EL1102: Lecture No. 6

Academic and Scientific Writing

Organisation of the notes

I. Why should we study Writing?

II. Differences between common speech (CS) (including written language which is close to CS) and academic writing (AW)

III. The historical development of academic writing

IV. Some specific features of academic writing

I. Why should we study Writing?

A Crucial Tool of Modern Literate Societies: Speech goes back to human beginnings, perhaps a million years ago. Writing is relatively recent, however; it was first invented by the Sumerians, in Mesopotamia, around 3200 BC. Since then, the idea of writing has spread around the world and different writing systems have evolved in different parts of the world.


Retrievability: Until the invention of magnetic recording, speech could not be captured or preserved, except by fallible memories and by writing. But writing can be preserved for millennia. Its permanence has made possible such human institutions as libraries, histories, schedules, dictionaries, menus, and what we generally call ‘civilisation’.


Literary Use: Non-literate societies have traditions – songs, rituals, legends, myths – composed orally and preserved by memory. Such texts may be called oral literature. By contrast, writing permits what is more often called ‘literature’, i.e. bodies of text which are much larger and more codified than memory permits.


Prestige: Written language is associated with political and economic power, admired literature, and educational institutions, all of which lend it high prestige. In literate societies, people often come to think of their written language as basic; they may regard speech as inferior. That is why grammatical descriptions of language are often based on writing rather than speech.


Standardisation: Spoken languages have dialects–forms varying across geographical areas and social groups. But in complex societies that use writing, the needs of communication encourage moves toward a single written norm, codified by governmental, educational, and literary institutions. The prestige of the written standard is then likely to influence speech as well.


Formality. Communication may be formal or casual. In literate societies, writing may be associated with formal style and speech, with casual style. In formal circumstances (oratory, sermons), a person may ‘talk like a book’, adapting written style for use in speech. Formal and informal styles may be very distinct, e.g. in Arabic, and can virtually be different languages.


Change. Spoken language, everywhere and always, undergoes continual change of which speakers may be relatively unaware. Written language, because of its permanence and standardisation, shows slower and less sweeping changes; the spelling of English has changed much less than its pronunciation since Chaucer’s time. This in turn is linked to the factors of formality and prestige.



Differences between AW and CS

Let’s compare a piece of conversation between two women talking about kids crying (Text 1) with a piece of written prose on the same topic (Text 2).

Text 1 (Conversation / Common speech)


S: Did your kids used to cry a lot? When they were little?

C: Yea

S: Well * what did you do?*

C: . . . *still do*

S: Yea (laughs)

C: Oh pretty tedious at times yea. There were all sorts of techniques * Leonard Cohen*

S: *Like what*(laughs). Yea I used to use . . . What’s that American guy that did Georgia on your mind”?

C: Oh yea

S: *Jim – James Taylor.*

C: *James Taylor*

S: Yea yea. He was pretty good.

C: Yea. No Leonard Cohen’s good cause is just so monotonous.

S: (laughs)

C: And there’s only four chords. And ah we used to have holidays when we only had one kid on a houseboat.

S: Mmm

C: Mmm

S: Were there ever times. . . Like I remember times when I couldn’t work out what the hell it was. There just didn’t seem to be anything *you could do*

C: *No reason or . . .* Yea

S: Yea every night between six and ten

C: Yea yea. Luckily I didn’t have that with the second baby but the first one was that typical colicky sort of stuff from about five o’clock.

S: Hmm

C: I remember one day going for a um walk along the harbour – one of those you know harbour routes that had been opened up. And um he started kicking up from about five o’clock and we were getting panic stricken. I had him in one of those front strap things you know sling things ah cause that use to work wonders from time to time but it wasn’t working this time. And as we sat on the foreshore of this Vaucluse area these two women came down and they’d both been working as um governesses or something like that - very very classy ladies. And they said “Oh what’s wrong with the baby? He got colic?” You know they really wanted to take over.

S: Yea

C: And so I just handed the baby to them

S: (laughs)

C: And LUCKILY he kept on crying – they couldn’t stop him. So I was really delighted. They handed back this hideous little red wreck of a thing (laughter)


Brief Analysis (suggesting a contrast with AW)


A whole range of topics

Kids crying; all sorts of techniques; Leonard Cohen; James Taylor, Leonard Cohen again; holidays on a house boat; back to kids crying; a specific incident with the 2 women; and so on.


