Analyzing the Language of an Adapted Primary Literature Article

Science & Education 28 (1-2):63-85 (2019)
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Abstract

Learning the unique linguistic forms and structures that construct and communicate scientific principles, knowledge, and beliefs is important for developing students’ disciplinary literacy. The use of scientific language is apparent in the texts that scientists produce to communicate their findings to other scientists—the research articles. Texts are underused in the science classroom and the texts that students do read often do not reflect the core attributes of authentic scientific reasoning. Adapted primary literature refers to an educational genre that enables the use of scientific articles in high school. In the adaptation process, the language of the article is changed to make it more accessible for high school students. Here, we present a systemic functional linguistics analysis of an APL article compared to the original research article and to a popular article. The three texts were systematically scanned and compared for specific lexicogrammatical items that characterize five linguistic features of scientific writing: informational density, abstraction, technicality, authoritativeness, and hedging. We found that the adaptation process lowered the lexical complexity, while retaining the authenticity of the scientific writing. APL articles, as suggested by the linguistic analysis presented here, may serve as models of scientific reasoning and communication and may promote students’ language awareness and disciplinary literacy. We suggest using APL articles as an apprenticeship genre, for learning about the unique features of authentic scientific texts, and the reasoning that is reflected in the way the articles are written.

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