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Language is one of the primary means of communication and sharing ideas. Therefore, language is also central to sharing ideas in science. Admittedly, scientists reveal their findings and have heated debates using linguistic means.
It is necessary to note that scientific language is somewhat different from the language used for larger audiences or the language used in school.
This is why it is important to make students acquainted with peculiarities of the scientific communication so that they could participate in the debate when they decide to pursue a scientific career path (Morrison, 2010).
Apart from that, it is also important to help students to understand different texts to be able to be highly educated people.
This report includes an analysis of three scientific texts aimed at different audiences.
One of the texts is taken from the scientific journal Nature. The journal includes scholarly articles on a variety of topics. Scientists publish the reports on their research and reveal their findings.
The second text is taken from a scientific magazine New Scientist. This magazine includes articles on scientific topics. However, the audience is wider than that of the previous journal. This magazine provides information on latest discoveries to people who are interested in science and technology.
The third article is taken from a newspaper News.com.ua. Clearly, the audience of this source is the widest among the three texts. However, people interested in science are likely to read the article used.
The three articles will be analysed in terms of genre, technical language, lexical density, nominal groups and nominalization, information organization, interpersonal representation, use of visuals.
First, it is important to define the word ‘genre’. Derewianka (2003) notes that the word has a number of definitions but in linguistics it stands for the purpose of the text. Parkinson and Adendorff (2005) note that the genre has an impact on many aspects of the text.
Thus, scientific texts tend to be characterised by nominalisation, evaluation, passivisation and hedging (Parkinson & Adendorff, 2005). Authors also use different ways to achieve objectivity.
The genres of the three texts under consideration are different as the texts have different purposes. Thus, Olalde et al. (2014) provide a report to inform the entire scientific world about their findings.
As the report is written for scientists, it has various peculiarities including technical language, lexical density, nominalisation, passivisation and so on. The article provides particular data that can be used for further analysis.
The purpose of the article published in New Scientist is to inform people interested in science about the recent findings in the field of anthropology, archaeology and genetics.
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De Lange (2014) reports about the research implemented with significantly fewer details as the purpose of the text is to reveal major findings (not the methodology). The audience is not confined to scientists as educators, students, and the rest of people who find science interesting can benefit from reading the text.
Finally, the article in the newspaper is aimed at informing people about the latest advances in a particular field of science (Ancient Europeans had dark skin and blue eyes, 2014).
The audience is very wide as it include people who are interested in the latest news that appear in the world. Of course, the article has only a few details as it concentrates on the findings and their implications for the society.
Since the purpose of the texts is clear, it is possible to go into some detail and analyse the differences among the three texts in question.
Unsworth (1999) states that technical language is one of peculiarities of the scientific writing and it is crucial to identify these units to be able to analyse the text in terms of its contents and its linguistic peculiarities.
Chung and Nation (2004) state that technical language is often one of major difficulties students face when reading scientific texts and it is important to help learners to acquire the necessary vocabulary when in school.
Technical language is extensively used in the scholarly article. Olalde et al. (2014) make use of numerous terms.
For instance, when describing one of tests implemented Olalde et al. (2014, p. 226) use such terms as “genome”, “mitochondrial DNA”, “nuclear DNA of La Braña 1”, “confidence interval”, “heterozygous positions” and so on. All these terms are use in a single paragraph.
De Lange (2014) uses only a few terms. At that, the terms are quite common and understandable for a wide audience. Thus, the author utilises such terms as “genome”, “immunity genes”, “DNA” and some others (De Lange, 2014, n.p.).
At the same time, the newspaper article also has quite a limited number of terms. These terms include “genome”, “vitamin D” and similar words and phrases (Ancient Europeans had dark skin and blue eyes, 2014).
It is clear that the wider the audience is the fewer terms are used. This is a result of the compliance with conventions of particular genres. Technical language is essential for scientific texts where scientists reveal their methodology and findings.
Lexical Density, Nominal Groups and Nominalisation
Another important aspect to consider is connected with the use of lexical units. Lexical density and nominalisation with its focus on nominal groups create “a highly technical discourse” of science (Unsworth, 1999, p. 516).
Clearly, these are characteristic features of scientific texts that aim at revealing concepts, qualifications and as many facts as possible within quite a limited space.
Thus, these are characteristic features of the scholarly journal article. Olalde et al. (2014) resort to nominalisation, use of nominal groups and lexical density.
Thus, when the findings are revealed, the lexical density is very high as the authors are trying to include as many meaningful details as possible and the use of content words is extensive (Olalde et al., 2014, p. 227). It can be difficult for an unprepared reader to easily understand the paragraph.