Short, simple clauses & sentences

still do; no reason; And there’s only four chords; every night between 6 & 10;



C: And they said “Oh what’s wrong with the baby? He got colic?” You know they really wanted to take over.

S: Yea

C: And so I just handed the baby to them

S: (laughs)

C: And LUCKILY he kept on crying – they couldn’t stop him. So I was really delighted. They handed back this hideous little red wreck of a thing (laughter)



Vague/general reference

All sorts of techniques; I had him in one of those um front strap things; they’d bothbeen working as governesses or something like that


Gap fillers

Mmm; um, ah


Core words

Kids, baby, class, ladies, two women, cry, house boat


Slang / colloquial words

The first one was that typical colicky sort of stuff fromabout five o’clock.

 I remember times when I couldn’t work out what the hell it was.



 And LUCKILY he kept on crying - they couldn’t stop him. So I was really delighted. They handed back this little hideous wreck of a thing.



 Text 2 (Formal written genre)


 The compelling sound of an infant’s cry makes it an effective distress signal and appropriate to the human infant’s prolonged dependence on a caregiver. However, cries are discomforting and may be alarming to parents, many of whom find it very difficult to listen to their infant’s crying for even short periods of time. Many reasons for crying are obvious, like hunger and discomfort due to heat, cold, illness and lying position. These reasons, however, account for a relatively small percentage of infant crying and are usually recognised quickly and alleviated. In the absence of a discernible reason for the behaviour, crying often stops when the infant is held. In most infants, there are frequent episodes of crying with no apparent cause, and holding and other soothing techniques seem ineffective. Infants cry and fuss for a mean of 1 ¾ hr/day at age 2 wk, 2 ¾ hr/day at age 6 wk, and 1 hr/day at 12 wk.


In general, writing tends to be more clearly focused, less paratactic, less personalised, with information quite densely/tightly packed. A number of peripheral words in place of the core words one finds in the conversation. In addition, the suppression of slang, colloquial and humorous elements. A number of grammatical devices have been introduced which make the text heavier and more objective, as well. We shall discuss some of these specific devices a little later, but let’s examine some features that characterise academic writing by comparing it more systematically with the features of common speech.


II. Systematic differences between AW and CS


i. . CS and WRITING have different contexts.

 Each associated primarily with very different CONTEXTS of communication .




 Everyday, casual, informal contexts

  • Home - parents/siblings/ friends/peer group

  • Shopping /Market place

  • Restaurants/canteen

  • Recreation/sports

  • Travel/entertainment




 Less everyday, casual, interactive;

 specialised contexts.  

  •  School/ University

    • assignments/exams

    • projects/theses - academic journals

    • scientific/technical reports

  •  Professional work sphere

  •  Business/ finance

  •  Medical reports/documents

  •  Administrative domains

  •  Legal domains



ii. Different Purposes / Goals / Functions :



A wide range of purposes (inform, express, impress, comfort, please, annoy compliment, insult)

Comparatively limited set of goals (most often to influence, inform, describe, argue, persuade)

Interpersonal contact or communication, often not ‘functional’ in a utilitarian sense

Specific, functional or ‘transactional’ goals, rather than interpersonal ones – esp. in the case of AW

Not necessarily sharply focused on topics, goals, etc.; not so tightly organised

Generally, more explicitly focused, clearly defined goals

Immediately interactive, negotiations of meanings, not just ‘fixed scripts’

Tends to be a one-way process


iii. CS and AW express meanings in different ways :

Different strands of meaning: sense, feeling, tone, intention



Provides a central place to all strands: sense, feeling, tone: eg attitude towards addressee or objects dealt with, such as approval, affection, trust, contempt, irony) and INTENTION.

