THE PEDAGOGIC DISCOURSE IN SCIENCE POPULARIZATION NEWS TEXTS OF ABC SCIENCE ACCORDING TO CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS

 
 
THE PEDAGOGIC DISCOURSE IN SCIENCE POPULARIZATION NEWS TEXTS
      OF ABC SCIENCE ACCORDING TO CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS


BRUM, MAÍSA
A preliminar version of this study was developed in the course LTE1002 Análise do Discurso e do
Texto em Língua Inglesa, taught by the adviser of this course Professor Désirée Motta-Roth (UFSM).
The writing of this paper was co-advised by Patrícia Marcuzzo (UFSM), and Anelise Scherer (Master’s
student at Programa de Pós-Graduação em Letras – UFSM).
Student of English Major/7th semester/UFSM
maysabrum@hotmail.com

RESUMO
This paper aims at identifying traces of pedagogical discourse in a corpus of 15 science popularization
(SP) news articles from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) website. The textual analysis
based on Critical Discourse Analysis (FAIRCLOUGH, 1992, 2001; GEE, 2011) involves the
identification and interpretation of linguistic traces of pedagogical discourse, such as apposition and
gloss, and the interpretation of data in relation to the SP process. The results suggest that the
pedagogical discourse in SP articles is a recontextualization of knowledge for a non-specialist public,
that is, from a scientific vocabulary to a more comprehensible one, which can achieve a wider public.
Furthermore, regarding the educational field, the analysis of SP news articles in classrooms can be a
tool for raising consciousness on students’ social practices.

Key-words: critical discourse analysis; science popularization, science popularization news genre,
pedagogic discourse.



INTRODUCTION
         Critical Discourse Analysis, according to van Dijk (2001, p. 352), is “a type of
discourse analytical research that primarily studies the way social power abuse, dominance,
and inequality are enacted, reproduced, and resisted by text and talk in the social and
political context”. More specifically, the explicit awareness of people’s role in society is crucial
for critical discourse analysts (VAN DIJK, 2001, p. 352).
        Furthermore, CDA may also contribute “to see the extent to which language does rest
upon common-sense assumptions, and the ways in which these common-sense
assumptions can be ideologically shaped by relations of power” (FAIRCLOUGH, 2001, p. 4).
        For Gee (2011, p. x) discourse analysis is “the study of language-in-use […]”. Thus,
he argues that any theory of discourse analysis offers a set of tools that pervades and
organizes the investigation of language-in-use. Therefore, this work will be based on some
tools proposed by Gee (2011), which were chosen concerning that “anyone engaged in their
own discourse analysis must adapt the tools they have taken from a given theory to the
needs and demands of their own study” (GEE, 2011, p. x).
Two tools proposed by Gee (2011) were chosen in order to analyze the corpus of this
study. These tools will be described in the Methodology section.
       Firstly, in order to better analyze this corpus, it is important to contextualize what is
understood by Science Popularization (SP). Calsamiglia and van Dijk (2004, p. 3) argue that
“popularization is a vast class of various types of communicative events or genres that
involve the transformation of specialized knowledge into ‘everyday’ or ‘lay’ knowledge, as
well as a recontextualization of scientific discourse”. In addition, Fahnestock (2004, p. 7-8)
states that SP “[...] is a special case of a general process by which versions of a core
message travel to or are adapted for different contexts” which are the scientific context and
the media. As Motta-Roth (2009, based on Bernstein, 1974) argues, SP can be defined as “a
process of recontextualization of knowledge from scientific contexts (such as laboratories
and research institutes) to the mass media”.
       According to this, SP news can be seen as a genre usually written by journalists and
published online or in the print media to a non-specialist public. Thus, the practices of SP in
society can be associated to three basic journalist functions: to inform, to teach and to
sensitize the relevance of science in everyday life (PEREIRA, 2003, p. 60-61; MEDEIROS,
2003, p. 88). In this sense, the SP news genre is “a space for discourse circulation about
science and it promotes debates that include several segments of society” (BEACCO et al,
2002; MOIRAND, 2003).
         The objective of this study is to try to identify how the pedagogic discourse is
constructed in online SP articles and to what extend this discourse contextualizes science to
non-specialist publics.


1 Methodology

       1.1 Corpus

       The corpus of this work, as stated previously, is comprised by 15 SP articles collected
from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) website (http://www.abc.net.au/science).
The electronic addresses from the SP articles collected are listed in chart 1:

       Chart 1 – Number and references of ABC SP texts that comprises the corpus of this study

ABC   ABC SCIENCE. New mosquito repellents cause a buzz. ABC Science, Australia, May, 27th,
 #1   2008. Available in:
      .

