TRANSLATION OF SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL TEXTS • Why does Halliday say that the discourse of science alienates? Because children, students and people in general feel put off by its language, full of technical terms and complex grammar. • What is the so−called disturbing paradox of science? Science began as a humanist dialogue with nature, trying to explore it. However, its explanation resulted unnatural and dehumanised, due to the kind of language it construed: technical terms and noun phrases. • What is the distinctive quality of scientific language? It lies in its lexicogrammar: its lexis or vocabulary entails many of the difficulties − technical terms − but also the special grammatical patterns it engenders − passive verbs, long nominal groups −. • Define scientific English in relation with general English. It is a distinctive variety or functional register − the register of a discipline − of English: a form of English with certain constructions which are more probable than others. Such constructions or syndromes make it plausible to talk of the language of science. • What has been the influence of western thought in considering scientific language? That of considering the language of science as a tool for expressing ideas about physical or biological processes. A rather impoverished view of language. • Describe how was the beginning of scientific discourse after the change that English suffered in the medieval period. It began by creating a simple language that would codify knowledge. Latin was no longer used. Early humanists faced the job of developing their various emerging national languages, especially in England and France. • Which was the biggest single demand made on a language of science? That it should be effective in constructing technical taxonomies. Regular morphological patterns for representing a classificatory system of plants and animals, not like folk taxonomies, which were messy, with conflicting criteria. • Which is the second major feature of scientific language? Were 17th century's scientists aware of it? A technical grammar, which could appropriately describe the newborn science. 17th century's scientists were not aware of it since we, humans, are in general less conscious of grammar than of vocabulary. • What did the scientist discover about the creation of technical terms?
That new technical terms could be created ad infinitum in the emerging national languages. Something that did not happen with Latin. • Explain the sentence the language of science has reshaped our world views. The language of science has become the dominant mode for interpreting human existence. Every text, from the discourse of bureaucracy to the TV magazine or the blurb on a cereal packet, is affected by it. It has become the language of literacy (everything which is written). • Explain what is a grammatical metaphor. Give examples. It is an expression − i.e. verbal or adjectival − which is reworded in the second part of the sentence as a noun or noun phrase. −Examples: 1) will not be refracted enough... / for want of a sufficient refraction. 2) those convex glasses... / if the glass have a due degree of convexity. • What has been the implication for scientific discourse? The implication is that language does not passively reflect or describe human experience, following a correspondence theory. Rather, it interprets or construes it. In this sense, the language of science has been constructed at the same time as science has developed. • What has been the evolution of science discourse and which has been its effect? It has been the evolution of scientific grammar because grammar is the powerhouse of language. The grammatical metaphor has had an essential role in it. Also nominalization as a result of it. The effect: large numbers of new nouns and a register − scientific language − built as an edifice of things, not of processes. • What predictions about the future language of science do Halliday and Martin make? The influence of the new technology (e−mail, Internet) and the importance of communication and semiotic systems can make the language of science not only an elitist register, commanded only by English speakers, but a discourse shared by many individuals worldwide. Communicating through this new technology can also influence the language of science into something less nominalized, where verbal actions and processes can recover their role. Lexis in scientific and technical English • What is the difference between lexis and vocabulary? Both include the total words or lexical units in a language. Lexis is, however, an open class, constantly enlarging due to new words, metaphors, etc. Vocabulary is a close class, affecting a specific discipline, an author, etc. Methodologically, lexis cannot be analysed unless limits are set to it. In that case, it is not anymore called lexis, but vocabulary. • What is symbolic lexis or vocabulary? Symbolic lexis / vocabulary represents reality because words act like symbols. In other words, they have a referent in the world. It is also known as referential. They are also called lexical words: they carry the semantic burden. 2
−Examples: bronchitis, screw−driver, telecommute, helicopter. • What is functional lexis or vocabulary? It is formed by words which express relations among other words: prepositions, conjunctions, etc. It does not have a referent in the real world. It is also called grammatical, relational or procedural lexis because it doesn't carry much semantic burden. • Say which of these words are symbolic and which are functional. `Tramadol has been shown to cause less constipation than opioids with chronic use' SFSSFS `McMurdo Station is a huge complex with a summer population of around 1200 people' SSFSFS • What is terminology? It is the vocabulary of the language of speciality medicine, economics, law, etc. Terminology is also known as technolect, although a technolect is applied to the whole discipline: the technolect of finance, etc. Terminology has other two senses: • The discipline that studies specialized terms. • The first subgroup or lend of vocabulary in a technolect, equivalent to technical vocabulary. • Terminology or technical vocabulary. It is the fist subgroup of words in a technolect. Their meaning is defined within a theory or discipline