Places a high premium on SENSE which assumes a  particular significance within it

Experientially rooted


strongly mental – i.e., expert knowledge. Ideally EXCLUDES all strands but SENSE


iv. Contexts



Everyday, casual, informal, contexts


Less everyday, casual, interactive; specialised contexts



v. CS and AW have different conventions of form and use



Conversation: informal, inexplicit: contains vague reference, not tightly organised in terms of topic development, etc. loose paratactic linking of sentences with little or no indication of explicit relations among events, clauses, etc. Often just a plain narrative structure

AW has specific formal devices chapter divisions, titles, etc. in a book; thesis-announcing introduction, paragraphing, links between paragraphs, list of references, etc. in an essay; also, develops very specific forms and conventions of language and use

Context provides it with SUPPORTS: social and physical contexts; features of stress & intonation; paralinguistic or non-ling. features

 E.g. ‘Shut up. You idiot’

 diff. meanings in diff. contexts

AW lacks such supports: Therefore, compensates, first &  foremost, through FORM, by  MAKING ITSELF FORMAL:

 E.g. Dear Sir/Madam, Dear Mrs X, My dearest Y…


vi. Different modes of acquisition resulting in different EXTENTS OF CONTROL and ‘OWNERSHIP’



Acquired naturally in the process of becoming socialised into the community

Overtly learnt, in different degrees and to different extents

The property of all normal people: democratic

Not everybody’s property, not intrinsically democratic – even more so in the case of AW


III. The development of AW and its resources in English

Some basic historical facts

English initially had no writing system


A sample of Old English prose writing

 1137. Đis gaere for Þe King Stephane ofer sæ to Normandie and per wes underfangen, forÞi that he wenden sculde ben alsuic alse the eom wes, and for he hadde get his tresor; ac he toldeld it and cattered sotlice. Micel hadde Henri King gadered gold and sylver, and na god ne dide me for his saule tharof.


A modern rewritten version

In the year 1137 King Stephen set sail across the sea to Normandy. He was warmly welcomed by the people of Normandy, who expected him to be just as prudent and circumspect as his uncle, King Henry, from whom he had inherited an enormous fortune. However, contrary to their expectations, and to their great disillusionment, the King’s wasteful nephew very foolishly squandered it all away. Over the years, King Henry had amassed a considerable amount of wealth. But as luck would have it, it seemed to have done his soul no good in the end.





The rewritten version is very different in all these respects.

- Notice how everything is signalled, how ideas are highlighted, how connections are established, how the writer interprets for the reader by using sophisticated devices that were totally absent in Old English.

- Modern thinking requires the writer to interpret events, not just state them or describe them.

- Hence, the emergence of hypotaxis, subordination and complex clauses to express more complex ideas

 This situation continues little changed until the 14th C.

1066 - the Norman Conquest

- three-fold division of labour among the languages

- French the dominant language of society

- Latin the language of learning

- English relegated to the backwoods, the language of the menials


 1204 – the fall of Normandy, leading particularly in the late

14th C to the revival of English.

This revival coincides with the beginnings of the EMERGENCE OF THE MODERN ORDER OF SOCIETY.


Massive changes all across society


Economic Changes (basic): the gradual replacement of the static self-sufficient feudal economy with a progressive, competitive economy geared towards entrepreneurship, profit making, surplus creation, through development of commerce, industry, etc.


Religious Changes: The notion of Christendom. Antipathy of the Catholic Church towards emerging capitalist spirit. The Protestant Reformation challenges the authority of the Pope, and opens the way for the emergence of national economies. Bible translations into the vernaculars plays an imp. role here.


Political Changes: the emergence of the nation states and the rise of the Middle class spearheading economic and other changes.


Social changes: The emergence of the middle class and the demise of the hierarchical social structure based on birth. Greater social mobility – no longer the obligation to labour in the class one was born to.


Educational changes: new schooling system as education became a social necessity. The development of English prose as an efficient tool for learning.

The existing written language lacked the resources of vocabulary, grammar, etc. to handle its demands.

- AW arose as a response to these demands.

- Lacking resources of its own, English went to Latin and

Greek, the Western classical languages, for words, grammatical and rhetorical devices, as well as for concepts, modes of argumentation, etc.


Personal psychological changes: the replacement of the older communal spirit by the spirit of individualism, personal space, encouraged by the competitive economic spirit.


Changes in thought, knowledge, philosophy, understandings of reality: the inevitable consequences of the massive economic, religious, political and social transformations.