ABC   ABC SCIENCE. Hanging with the young lengthens lifespan. ABC Science, Australia, May, 27th,
 #2   2008. Available in:
      .
                                                                                             rd
ABC   STEENHUYSEN, J. Starving yourself may fend off jet lag. ABC Science, Australia, May, 23 ,
 #3   2008. Available in:
      .
ABC    BLAND, E. Carbon coming to a TV screen near you. ABC Science, Australia, May, 26th, 2008.
 #4    Available in:
       .
ABC    SALLEH, A. Rocky microbes push back life's origins. ABC Science, Australia, May, 29th, 2008.
 #5    Available in:
       .
ABC    DOYLE, A. Life reaches deeper beneath seabed. ABC Science, Australia, May, 23rd, 2008.
 #6    Available in:
       .
                                                                                            th
ABC    NORTON, A. Green tea may help snorers sleep easy. ABC Science, Australia, May, 20 ,
 #7    2008. Available in:
       .
ABC    HIRSCHLER, B. Healthy breakfast? Your baby may be a boy. ABC Science, Australia, May,
 #8    23rd, 2008. Available in:
       .
ABC    PINCOCK, S. Megaherbs flourished in Antarctica. ABC Science, Australia, March, 19th, 2008.
 #9    Available in:
       .
ABC    DUNHAM, W. Long-term pill use risks atherosclerosis. ABC Science, Australia, November, 8th,
#10    2007. Available in:
       .
ABC    COOPER, D. Crabs wave the long arm of love. ABC Science, Australia, January, 16th, 2008.
#11    Available in:
       .
ABC    BEASLEY, D.; HIRSCHLER, B. Gene therapy helps blind see the light. ABC Science,
#12    Australia, April, 28th, 2008. Available in:
       .
ABC    PINCOCK, S. Researchers leap a nano hurdle. ABC Science, Australia, January, 29th, 2008.
#13    Available in:
       .
ABC    STEENHUYSEN, J. Cosmic rays start in violent black holes. ABC Science, Australia,
#14    November, 9th, 2007. Available in:
       .
ABC    ABC SCIENCE. Drudgery really does numb the brain. ABC Science, Australia, April, 22nd,
#15    2008. Available in:
       .




       1.2 Categories of analysis


        The analysis presented in this paper was based on some tools for Critical Discourse
Analysis proposed by Gee (2011). The tools that will guide this work are: The doing and not
just saying tool and the Why this way and not that way tool. These specific tools were chosen
concerning the role of ABC Science presented in their annual reports available in its website¹.




___________
¹(http://www.abc.net.au/corp/annual_reports/ar08/)
According to ABC’s webpage, their mission statement is “to uphold the ABC’s Charter
by connecting with audiences through distinctive content that informs, educates and
entertains”. Concerning ABC’s mission statement, it is intended with this work to find out to
what extend ABC’s role are materialized or verified in their SP news texts. In order to better
analyze this aspect, the focus will be upon the ABC’s role of educating by analyzing the
recurrence of apposition and glosses. The discussion about the tools will be based on the
examples retrieved from the SP news texts. The identification of the examples will be
presented in numbered sentences and the linguistic exponents I intend to explore will be
underlined in each sentence. Other important aspects will be highlighted in bold.



2 Results and Discussion

       This section deals with the Doing and not just saying tool (GEE, 2011, p. 42) and the
Why this way and not that way tool (GEE, 2011, p. 54). Gee (2011, p. 45) argues that the
Doing and not just saying tool is more than building statements, but also analyzing what the
discourse is trying to do through its form, register, power in relations, and so on.
       According to Gee (2011, p. 55), The why this way and not that way tool consists in
looking at “words and phrases as bricks and mortar for building (following the rules of
grammar) structures and meanings”. In other words, we should look at the context to
understand how and why something was said, what can be inferred or assumed to be known
and reconstructed by the participants in the interaction. Thus, the context is relevant to
understand the goal of the communication. In general terms, we can understand context as
“some sort of environment; it’s what’s going on around, where language is somehow
involved” (HALLIDAY, 1998, p. 3) or more specifically, “the physical setting in which the
communication takes place […] any shared knowledge of those involved in the context,
including cultural knowledge […]” (GEE, 2011, p. 84).
       In this analysis, I explore how the ABC’s mission statement, specifically the role to
educate, is materialized in the SP news text through the use of lexical choices concerning
their public, the context and the use of apposition and gloss, which are “metadiscursive
strategies used by the journalist with the intention of assuming that the reader will have the
conditions to follow the meaning intended by the author” (GERHARDT, 2009, p. 7).
       In order to analyze the lexical choices made by the journalists of the SP news texts, it
was chosen to look carefully to the titles of each text.
       Concerning the Doing and not just saying tool, it can be noticed that the lexical
choices of the journalists in the titles take into consideration the context of the readers,
concerning that they are non-specialized in the scientific field, therefore, the titles are closer
to the vocabulary of the non-specialized reader than the vocabulary of the text itself. As it can
be seen in the examples below:

Example 1:
             1.1 Starving yourself may fend off jet lag. (title)
             1.2 Normally, the body's natural circadian clock in the brain dictates when to wake, eat
ABC #3       and sleep, all in response to light. (line 4)
             1.3 When they put it into a small region of the hypothalamus known as the
             suprachiasmatic nucleus, which serves as the body's primary clock, […] (line 20)


