economies, particularly those in NorthAmerica, Asia, and Europe, research is increasingly viewed as a commodity.Research output (and not just scientific results), from the humanities to thephysical/natural sciences, has both socioeconomic and institutional value,attracting university funding and determining international rankings andstudent and researcher mobility, as well as being one of the main criteria fortenure and promotion. English plays a dominant (and increasingly dominating)role in this research output, for a variety of socioeconomic andsociohistorical reasons, and its use as a lingua franca is spurred by an“interdependence between information technology and society’s demands for opencommunication” (p. 40). Pérez-Llantada presents selected English-languagetextual norms or preferences regarding, for example, argumentation, voice, andorganization, and discusses their relevance for non-native speakers of Englishas 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 theeffects of “the commodifying, marketized nature of scientific production anddissemination” and the “‘selling’ of the science” (p. 47) on thephraseological/lexicogrammatical, organizational, and rhetorical features ofcontemporary science discourse. Pérez-Llantada describes several socialframing contexts related to whether exchanges operate at intra- ortransnational levels, and she discusses how these contexts determine theextent of deferentiality in academic conversations. This chapter, indeed thebook as a whole, focuses primarily on the research article as a writteninstance par excellence of this academic conversation, and three commondiscipline-specific subtypes are identified: the argumentative essay(primarily in the arts and humanities), theIntroduction-Methods-Results-and-Discussion (IMRaD) structure (primarily inbiomedicine and physical sciences), and the problem-solution text (commonlyused in subdisciplinary fields such as mechanical engineering and appliedeconomics). A number of lexicogrammatical features common to or characteristicof these text types are presented and briefly discussed, including specializedvocabulary (both discipline specific and general academic), nominalizations,certain high-frequency collocational clusters, discourse markers, hedges andboosters, stance markers, references/citations, and grammatical voice. Thechapter concludes by emphasizing text as process and text as end product.Pérez-Llantada stresses the importance of unifying these two views andprovides 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 toexamine “how scientists across cultural contexts textualize new scientificknowledge in adapting their discourse to textual conventions, socio-cognitiveand social constraints” (p. 72). Using the Spanish English Research ArticleCorpus (SERAC) of the Interpersonality in Academic Written Discourse(InterLAE) research group, this chapter explores the convergences anddivergences of textual features of North-American English (ENG) and SpanishEnglish (SPENG) academic texts, and compares these with similar features inSpanish-language (SP) texts, across the four above-mentioned disciplinaryfields. The approach is both corpus based and corpus driven. Standardizedtype-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. WhatPérez-Llantada finds is that, overall, the SPENG texts represent a hybrid formof discourse that, both qualitatively and quantitatively, lies somewherebetween the two L1 profiles (ENG and SP); for example, there is morepromotional lexis such as “important” and “interesting” in the SPENG textsthan in the SP texts, but less than in the ENG texts, to name one of manyhybridized features. Although less focus is given to cross-disciplinaryvariation, divergences and convergences are occasionally flagged, such as thedifferent 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 wherescientific discourse is produced, the subjects (scientists) and their relationto their social context” (p. 105). Similar to the previous chapter, chapter 5compares 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 Michiganand the University of Zaragoza, Pérez-Llantada explores three main themes:scholars’ views on the epistemology of their field and the perceived role ofglobalization on their academic activities; their actual discourse practicesand procedures; and their attitudes toward the role of English as a linguafranca. Some of the findings corroborate those of the previous chapter, suchas the Spanish scholars’ struggles to find what they feel to be theappropriate argumentative style, or the Spanish and US scholars’ awareness ofcommon stock phrases as a means of maintaining clarity and brevity. Bothgroups of scholars, in their comments as writers and as reviewers(gatekeepers), acknowledge the importance of having a common language forscientific exchange, and both acknowledge the potential difficulties faced bynon-native speakers of English, as well as the advantages afforded to nativespeakers.

Chapter 6, “Triangulating Procedures, Practices and Texts in ScientificDiscourse,” consolidates findings from the previous two chapters and proposesa view of scientific discourse from three interrelated perspectives orscenarios. The first, “disciplinary procedures,” includes reading theliterature, thinking critically, and understanding the disciplinary ethos. Thesecond, “discourse community practices,” involves enculturation to discoursenorms, research group interactions, and ongoing feedback. The thirdintersecting scenario is represented by the “texts” themselves, as bothprocess 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 inwhich globalizing processes might impact these scenarios. For example, inconsidering research output as a commodity, scientific texts not onlycontribute to knowledge communication across national borders; they also actto strengthen the power of global and local economies. Might, then, thiscompetitive economic landscape, as Pérez-Llantada contends (pp. 142-143), alsoeffect or impact upon the promotional features of scientific texts?