- medieval scholastic modes of thought (based on faith) inadequate to the new realities.

- the rise of PHILOSOPHICAL EMPIRICISM, the RATIONALIST model of thought, positivist, logical, MODERN SCIENTIFIC SPIRIT - required precise, objective, empirically-based, logical understanding of the material universe.

- the creation of the MODERN KNOWLEDGE PARADIGM


The Renaissance (14th –16th Cs)

- the arrival in Rome of the Western classical manuscripts of learning after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453

- the PRINTING PRESS (1476) helps in the unprecedented dissemination of both the ancient and the emerging new knowledge.

- Classicists overdo borrowing, but are resisted by Purists, disagreement resolved by a compromise between the Classical and native language genius.

Examples:  parataxis, hypotaxis, metazoan, centripetal, centrifugal, triploblastic, ambilingual, multilingual, pentadactyle


The impact of the changes on the written language

This new kind of thought, knowledge, understanding made unprecedented demands on the written language.

- in the realm of vocabulary new concepts, objects, procedures, activities, etc.

- in the realm of grammar and conventions of writing

- absolute explicitness, precision, no ambiguity

- logical connectedness, clear signalling of relationships of all words and parts of sentences

- objectivity, distance / non-involvement, anonymity

- exclusion of all complex strands of meaning but sense, reference, denotation – i.e. no feeling, tone, intention.


Changes in the language

Massive enrichment of vocabulary

Learned borrowings from Latin and Greek – far removed from the everyday lives of the people. E.g.

Latin: abdomen, acrimony, complex, corpulent, diminutive, exigency, effervescent, fragmentary, nomenclature, impetus, pejorative, propensity, stratum, vociferation

Greek: aristocracy, aesthetic, dilemma, ecstasy, enthusiasm, fantasy, homonym, holocaust, metaphor, orthography, ostracise, praxis, phenomenon, rhapsody, theory


Exact, unambiguous reference; help in the establishment of clear-cut taxonomies (classificatory schemes)

Deliberately ‘learned’ in texture, distant, peripheral, objective, neutral ;preferred over complex, suggestive core words.

Compare : Core Periphery

- sunny v. solar

- get v. obtain

- give v. contribute

- eye v. ocular organ

- man v. homo sapiens

- fatherly v. paternal

- false teeth v. denture

- back bone v. vertebra

- wind pipe v. trachea

 - i.e. the appearance of the distinction between learned and popular vocabulary


Massive developments in grammar

 a) Hypotaxis and complex clause structure, development of clear referential modes, means for handling mood, aspect, complex negation, distinction between definite and indefinite


1. Although many endonucleases have been identified, their presence alone is inadequate to implicate them in apoptosis in intact cells, particularly when many cells express multiple endonucleases simultaneously.

2. Having shown the applicability of analysis of covariance in straightforward research situations, I shall go on to indicate how several other important methodological topics can be profitably conceptualised as isomorphic in logical structure to the general linear model.

b) The gradual development of devices to reduce the salience of individual actors involved in happenings – part of the process of objectification.

1.a) If you stretch a piece of copper wire beyond its elastic limit, you will deform it permanently.

1.b) If a piece of copper wire is stretched beyond its elastic limit, it will undergo permanent deformation.

2.a) If you leave iron in water for a length of time, you will cause it to corrode

2.b) If iron is left in water for a length of time, corrosion will occur.

 Note, the passive nature of verb in the second clause.

Passivisation - inverts the order of the Actor (agent) and the Affected (patient).


3.(a) The maid (S) + blamed (V) + her employer (O). =>

 The Actor/Agent + Activity/Process + the Affected/Patient

3.(b) The employer was blamed by the maid.

 The Affected/Patient + Activity/Process + The Actor/Agent


The Actor is no longer directly attached to the activity/ process, but is instead linked by a preposition ‘by’. The effect is that the link between the Actor and Process is weakened. That is, the causal connection is syntactically looser. Further, the Actor may be deleted altogether.

3.(c) The employer was blamed/ accused.

Newspaper reports make use of passive constructions frequently, especially in the headlines. The obvious reason for its use – economy of expression.