It is necessary to add that 65% of words in the paragraph mentioned above are content words. Nominalisation enables the authors to provide maximum facts and qualities into their text.
A simple sentence can illustrate the peculiarities of the text: “Of the ten variants, the Mesolithic genome carried the ancestral and non-selected allele as a homozygote in three regions” (Olalde et al., 2014, p. 227). The sentence contains only one verb and the rest are nouns and nominal groups.
As for the other two texts, they are not characterised by such degree of lexical density and nominalisation. At that, the scientific magazine article also contains a significant number of nominal groups.
It is also characterised by passivisation as De Lange (2014) informs the reader about a research implemented by other people.
The easiest article to understand is the one taken from the newspaper. Although this text is characterised by a significant degree of nominalisation and passivisation, lexical density is not excessive. This makes the article more understandable even for an unprepared reader.
Clearly, information organization is also quite specific in the three texts. Unsworth (1999) notes that scientific texts (as well as the vast majority of written texts) have a particular organization of information.
Thus, the scientific article in question has such sections (which are not outlined explicitly except for the abstract but they can be easily identified) an abstract, introduction, methodology, findings and discussion.
The article from the scientific magazine also has a distinct structure. First, De Lange (2014) provides information on the archaeological finding. After that, the information on the research and its findings are provided.
The newspaper article has a lead-in and, after that, the description of the research findings are revealed. The structure of the newspaper article is not as rigid as the one of the scholarly journal or even magazine article.
Interpersonal representation is another characteristic feature of written texts that makes them differ. Hyland (2010) states that interpersonal representation can be defined as the way the authors of scientific and research papers refer to the reader and see the reader.
Thus, the researcher notes that the choice of genre, vocabulary and so on is a manifestation of the author’s thinking about the audience (Hyland, 2010).
Clearly, the scientific text is full of specific terms that are common for the scientific world. Scientists are also accustomed to particular ways of information organisation and Olalde et al. (2014) respond to these needs. Importantly, the researchers also achieve reader engagement through the use of the pronoun.
The pronoun ‘we’ is extensively used throughout the article. It is used to refer to the scientist who implemented the research. However, it is also used to include the reader into the discourse (Hyland, 2010). The reader puts him/herself in line with the researchers and thinks about the results and conclusions.
This method is not present in the magazine and newspaper article. As has been mentioned above, the two sources are characterised by passivisation (De Lange, 2014; Ancient Europeans had dark skin and blue eyes, 2014).
At the same time, the two article are aimed at particular audience and they respond to their readers’ needs. Objectivity is another way to engage the reader (Hyland, 2010). It is noteworthy that objectivity is achieved through the use of references to scientists.
The Use of Visuals
Finally, it is necessary to note that the three texts are characterised by specific visuals.
Kress (2012, p. 337) emphasises that written texts in media are now facilitated by visuals that do not simply decorate the messages but have “full communication roles”. Karchmer-Klein and Shinas (2012) also state that visuals provide numerous additional meanings to texts.
It is clearly seen when considering the texts in question. Thus, the visuals used are very different in their form and meaning. They are chosen to fit needs, interests and the level of knowledge of the audience.
For instance, Olalde et al. (2014) include a map (with the location of the archaeological finding) and the photo of the finding itself. These visuals are used to provide more information and evidence as to the basis of the research.
Two other visuals aimed at providing particular information on genomes are also employed. These visuals show that the authors understand the readers’ interest in particular evidence. Visuals also help to illustrate certain findings.
De Lange (2014) utilises the visual to illustrate the major finding of the research, which is the appearance (head) of an ancient human.
Clearly, the readers of the scientific magazine article may need to visualise the way the person actually looked and they do not need some specific scientific evidence (as they may lack for knowledge and skills to decipher scientific visuals, for example, presented in the scholarly journal article).
As for the newspaper article, they use a picture of a celebrity to draw people’s attention to the issue. The newspaper only informs about the finding and it is aimed to start a discourse among a wide audience.
Of course, the use of visuals in the three texts under consideration also show the way the audience of the texts differs.
On balance, it is possible to note that the three texts in question help to trace the differences created by different genres. It is clear that different texts have their peculiarities and people should know about them to be able to understand the information provided.
Educators have to utilise genre-based approach to help students to read, analyse and write different types of texts.
It is important to pay attention to many facets including technical language, lexical density, nominalisation and the use of visuals. Students should pay attention to all these aspects to obtain a deep understanding of the content of each text.
Ancient Europeans had dark skin and blue eyes, researchers say. (2014, January 27). News.com.au. Web.
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De Lange, C. (2014, January 26). Ancient European hunter-gatherer was a blue-eyed boy. New Scientist. Web.
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