Persuasion and context: The Construction of interpersonality in Academic Discourse
The view that academic discourse is, by definition, impersonal has long been superseded.
It seems unquestionable now that the interpersonal component of texts (i.e. the ways in which writers project themselves and their audience into discourse) is an essential factor determining the success of scholarly communication and has become a fundamental issue in the field of English for Academic Purposes (EAP).
The huge attention devoted to the study of the interpersonal dimension in academic discourse can be related to the impact that social constructionist theories have had on the way we perceive scientific texts. Traditionally, scientific writing has been regarded as the objective report of scientific facts derived from the correct application of research procedures.
However, following social construction theories, there is more to writing an RA than merely using words to represent an external objective piece of data. Reality is considered to be constructed socially, as nature has no language of its own in which it can speak to us (Toulmin 1972: 5), and therefore there is no secure means of distinguishing between objective observation and subjective inference.
These views have significant implications for the context of research writing, because, if research results are open to subjective interpretation, it can be assumed that readers play an active role in accepting or rejecting the claims and conclusions put forward by academic authors, and particularly by authors of an RA (Hyland 1999).
Accordingly, rather than simply transmitting objective information, academic writers have to take into account their readers and try to influence their reactions to the text. More particularly, scholars hoping to publish their research need to enact certain interpersonal rhetorical resources in their texts in order to persuade the readers about the validity of the writers' interpretations and to facilitate its publication.
In this lecture my intention is to provide a wide view of how this persuasive process takes place by presenting the research findings of the InterLAE research group which has explored the way interpersonal rhetorical features are used in research articles and abstracts from different fields of knowledge by adopting different contrastive perspectives of analysis:
interdisciplinary, intercultural and intergeneric.