Cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspectives on academic discourse

Cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspectives on academic discourse. Ed. by Eija Suomela-Salmi and Fred Dervin. (Pragmatics & beyond new series 193.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009. Pp. vi, 299. ISBN9789027254375. $143 (Hb).
Reviewed by Siaw-Fong Chung and Li-Yin Chen, National Chengchi University

Eija Suomela-Salmi and Fred Dervin introduce that this book features research in eight languages (English, Spanish, French, Swedish, Russian, German, Italian, and Norwegian) in written and oral academic discourse (AD).

In Part 1, ‘Discursive characteristics of AD’, Christina Janik finds that ‘shared knowledge’ and ‘underspecified references to research literature’ abound in Russian historiographic articles. German articles use higher numbers of footnotes. Rebecca Beke and Adriana Bolívar compare modalization in Spanish research articles and essays in four disciplines. They find that ‘[p]ossibility is the preferred category of modalisation used by philosophers, linguists and psychologists, while educators give quantity more prominence’, whereas ‘[p]robability is more frequently used by linguists’ (39). Pilar Mur Dueñas examines citations in twenty-four English research articles on business management by American and Spanish scholars. American scholars use more citations to justify their research. Erik Schleef examines English and German tag questions and discourse markers in speeches of American and German undergraduates, focusing on factors such as disciplines, discourse roles, gender, context, and culture.

In Part 2, ‘Different voices’, Marina Bondi analyzes the openings of 964 English and Italian research articles in history and economics. Most economics openings are epistemic openings that serve interpretive functions, whereas history openings are usually phenomenic openings that provide a time-setting function and tend to mix textual voices of historical characters and witnesses. Kjersti Fløttum explores academic voices when an author serves as writer, researcher, arguer, and evaluator in 450 research articles in English, French, and Norwegian from economics, linguistics, and medicine. Trine Dahl investigates author roles in 160 English and Norwegian research article abstracts in economics and linguistics. English economists prefer the researcher role while Norwegian economists take the writer role. English linguists prefer to position themselves as arguers. Giuliana Diani finds that linguistic reviewers tend to adopt multiple voices in communication and show a preponderance of ‘I’ that projects a prominent identity of self. Merja Koskela and Tiina Männikkö explore the importance of bibliographical notes and content notes in Swedish research articles in history and philosophy.

In Part 3, ‘Cross-cultural rhetoric’, Zofia Golebiowski compares contrastive relations, collateral relations, and comparison relations in three English articles (by an English native speaker, a Polish speaker working in Australia, and a Polish speaker from Poland). Rosa Lorés-Sanz compares forty English research article abstracts for international journals and forty Spanish research abstracts for national publication. Anna Mauranen analyzes ‘rhetoric use of repetition’ (208) and ‘matching/contrast’ (213), among other things in data from monologues and speeches in contexts where English is a lingua franca and in a corpus of data from native speakers (205). Irena Vassileva investigates typescripts of recorded conference discussion in terms of ‘expressions of appreciation and agreement’ (225) and ‘requests for more information or clarification’ (227).

Finally, in Part 4, ‘Construction of concepts in the academia’, Suomela-Salmi and Dervin use transcriptions of a radio program interview to examine ‘interaction/rhetorical strategies, argumentation through reformations and voicing/positioning strategies’ (246). Olga Galatanu details the role of lexical semantics in AD by analyzing the word ‘university’, a word representing ‘an identitary image of Europe as a society of knowledge, citizens and diversity in unity’ (291).