4. Employer accused of molest

5. NTUC Employees offered better deal

6. Ex-ENV man charged

7. Able leaders, active citizens needed


However, passivisation can serve another function. It can help the speaker or writer foreground something by placing it in the initial position, thereby giving it greater



8. Army brought in to quell rioters


Or it can background something by reducing its emphasis.


9.Several arrests made

10 . a) The police made several arrests this morning. =>

10. b) Several arrests were made by the police this morning. =>

10. c) Several arrests were made this morning. =>

10. d) Several arrests made


 In the case of the agent-less passive, the device allows the Agent or Actor to be obscured or hidden. The agentless passive is almost always resorted to when the agent involved is a powerful institution or organisation and there is an ideological need to obfuscate it. The agent-less passive does an efficient job of obscuring responsibility.


4 hours of CWO
Bartender is the first person to be slapped with the extended punishment since penalty was introduced in 1992

A CLARKE Quay bartender became the first litterbug to be punished with four hours of a Corrective Work Order (CWO) yesterday.

Troy Low, 25, was among 51 littering offenders made to sweep up various public areas in around five housing estates yesterday.

He was caught in June throwing a cigarette butt in an open area in Clarke Quay where tables and chairs for diners were placed.

No littering offender has until now, served more than three hours of a CWO ever since the anti-littering measure began in 1992, an Environment Ministry spokesman said.

But in June this year, the length of a CWO was increased from a maximum of 3 hours to 12 hours. 

PASSIVISATION: TASK: Identify examples of Passivisation in the sentences below:


1.It was reported today that the federal funds to be allocated for the power plant would not be forthcoming as early as had been anticipated.

2.Some contracts on the preliminary work have been cancelled and others renegotiated.

3.Recommendations are being made to the Israeli government concerning the Middle East problem.

4.A tax hike has been proposed, but several other solutions to the federal deficit are also being considered.

5.The president has been advised that certain highly placed officials are being investigated.



 1. It was reported today that the federal funds to be allocated for the power plant would not be forthcoming as early as had been anticipated.

 2. Some contracts on the preliminary work have been been cancelled and others renegotiated.

 3. Recommendations are being made to the Israeli government concerning the Middle East problem.

 4. A tax hike has been proposed, but several other solutions to the federal deficit are also being considered.

 5. The president has been advised that certain highly placed officials are being investigated.



c) Nominalisation


Compare 1(a) and 1(b) and 2(a) and 2(b) below:

1 (a) SIA invested $ 80 million on new 777 carriers

1 (b) The investment of SIA

2 (a) Terrorists hijacked the AI plane

2 (b) The hijacking of the AI plane


 This is a grammatical process which transforms a verb (associated with action or process) into a nominal ( a noun-like entity, associated with things/objects).

 The change from action/ process to nominal entails a range of meanings:

 Process --> State; Specific --> General; Activity --> Object; Concrete --> Abstract


NOMINALISATION (esp. in the language of science – Newton),

which contributes in THREE ways to AW

[i] Objectification: turning concrete processes into abstract things.

3. a) The Western Allies defeated Japan decisively in the Second World War.

- A happening, with process / action, actor /agent, patient / undergoer, circumstances, etc.

- But the academic is not involved in the experience of the happening, wants to stand back and away from the event, take it as a whole, observe, comment on, reason about, interpret it.

- Therefore, uses nominalisation.

3 b) The decisive defeat of Japan by the Western Allies in the Second World War was only a temporary setback for that country.

 - Nominalisation packages all information in 3 a) around the head noun derived from the verb and makes a single entity which is OBJECT-LIKE, like a thing in 3 b).

(Ns associated with things / objects, Vs associated with actions)


4. a) The government has drastically reduced salaries of employees as an overall measure to cut its costs.

4. b) The drastic reduction by the government of employees’ salaries as an overall cost-cutting measure was accepted by the NTUC.

 Sometimes converts not VERBS but ADJECTIVES into Ns

5. a) John F. Kennedy Jnr was rash and this cost him his life.

5. b) The rashness of John F. Kennedy Jnr cost him his life.

6. a) Nicole Kidman is winning much critical acclaim as an intelligent actor.

