Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies

Log in or Register to get access to full text downloads.

Remember me or Register

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT Open Access  DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT Subscription or Fee Access

Variable discursive constructions of three genres of science

Jean Parkinson, Ralph Adendorff


The present study reports on a comparison of the research article, university textbook and science news article as a preamble to capturing ideological differences between these three genres of scientific writing. The linguistic dimension to the comparison relies on Systemic Functional Linguistics, specifically the representation of human participants, use of passivisation and nominalisation, evaluation and hedging. Ideological differences deriving from this analysis are summarised in terms of what constitutes a fact in each genre, how objectivity is established and what power relations prevail. Research articles are shown to deal with propositions still to be endorsed by the all-powerful scientific community. Their authors are consequently less powerful than their readers, unlike textbook writers, who deal with propositions already endorsed by the scientific community and who, as a result, are more powerful than their readers are. Authors of both genres achieve objectivity largely through removing reference to people in their texts. Science news articles are noticeably distinct. Their authors establish objectivity through attributing ideas to authoritative human participants and, because they report on findings not yet endorsed as fact, they represent scientific findings as provisional, even controversial. Science news articles thereby represent science as an essentially social activity. The article ends with some suggestions regarding pedagogical applications.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2005, 23(3): 281–303
AJOL African Journals Online