in a monosemic way (Cabré, 1993). They do not need a context to be understood. They are easily translated. −Examples: software, meningitis, hydrogen, molecules, isopod... • Semi−technical vocabulary. It is the second group of vocabulary in a technolect. Formed by lexical units from the general language which have a specific meaning within a discipline or redesigned general language items (Sager, 1980). This vocabulary is, then, polysemic. It is the most difficult to translate. −Examples: management, migrate, burial... • General vocabulary used frequently on a speciality or discipline. It is the third group of technolects and the most abundant. Formed by words from general vocabulary and by relational or functional words. They are not technical but their presence is as important as that of technical terms. They are common to several disciplines, also known as scientific−technical general words: test, performance, prove, suggest, claim... • Where to situate the variety of register called scientific and technical? It belongs to the so−called academic English, through which researchers, scientists, experts and university students communicate. Three main features: 3
♦ Expressive precision. Facts must be described with clarity, being concise and exact. ♦ Search objectivity. Reality must be described out of the facts observation, not emotions. ♦ Tentative statements. Facts must be exposed in a modest, open and not impositive way. • How is its morphosyntax? Syntax is the means to achieve more than the three mentioned features. This is what Halliday calls technical grammar. ♦ Expressive precision: achieved through long nominal groups (non−nucleoside reverse transcriptive...) ♦ Objectivity: achieved through passive structures, nominalization, indefinite pronouns, impersonal forms. ♦ Tentativeness: achieved through modal verbs, epistemological verbs or expressions. • Long nominal groups, adjectives and adverbs. According to Gilman (1961), scientific texts are not a place for adjectives and adverbs, since they don't favour objectivity. However, they help expressive precision. Their function in long nominal groups is to father the greatest number of concepts, thus providing lexical density. • Long nominal groups, adjectives and adverbs. Long nominal groups are formed by long series of adjectives and nouns in an attributive position. Genres in scientific and technical English • The concept of genre. It is a central concept in all languages of speciality (Swales 1990, Bhatia 1993). All epistemic communities need to rely on genre in order to communicate internally. −Examples of genres: Journalism (news, report, editorial), Science (conference, research article, popular article, etc.), Business (commercial letter, meeting, report). So, genres can be written or spoken. They are communicative acts sharing the same formal and stylistic conventions. • Formal and stylistic conventions of genres. • The same communicative function: a research article presents new findings; a commercial letter persuades customers. • A similar organization or macrostructure. • A similar discursive modality, based on its macrostructure development (narration, description) and a similar discursive technique (definition, classification, exemplification, etc.) necessary for the receiver's expectations. • A similar lexico−syntax, i.e. long nominal groups or imperatives or passives in a Ra. • Similar socio−pragmatic conventions used in similar socio−cultural contexts. • Genre macrostructure It's higher format or organization. One of the first conventions necessary in a global world where all communication means need to be standardized. It's divided into two structures: primary and secondary.
• Primary structure: sections. In the RA (research article) the sections are: title, abstract, introduction, method, results, discussions, references. • Secondary structure: each section is divided into moves, each move having a precise function or functions according to its lexical meanings, prepositional meanings, etc. • Examples of moves in social sciences. • Section: Introduction. • First move: Justify the importance of the research area: Recently there has been considerable interest in finding water in the Moon. • Second move: Fix the conceptual gap, theoretical or practical, that the current RA intends to fill in: Yet there is a lack of information in • Third move: anticipate the author's contribution by saying in which way s/he has tried to fill in the epistemic gap: This study attempts to • Scientific vindication. The second convention is science. When a scientist has something new to present, s/he vindicates it, modifying the established scientific paradigm. This fact produces a convulsion in the scientific community, which will have to be solved by means of the third convention (tentative language) and the fourth (politeness). • Tentative language. Scientific and technical studies are divided into popular science studies and research studies. Popular science articles have a much more assertive language, because they don't need to be accepted by any scientific community. RA have a tentative language since they are still not accepted by its scientific community. • Academic politeness. The fourth convention. An essential one. Two features: presentation clarity and references to previous works. Academic politeness is expressed by means of modal verbs (may, might, could), epistemic verbs (suggest, think, consider) and whole expressions (it could be considered that). Generally, these discursive devices are known as hedges. Hedges • Hedges in semantics and discourse analysis. If you hedge against something unpleasant or unwanted that might affect you, you do something which will protect you from it. If you hedge or hedge a problem or question you avoid answering the question or committing yourself to a particular action or decision. (Collins Dictionary, 1987) • Hedges and semantics. The first approach to hedges comes from Semantics: G. Lakoff (1972) published his article Hedges: A Study in Meaning Criteria and the Logic of Fuzzy Concepts. He was not interested in the communicative value of the use of hedges but was concerned with the logical properties of words and phrases like rather, largely, in a manner of speaking, very, in their ability to make things fuzzier or less fuzzy.
