“Nothing is more usual than for philosophers to encroach on the province of grammarians, and to engage in disputes of words, while they imagine they are handling controversies of the deepest importance and concern.” (David Hume)
English is sometimes called ‘the’ language of science. This could be more myth than reality, but there is no question that a great deal of academic communication takes place in English nowadays. Well-established notions like ‘scientific English’ or ‘academic English’ suggest that this is a special kind of English, i.e., a code that differs from ‘general (or ordinary) English’. This course will provide a context for reflection on the present role of English in a globalized academic world, and the question of present-day science communication having to be conducted through English rather than other languages. We will ponder such difficult questions as: ‘Is it good to have one universal language in academia? Or would it be better if the academy remained plurilingual?’, Is scientific English a value-free means of communication, or is this merely a convenient myth that aims at propagating certain ideologies having to do with objective knowledge and objective reality?', etc. We will also explore in more detail the general notion of a ‘language of science’ (in a historical perspective) and what kinds of language ideologies have motivated philosophers, scientists and linguists to postulate such a language – as opposed to ‘ordinary language’. This is not an academic writing course, but a course dealing with the sociology and history of the language of science in academic disciplines.
- The history of English as a language of science
- Sociolinguistic aspects of English as a language of science
- Similarities and differences in the rhetoric of diverse academic disciplines
- Ordinary language vs. the language of science
- The philosophy of language underlying science and academia
- To bring to students’ attention the place and role of the English language in academic research.
- To create an awareness of the cross-disciplinary diversity of scientific/academic discourse.
- To provide an introduction to questions pertaining to the sociology of knowledge and the linguistic ideological questions related to academic knowledge.
On completion of this course, students are expected to
- understand the present place and role of English in academic research as well as the history of English and other languages of science.
- be critically aware of how communication is bound to the institutions of science and academia.
- be informed of the philosophies of language on which the 'Science Project' rests.
- be able to reflect on the differences between the Western view of language and reality and the non-Western views.
- realize the impact of Anglocentrism (and ethnocentrism more generally) on the recognized neutrality of English as a language of science.
For the majority of the course, the first two hours of each session (14:30-16:20) will be designated for a lecture while the third hour (16:30-17:20) will be designated for a tutorial. Two whole sessions will be set aside for group presentations and discussions.
1) Individual research paper on a topic chosen by the student (in consultation with the lecturer) (50%)
2) In-class group presentation (or individual presentation, upon special request) (30%)
3) Tutorial participation and in-class discussions (20%)
Readings may be extracted from the following works (weekly digital readings will be uploaded to the course Moodle page and students may find additional materials via the HKU Library digital databases):
Ammon, Ulrich (ed.). 2001. The dominance of English as a language of science: Effects on other languages and language communities. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Atkinson, Dwight. 1999. Scientific discourse in sociohistorical context. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Banks, David. 2008. The development of scientific writing: Linguistic features and historical context. London: Equinox.
Bazerman, Charles. 1988. Shaping written knowledge: The genre and activity of the experimental article in science. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press.
Berger, Louis S. 2005. The Unboundaried Self. Putting the Person Back into the View from Nowhere. Victoria: Trafford Publishing.
Deely, John. 2009. Purely Objective Reality. Berling: Mouton de Gruyter.
Halliday, M. A. K. 2004. The Language of Science. London: Continuum.
Harris, Roy. 2003. History, Science and the Limits of Language. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study.
Harris, Roy. 2004. The Linguistics of History. Edinburgh University Press.
Harris, Roy. 2005. The Semantics of Science. London: Continuum.
Hyland, Ken. 2009. Academic Discourse: English in a global context. London: Continuum.
Martin, James R. & Richard Veel. 1998. Reading science: Critical and functional perspectives on discourses of science. London: Routledge.
Meyer, Paul Georg. 1997. Coming to know: Studies in the lexical semantics and pragmatics of academic English. Tubingen: Narr.
Montgomery, Scott L. 1996. The scientific voice. New York: The Guilford Press.
Nash, Walter (ed.). 1990. The writing scholar: Studies in academic discourse. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Pennycook, Alastair and Sinfree Makoni. 2019. Innovations and Challenges in Applied Linguistics from the Global South. London and New York: Routledge.
Swales, John M. 1990. Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.