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Review of  Academic Discourse across Cultures


Reviewer: Sibo Chen
Book Title: Academic Discourse across Cultures
Book Author: Igor Lakić Branka Živković Milica Vuković
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Pragmatics
Issue Number: 27.4153

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Review:
Reviews Editor: Robert A. Cote

English is widely recognized as a lingua franca for scholarly communication today. As more and more leading academic journals are published in English, authors who use English as an additional language (EAL) are experiencing mounting pressure to adjust their writing styles accordingly to adopt the Anglo-Saxon academic writing norms. Following this trend, intercultural variations in academic discourse have become a prominent research field in discourse analysis. The current volume, “Academic discourse across cultures” edited by Igor Lakić, Branka Živković and Milica Vuković, explores the intercultural differences in academic writing norms, especially the differences in academic discourse between international journals and Montenegrin/Serbian journals. According to the editors, the overarching goal of this volume is to raise awareness among EAL writers regarding potential linguistic obstacles for publishing in international journals, thereby providing them with knowledge of delivering their research to the international academic community.

The chapters in this volume are divided in three parts. Part I “Rhetorical Structure of Research Articles across Cultures” deals with structural variations found in abstracts, introductions, and conclusions. This part begins with Chapter 1’s comparative analysis between abstracts written by English and Serbian academics, in which the author Savka Blagojević demonstrates that EAL writers still tend to adhere to their national writing norms when producing articles for international audience. Similarly, Chapter 2 by Milena Dževerdanović-Pejović explores linguistic abstracts in international journals and Montenegrin national journals and come to the conclusion that compared with English abstracts, Montenegro abstracts are less organized on the macro-structure level due to its focus on rhetorical and persuasive effect. Chapters 3 and 4 address (by Igor Lakić and Ana Šćepanović respectively) how a genre’s structure is bounded by disciplinary conventions. Through the exploration of economic and civil engineering introductions, both chapters validate Swales’ (1990) previous analysis of research introductions and identify new moves and steps that are discipline-specific. Chapter 5 by Milica Vuković and Vesna Bratić concludes Part I by comparing conclusions in Montenegrin national journals and those in international journals, which shows the noticeable differences between Anglo-Saxon and Montenegrin academic writing conventions.

Part II “Hedging and Cohesion in Academic Discourse across Cultures” focuses on intercultural differences in the use of hedging and cohesion devices in academic discourse. This part consists of three chapters. Chapter 6 by Milica Vuković follows the comparative framework built in previous chapters and discusses how articles published in international journals tend to use significantly more hedging than those published in Montenegro national journals. As Vuković argues, such difference is mainly caused by authors’ consideration of international journals’ wide readership. Next, Chapter 7 by Nataša Milivojević and Stanka Radojičić shifts the analytical focus from journal articles to text books. By analyzing the presence of hedging devices in course texts for university EAL learners, the chapter comes to the conclusion that it is necessary to provide EAL learners with basic knowledge on discourse markers given their abundance in academic texts. Chapter 8 by Miloš D. Đurić addresses the semantics-pragmatics interface within spoken academic discourse. It highlights the important role of discourse markers in generating conceptual and communicative relevance in academic lectures.

Part III “Semantic and Syntactic Features of Academic Discourse across Cultures” addresses academic discourse on the syntactic, semantic, and lexical levels. Chapter 9 by Branka Živković continues the previous chapter’s discussion on academic lectures and examines how the introduction sections English and Montenegrin lectures are organized. The analysis suggests that contrary to common assumption, lecture introductions in both English and Montenegrin feature a degree of planned structure. Chapter 10 by Gordana Dimković-Telebaković examines whether the interpretations of English and Serbian adverbs in academic writing are influenced by their respective positions in sentences. The chapter confirms that there is a strict correlation between the readings of English and Serbian adverbs and their positions in different syntactic structures. Finally, Chapter 11 by Miodarka Tepavčević concludes the whole volume with an overview of key syntactic and semantic features found in English scientific texts.

EVALUATION

This volume’s main strength lies in its focus on the discursive practices of Serbian and Montenegrin academics, whose writing norms have been rarely addressed in previous research. Arguing from an intercultural perspective, the book offers several insightful observations on the interfaces between national and international academic cultures, which presents a timely contribution to the growing body of research on academic genres. Another merit of the volume comes from its comprehensive perspectives, with both macro and micro aspects of academic discourse being thoroughly examined.

Despite the above merits, however, the volume suffers from two noticeable shortcomings. Its exclusive focus on Serbian and Montenegrin academics has led to a narrow analytic perspective, which makes the book’s title “Academic Discourse across Cultures” somewhat misleading. In addition, most chapters within the book are descriptive and filled with linguistic terms, offering very few pedagogical implications and practical suggestions on academic writing. As such, the volume would not be a good reference for academics who want to familiarize them with the writing norms of international journals. Overall, although the volume can be of particular interest to discourse and genre scholars, its appeal to the academic community at large is quite limited, which requires readers’ special attention.


REFERENCES

Swales, J. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Sibo Chen is SSHRC Vanier Scholar in the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University. His major research interests are language and communication, critical discourse analysis, and genre theories.

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Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9781443878012
Pages: 205
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