Extra-paradigmatic texts in TS

Daniel Gile

 

When considering an academic discipline as an object of research, one convenient unit of study is the academic text, published or unpublished (theses, dissertations, unpublished reports etc.). It is possible to classify TS literature into professional literature on one hand and academic literature on the other, and within the latter category, into texts representing an ESP approach on one hand and texts representing a LAP approach on the other (see other contributions in the Research Issues section). Of the two, as far as I know, only ESP has been defined and described extensively (as “The Scientific Method”); LAP can be recognized in a text, but there may not have been an attempt to actually describe it with any degree of precision (see however Radegundis Stolze’s contribution in the section reporting on the Ljubljana Colloquium on Research Skills).

Be it as it may, while some publications are easy to identify as academic texts as opposed to professional texts and while some of them are easy to identify as ESP texts or LAP texts, many other texts do not fit into either category: these include didactic texts, book reviews, status reports and, perhaps more importantly, general essays on issues related to TS. They are academic texts insofar as they relate to academic issues, including research activity, theories etc. and insofar as they follow academic writing norms, but it would be difficult to qualify them as texts reporting specific ESP or LAP research studies, both because they are not focused on a specific research endeavour and because many of them take liberties with ESP and LAP norms. In such texts, both ESP and LAP researchers may make general claims and offer assessments without backing them systematically with evidence, without going into significant theoretical development, etc.

            These “extra-paradigmatic” academic texts, as I should like to call them, are interesting on many accounts. Firstly, they are less technical and hence more accessible to non-specialist readers. Secondly, they provide a playing ground where scholars from different paradigms meet and interact under similar rules, each bringing his/her own experience from different types of research. Thirdly, in TS, they are very numerous. Fourthly, in TS, judging by citation analysis, they seem to play an important role, perhaps just as important or even more important than that of research texts in the strict sense, in shaping the discipline by creating perceptions and establishing personal influence patterns.

            I believe that for all these reasons and in particular because of the last two points, the phenomenon of extra-paradigmatic texts in TS deserves further investigation.