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January 2022

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

Journal/Book: Lang Soc. 1996; 25: 40 West 20TH Street, New York, NY 10011-4211. Cambridge Univ Press. 333-371.

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-a-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.

Note: Article D Atkinson, Auburn Univ, Dept English, Auburn, AL 36849 USA


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