6. b) Nicole Kidman’s intelligence is winning her much critical acclaim.

 - Once made object-like, static, fixed, etc. by nominalisation, IT CAN BE OBSERVED, STUDIED, ANALYSED, etc. as AW requires.

 [ii] By BACKGROUNDING and/or FOREGROUNDING of the information in ways that allow an argument to be effectively developed. Look at the following sentences.

7. President Clinton lied.

8. The Clinton scandal has drastically transformed American politics and society.

In 7, President Clinton is the GIVEN or KNOWN element of this message, and forms the point of departure for the message. It is BACKGROUNDED. This is the THEME and comes first in clause, lied is the NEW information on which attention is focused in communicating the message, what we want to clarify, contest, argue about, etc. It is FOREGROUNDED. This is the RHEME and typically comes later in a clause.


Theme and Rheme

This refers to the way a clause is packaged or organised in terms of its message (meaning). From the point of view of the communicational function it performs, a clause may be said to have two components:



  • Given/known information 
  • Provides the context for grounding the message
  • The point of departure
  • New information
  • The message itself
  • The main focus or point to be conveyed


 Speakers or writers make deliberate linguistic choices in their discourse to create the desired impact on the listener or reader.

 - In AW, an ARGUMENT must be developed with strict clarity and precision, FOREGROUNDING clearly new bits of information on the basis of which the argument is built, and BACKGROUNDING all the others.

  - Nominalisation helps in organising information in the required way, by allowing whole packaged clauses to be placed in theme or rheme position depending on whether the argument requires them to be backgrounded or foregrounded.

9. The Western Allies defeated Japan decisively in the Second World War.

When Japan surrendered in 1945, it looked as if all her hopes of becoming a powerful nation were ended. In fact, she gradually began to reconstruct and went on to develop her economy so successfully that by the ‘eighties she was economically one of the most powerful nations in the world. The decisive defeat of Japan by the Western Allies in the Second World War was, therefore, only a temporary setback for her.

[iii] The establishment of clear logical, semantic connections among events, entities, attributes, states, etc.

Typical structures used in scientific argumentation:



 STATE A indicates STATE B

 ATTRIBUTE causes/ signals ATTRIBUTE

 e.g. Heat causes expansion of metals

 Heat causes metals to expand


11. EVENT proof EVENT

 ENTITY A is a(n) the indication of ENTITY B



 e.g. Heat is the cause of expansion of metals

 Heat is the cause of metals expanding

Note that in 11, the verb of 10 itself has been nominalised.


The preferred grammatical format for describing physical phenomena was originally

< a happens; so x happens >

an atom is split; so an explosion occurs

hydrogen is heated; so energy is released

 Gradually, through the centuries, there has been a movement towards the form :

< happening a is the cause of happening x >

Splitting an atom is the cause of the explosion

Heating of hydrogen is the cause of the release of energy

 Some differences among different kinds of AW

  AW forms a continuum - discipline-specific variation

The humanities and literary interpretation

The social sciences

The biological sciences

The physical sciences

Science, Maths and Logic


Social Dimensions of AW –1

1. Each of these has its own characteristic linguistic conventions and practices, and its own characteristic ways of making meaning and modes of thinking about phenomena.

And each subject discipline also has its own body of linguistic resources, with recurrent forms and patterns of grammar, vocabulary and styles.

Compare - revolution in Geography, in History

 Or - tableland in Geography and Mathematical tables

2. These conventions, forms, patterns, practices define the DISCOURSE of the field.


4. Learning the subject involves learning the discourse of the field.

5. Acquiring the language and discourse of a particular subject discipline is to acquire control of the associated modes of thinking, argumentation, seeing and understanding the phenomena under study.

6. To learn the subject and the discourse is to get SOCIALISED INTO the particular discourse community & become a participating member of it



Steven Katz , Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

Here is a quick guide to speaking and writing postmodern

First, you need to remember that plainly expressed language is out of the question. It is too realist, modernist and obvious. Postmodern language requires that one uses play, parody and indeterminacy as critical techniques to point this out. Often this is quite a difficult requirement, so obscurity is a well acknowledged substitute. For example, let’s imagine you want to say something like,

‘We should listen to the views of people outside of Western society in order to learn about the cultural biases that affect us.’