• Hedges and discourse analysis The other approach comes from Discursive Analysis, and its value is, thus, a communicative one, affecting directly scientific discourse and its conventions of tentative language and politeness. These two conventions are a means of submitting new scientific advances to the recognition and acceptance of the scientific community without impositions. • Hedges and politeness From Politeness theory (Brow & Levinson, 1987), hedge was defined as a particle, word or phrase that modifies the degree of membership of a predicate or a noun phrase in a set. Examples are: perhaps, seem, might, to a certain extent, suggest, etc. or even whole utterances like I suppose that Harry is coming. Won't you open the door? Myers (1989) claims, thus, that hedges are used to mark a claim as being provisional, pending acceptance in the literature, acceptance by a community. • Hedges: Myers and Halliday For Myers, an unhedged claim is probably not a statement of new knowledge. Hedges reflect a relation between the writer and the readers, rather than the degree of the probability of the statement. This last approach to hedges must be understood as belonging to the second macrostructure of language (Halliday, 1968) called Interpersonal from which derives a category tenor of register analysis (the other two being the Ideational one − field − and the Textual − mode −. • Hedges in academic disciplines. In academic disciplines, the use of hedges varies according to the field the writer represents. Fields like linguistics, philosophy, psychology, history, sociology, etc. termed as Soft Sciences would contain more hedging than the texts of so−called Hard Sciences − biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, geology, etc. − and technology, because of the different bases or argumentation in these fields, hard sciences being less subjective and, therefore, needing a lower number of hedging. In general, the convincingness of an argument in all these academic disciplines depends on the use of linguistic devices that include hedges. • Hedges in scientific discourse. There is a growing interest in the motivation for the use of hedges in scientific discourse, the study of which is relatively recent. Their use is connected with the fact that scientific discourse obeys the same mechanisms as ordinary everyday communication does. It proves that scientific texts are not only content−oriented and informative, but also aim at convincing and influencing their audience. In scientific writing, politeness has been seen as the motivating factor for hedging. • Type of hedges. Hedges can be represented in scientific discourse by different linguistic devices: • Epistemic verbs: seem, think, suggest, estimate, etc. Data suggest that this is an important loss mechanism. We suggest as an additional possibility • Modal verbs: can, could, may, might, should, etc.
Deposits of hydrogen may be presented. • Conditional tenses: The pressure of sunlight could contribute to lunar hydrogen. • Hedges and modalization. Also, hedges and the fuzziness or modalization they bring into discourse can affect either: ◊ the truth−conditions of scientific propositions: Data suggest an extreme diversity of shapes or The meteorite colour is sort of blue. ◊ The degree of commitment of the speaker / writer to the truth−conditions: We think that the data show an extreme diversity of shapes or I should say that the meteorite colour is blue. • Implications for Translation. Translation is an area where cultural conventions concerning hedging cause problems. If the requirement is accepted that a good translation must not only preserve the meaning of the original text, but also produce in a reader an equivalent response to that produced by the original text, adjustments in hedging may be necessary. If the cultural norms have cause the writer of the original text to use a lot of hedging and the translator has not reduced their amount to suit the norms of the target culture, the result may be an irritatingly tentative, uncertain text. The opposite can, of course, also happen: the translated text may sound much too assertive to people used to more hedgy texts. This is a problem in the case of scientific texts and, no doubt, more research is necessary, especially on cross−cultural differences, on the effects of hedges in readers, and on comparisons of hedging phenomena in texts of different academic fields, of different genres, and their treatment and role in translation. 1