In recent years, there has been increasing interest in investigating science communication. Some studies that address this issue attempt to develop a model to determine the level of confidence that an author or a scientific community has at a given time towards a theory or a group of theories. A well-established approach suggests that, in order to determine the level of certainty authors have with regard to the statements they make, one can identify specific lexical and morphosyntactical markers which indicate their epistemic attitudes. This method is considered particularly appealing because it permits the development of an algorithmic model based on the quantitative analysis of the occurrence of these markers to assess (almost) automatically and objectively the opinion of an author or the predominant opinion of a scientific community on a topic at a given time. In this contribution we show that this line of research presents many kinds of problems especially when it is applied to research articles (rather than to popular science texts and basic research reports). To this aim, we propose two main lines of reasoning. The first one relies generally on the argumentative structure of scientific articles and shows that certainty/uncertainty markers are used differently in different argument forms and that therefore their number/frequency of use does not offer reliable indications for determining whether the topic at issue is considered by the authors to be more or less factual/speculative. The second one is based on the analysis of a sample of psychiatric research articles on homosexuality written over a long time span and taken from The British Journal of Psychiatry. Since the psychiatric perspective on homosexuality changed radically during the decades in which these articles were published, they offer an inventory of various kinds of argumentative strategies directed both at defending and confuting dominant as well as marginal positions. We focus especially on uncertainty markers and show that frequently the positions stated using expressions indicating uncertainty are actually not considered as conjectural or speculative by their authors, but that the use of uncertainty markers is motivated by a number of different and often incongruent rhetorical strategies.

Modelling scientific un/certainty. why argumentation strategies trump linguistic markers use

Pastore, Luigi;Dellantonio, Sara
2016

Abstract

In recent years, there has been increasing interest in investigating science communication. Some studies that address this issue attempt to develop a model to determine the level of confidence that an author or a scientific community has at a given time towards a theory or a group of theories. A well-established approach suggests that, in order to determine the level of certainty authors have with regard to the statements they make, one can identify specific lexical and morphosyntactical markers which indicate their epistemic attitudes. This method is considered particularly appealing because it permits the development of an algorithmic model based on the quantitative analysis of the occurrence of these markers to assess (almost) automatically and objectively the opinion of an author or the predominant opinion of a scientific community on a topic at a given time. In this contribution we show that this line of research presents many kinds of problems especially when it is applied to research articles (rather than to popular science texts and basic research reports). To this aim, we propose two main lines of reasoning. The first one relies generally on the argumentative structure of scientific articles and shows that certainty/uncertainty markers are used differently in different argument forms and that therefore their number/frequency of use does not offer reliable indications for determining whether the topic at issue is considered by the authors to be more or less factual/speculative. The second one is based on the analysis of a sample of psychiatric research articles on homosexuality written over a long time span and taken from The British Journal of Psychiatry. Since the psychiatric perspective on homosexuality changed radically during the decades in which these articles were published, they offer an inventory of various kinds of argumentative strategies directed both at defending and confuting dominant as well as marginal positions. We focus especially on uncertainty markers and show that frequently the positions stated using expressions indicating uncertainty are actually not considered as conjectural or speculative by their authors, but that the use of uncertainty markers is motivated by a number of different and often incongruent rhetorical strategies.
Model-based reasoning in science and technology
Heidelberg
Springer
978-3-319-38983-7
Pastore, Luigi; Dellantonio, Sara
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11572/147131
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