Book: The Development of Scientific Writing
Chapter: Author's Note
This book traces the development of the scientific journal article as a linguistic genre in terms of its linguistic features. It looks at Chaucer's Treatise on the Astrolabe as the first technical text written in English. Texts by Boyle, Power and Hooke from the late seventeenth century are then considered. This leads to the detailed analysis of a corpus of texts taken from the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society covering the period 1700 to 1980. The main linguistic features studied are passive forms, first person pronouns, nominalization, and thematic structure. From the study of these linguistic features emerges a picture of the development of science in which the physical sciences can be distinguished form the biological. The physical sciences are experimental from the beginning of this period, whereas the biological sciences only begin to become so towards the middle of the nineteenth century; until then they are observational. With the turn of the twentieth century the physical sciences adopt mathematical modelling as their major focus, a feature that has not affected the biological sector by the end of the period under study. Thus it is seen that the language is intimately related to the context within which it is produced.