This is honest but dull. Take the word ‘views’.

Post-modernspeak would change that to ‘voices’, or better, ‘vocalities’, or even better, ‘multivocalities’. Add an adjective like ‘intertextual’, and you’re covered. ‘People outside’ is also too plain. How about ‘postcolonial others’? To speak postmodern properly one must master a bevy of biases besides the familiar racism, sexism, ageism, etc. For example, phallogocentricism (male-centredness combined with rationalistic forms of binary logic).

Finally, ‘affect us’ sounds like plaid pyjamas. Use more obscure verbs and phrases, like ‘mediate our identities’.

The original statement:

‘We should listen to the views of people outside of Western society in order to learn about the cultural biases that affect us.’

So the final statement should say,

‘We should listen to the intertextual multivocalities of postcolonial others outside of Western culture in order to learn about the phallogocentric biases that mediate our identities.’

Now you’re talking postmodern!


Social dimensions of AW - 2 : the emergence of ‘two literacies’


The context of CS is the real world of immediate, everyday, interactive experience. This enables people to construct meanings and understandings of reality on the basis of their immediate experience.

    The context of AW distances itself from this real world, constructs an alternative world of entities / things, abstractions, removed from everyday experience.

    It is the world of the expert, which authoritatively claims to project an objective view of reality: ‘this is how the world actually / really is.

At the same time this view is not neutral, uncommitted, ‘disinterested’, or ideologically innocent – it reflects certain interests & excludes others.

It is remote from the kind of everyday experience that allows ordinary people to test its claims or challenge them on the basis of their experience.

– i.e. ‘mystification’.

AW is not equally controlled by everyone.


An example of ‘mystification’ - technocratic writing:  

American scientists assure us that our capacity for thermalicide is the greatest in the world. This fact will, of course deter our enemies from attempting it on us. But should our enemies decide to make aerial visitations, we will persevere. If every family has provided itself with a protective residence, the extent of filteration will be sharply minimised. And even if our enemies should launch a 300-megaton aerial visitation, probably no more than 50 or 60 anthromegs will have a culminating experience. Those who are unculminated may remain in their protective residences until all danger of thermalicide is past. (Neil Postman, Conscientious Objections)  



- thermalicide => killing by nuclear weapons;

- unculminated => survivors

- aerial visitations => nuclear attack;

- anthromeg => one million people

- culminating experience => death by nuclear weapons;

- filteration => radiation;

- protective residence => fallout shelter


A ‘de-mystified’ version would read as follows:  

American scientist assure us that we have the greatest capacity in the world today to destroy the rest of the world with our nuclear weapons. This power that we have should of course put an end to any thoughts our enemies might have of attacking us with their nuclear bombs. But should our enemies be foolish enough to attack us with their nuclear weapons, we will always be one up on them. Besides, if every family is protected with a fallout shelter, the extent of radiation that will affect them should be much less horrendous. And even if our enemies attack us with a 300-megaton nuclear bomb, probably no more than about 50 or 60 million people will be totally wiped out. Those who survive can then safely remain in their fallout shelters until all danger of further nuclear attack is past.


Another example of the ‘official style’ social science dialect: 

A policy decision inexorably enforced upon a depression-prone individual whose posture in respect to his total psychophysical environment is rendered antagonistic by apprehension or by inner-motivated disinclination for ongoing participation in human existence is the necessity for effectuating a positive selection between two alternative programmes of action , namely, (a) the continuance of the above-mentioned existence irrespective of the dislocations, dissatisfactions, and disabilities incurred in such a mode, or (b) the voluntary termination of such existence by self-initiated instrumentality, irrespective in this instance of the undetermined character of the subsequent environment if any, in which the subject may be positioned as an end result of this irrevocable determination


A rewritten version in plain everyday (non -AW) English 

A person given to depression because he feels that life is against him, or because he is fed up of life, will have to decide between two alternative choices, namely, (a) to continue living despite a number of problems he will have to face, or (b) to kill himself despite any negative effects this drastic decision of his may have on those he leaves behind. 

Result: The hegemonic potential of AW

Back to contents page

© 2000 Rani Rubdy