             1.4 Rocky microbes push back life's origins. (title)
ABC #5       1.5 Previous studies of Shark Bay stromatolites concluded the rocks were made mainly
             by cyanobacteria, says Walter, who has studied both modern and ancient stromatolites.
             (line 6)


       Taking into account the Why this way and not that way tool, these examples above
highlight how the primarily view of the text (title) is a very important strategy regarding the
calling for the reader attention to what is being conveyed in the text (Examples 1.1 and 1.4).
If the reader would firstly read the words of the scientific semantic field underlined in
examples 1.2, 1.3 and 1.5 probably he/she would not be interested in the content due to the
difficulty of comprehension of such scientific vocabulary. These scientific words are
commonly present in the body of the text and not in the title, once it is in the body of the text
that the journalist can better explain these possible unknown words for the reader, by using
appositions.
       Therefore, throughout the SP news text is common to observe the use of apposition
and gloss in order to make the reader comfortable with such scientific terms. This is an
aspect that is going to be analyzed further.
       Also in relation to the titles of the SP articles, it can be noticed that almost all titles (10
out of 15 – see Chart 2 below) are sustaining the veracity of the study that will be developed
on the text, through the use of categorical modalization underlined in examples of ABC #1,
ABC #2, ABC #5, ABC #6, ABC #10, ABC #11, ABC #12, ABC #13, ABC #14 and ABC #15.
The use of categorical modalization refers back to the journalism discourses, which use the
strategy of calling the reader’s attention by endorsing the work that will be developed in the
news. Thus, when presenting defined “facts” or “truths”, it produces an effect of dramatization
in the utterances (NASCIMENTO, 2011, p. 72).


                               Chart 2 – Titles of ABC’s SP news texts.

                        ABC #1     New mosquito repellents cause a buzz
                        ABC #2     Hanging with the young lengthens lifespan
                        ABC #3     Starving yourself may fend off jet lag
ABC #4     Carbon coming to a TV screen near you
                        ABC #5     Rocky microbes push back life's origins
                        ABC #6     Life reaches deeper beneath seabed
                        ABC #7     Green tea may help snorers sleep easy
                        ABC #8     Healthy breakfast? Your baby may be a boy
                        ABC #9     Megaherbs flourished in Antarctica
                       ABC #10     Long-term pill use risks atherosclerosis
                       ABC #11     Crabs wave the long arm of love
                       ABC #12     Gene therapy helps blind see the light
                       ABC #13     Researches leap a nano hurdle
                       ABC #14     Cosmic rays start in violent black holes
                       ABC #15     Drudgery really does numb the brain




       It can be said that the journalistic discourse in the SP news genre has three
branches: the scientific, the journalistic and the pedagogic. The scientific discourse can be
observed through the use of scientific terms and the modalization of discourse (Example 2).
The scientific terms such as Pleurophyllum and herbaceous, in Example 2, are used to
emphasize the study as a scientific research of the Biology field.
       The modalization of discourse can be seen through the use of the modal adjuncts
probably and perhaps, which lessen the assertiveness of the utterance (Example 2.3),
creating an imprecision about the validity of the result of the study (NASCIMENTO, 2011, p.
70) - (see example 2.4).

Example 2:
             2.1 “The researchers were particularly interested in species of giant daisies known as
             Pleurophyllum”. (line 8)
             2.2 "They're very large, robust herbaceous plants, with really big, broad leaves,"
             Wagstaff says. […] (line 12)
ABC #9       2.3 Giant flowers found on Australia and New Zealand's sub-Antarctic islands are
             probably survivors of lush forests that covered Antarctica before the beginning of the
             last ice age nearly 2 million years ago, scientists say. (line 1)
             2.4 “"Perhaps the seeds get caught up in the feathers of these birds when they're
             nesting and then get carried off and dumped somewhere else," Quinn says”. (line 35)



       The journalistic discourse can be noticed through the explanations of facts, with no
modalization pervading it (Example 3); and the pedagogic discourse explains to the reader in
a more clear way the words that are being used, for example, the use of apposition (Example
4).
Example 3:
             As the ice age began some 1.8 million years ago, conditions on Antarctica itself became
ABC #9       inhospitable to many plants.(line 27)



Example 4:
             The flowers, known to researchers as megaherbs, grow abundantly on the tiny
 ABC #9      windswept islands such as the Snares, Auckland and Campbell island groups. (line 5)


       This last example (Example 4) emphasizes the pedagogic discourse and comes
closer to ABC’s third role, to educate. In order to perceive more clearly this role of educating,
it was identified in each text the uses of apposition and gloss, which are metadiscursive
strategies to make sure that the reader will understand what is being conveyed in a text, as
stated in the beginning of this section.
       After analyzing all texts, the use of many apposition and glosses (Table 3) could be
noticed. There were more occurrences of apposition than glosses, due to the role of
apposition in the text, that is, to bring new information about a subject being developed
(Example 5); to introduce the researcher’s credentials (Example 6) and to inform where the
research was published (Example 7).


                     Table 3 – