15 abr. 2009

Scholarly or academic writing has its own specific pragmatics. By this I mean its strategies for engaging in certain speech acts like promising, reprimanding, acknowledging, apologizing; its rhetorical strategies of politeness (hedging, qualifying, professing modesty in order to earn good will, emphasizing agreement with others); its choices of particular registers and information structures that fulfill a pragmatic function; its direct engagements with potential readers through appeals to these readers' interests, prejudices, complicity, and previous knowledge; the use of humor; the judicious employment of objective and subjective modes of discourse, etc... Those are the main points that come to mind, though I'm sure if I sat here longer there would be more dimensions of this pragmatics.

These strategies are never taught explicitly as such. We absorb them from scholarship itself, or learn them from corrections made to our writing. The ideal scholarly voice in our heads is confident and judicious without being arrogant or stuffy. If we write in a parody of the scholarly voice we have absorbed the outer forms of scholarly pragmatics but not its inner necessities.

Violating certain codes of scholarly pragmatics can be fun and risky. These violations should be deliberate acts, not accidental slips.

In politeness theory, there is an imperative to 'Minimize the expression of praise of self; maximize the expression of dispraise of self.' . In scholarly writing there is an imperative to state one's conclusions as knowledgeable and authoritative while at the same time fulfilling this modesty maxim. Where I find a pragmatic dilemma is in self-citation, for example. When I cite something I myself have published, I might compensate with a mildly self-deprecatory tone. Or I might cite someone else who has said the same thing rather than citing myself.

There is also the agreement maxim' which states 'Minimize the expression of disagreement between self and other; maximize the expression of agreement between self and other.' This shows up in scholarly efforts to emphasize areas agreement where actually the writer does not agree on a more basic level.

Of course, Gricean conversational maxims also come into play. They seem a bit obvious, but even for that they may be worth remembering. For example: "Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence."

1 comentario:

Bob Basil dijo...

After Neils Bohr would listen to a scientist who, in Bohr's opinion, was completely utterly wrong-headed, he would often start off his reply this way: "We agree more than you think." This was Bohr's harshest rebuke, though it was never given to scientists who knew that it was.