The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1675-1975: A sociohistorical discourse analysis

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Abstract

This study traces the evolution of scientific research writing in English from 1675 to 1975. Two separate methods of discourse analysis - rhetorical analysis focusing on broad genre characteristics, and sociolinguistic register analysis - are applied to a large corpus of articles from the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. The two sets of results are then interpreted vis-à-vis the Royal Society's social history to yield an integrated description. Findings indicate that: (a) research writing in the 17th - 18th centuries was substantially influenced by communicative norms of author-centered genteel conduct; (b) greater attention to methodology and precision in the interest of scientific specialization brought about pronounced textual changes in the 19th century, although gentlemanly norms were still in evidence; and (c) by the late 20th century, expanded theoretical descriptions/discussions appear to have replaced experiments and methods as the rhetorical centerpiece of the research article. (Discourse analysis, rhetorical analysis, register, social studies of science, scientific writing, corpus linguistics) *.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-371
Number of pages39
JournalLanguage in Society
Volume25
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language

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