In chapter 7, “ELF and a More Complex Sociolinguistic Landscape,” the bookexamines in more detail the implications of English as a medium for academicdiscourse. In particular, Pérez-Llantada debates the “threats” and“opportunities” of English as a lingua franca (ELF). With regard to thethreats, which are widely discussed in the EAP literature, ELF may representan obstacle for non-Anglophone scholars, restricting access to anddissemination of new knowledge. There is also the potential for domain lossand the threat this poses to the existence and development of minoritylanguages within academia. Its extended use may even lead to the epistemicideof culture-specific intellectual traditions. On the other hand, ELF allows forrelatively standardized peer-to-peer exchange of ideas across culturalboundaries, and, according to the findings presented, particularly in chapters4 and 5, ELF can accommodate and preserve “a rich variety of culture-specifictraits and rhetorical traditions among its users” (p. 173). ELF, saysPérez-Llantada, may also consolidate polyglotism and raise awareness of “thevalue of multicompetence, plurilingualism and intercultural competence”(ibid.). In addition to a discussion of the legacy of ELF and previouslydominant lingua francas such as Greek, Latin, French, and German, this chapterprovides an interesting reminder that other lingua francas do in fact coexistwith English. While their influence and reach is undoubtedly being limited bythe continued expansion of English, it is worth bearing in mind that Spanish,Portuguese, French, and German, among others, also act as important vehiclesfor transnational scientific communication. Chapter 7 concludes with a sectionon EAP pedagogy and includes useful suggestions for learner-centered coursedesign.

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

EVALUATIONPart corpus linguistics, part ethnography of communication, part socioculturaltheory, Pérez-Llantada’s ambitious work provides fascinating, contemporaryinsights into the interrelatedness of science, language, culture, and theprocesses of globalization. Her holistic approach is reminiscent of work byMauranen (1993, inter alia), whose studies are frequently referred tothroughout 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-Anglophonedivergences from the possible standards of Anglophone centers,Pérez-Llantada’s position is consistent with much of the contemporaryacademic-literacies and EAP literature. However, her work provides importantempirical data that suggest that the Anglophone center and ELF users arealready somewhat sensitive to those alternative voices in the discourse. Thiscan 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 acertain level of existing acceptance and sensitivity to non-Anglophonestandards. This is perhaps due to a diverse community of Anglophone andnon-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 EAPpedagogy provided in chapter 7. The figures and tables, although usedsparingly throughout, are also a great asset.

I would agree with the statement of intended audience (see above), but somegroups are more relevant than others. For example, while I am sure that manyscientists and policymakers would find the book interesting, I suspect thatscholars of rhetoric and composition, applied linguists and genre analysts,and EAP practitioners, as well as students of all these fields, would find thebook most beneficial. Indeed, some sections may be more appealing to certaingroups of scholars than others; chapters 4 and 5, with their corpus-linguisticand ethnographic perspectives, respectively, are two obvious examples. Thesecould be read as standalone texts, since Pérez-Llantada provides ampleintroductory material at the start of each chapter. However, I recommendreading the book as a whole, to fully appreciate the carefully constructedarguments that run through the book.

A few minor points: in chapter 5, I would have appreciated more explicit andconsistent labeling of interview excerpts, with the inclusion of location,seniority, and discipline (three of the main variables investigated), for allexamples. This is not always clear (e.g., p. 109), although it is sometimesclarified in the accompanying text. Also, I was not always certain of thediscipline or disciplines being described. Except for the early part ofchapter 4 and certain sections of 5, discipline-specific products, processes,and social practices are rarely flagged, perhaps because of relativesimilarities across disciplines. This is not necessarily a problem, since theprimary focus is on cultural convergences and divergences, rather thandisciplinary ones. I mention it, however, as I wonder whether the discussionsometimes refers to a particular discipline or limited set of disciplines,rather than all four. For example, when phrases such as “turning knowledgeinto 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 doneand that this knowledge or research needs to be articulated, rather thansocially constructed or construed. Can such assumptions be made regarding theprocesses and social practices of all four disciplinary categories, especiallygiven the book’s sociocultural approach? Finally, I was a little surprised notto see Arabic mentioned, particularly in chapter 7 in the discussion ofalternative lingua francas, alongside Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German.

Overall, Scientific Discourse and the Rhetoric of Globalization is awell-researched, thought-provoking, and timely book, with appeal to a widerange of scholars. Its scope is ambitious, and the book provides admirableresponses to the questions posed above. Moreover, the book achieves itsoverall aim “to offer an in-depth examination of today’s scientific rhetoricand discursive practices” (p. 7) and to provide sociocultural explanations forthe adoption and hybridization of scientific discourse norms.

REFERENCESGee, James Paul. 1996. Social linguistics and literacies: ideologies indiscourse. London: Taylor and Francis.

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

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

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

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

Miller, Carolyn R. 1984. Genre as social action. Quarterly Journal of Speech70, 151-167.

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

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

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

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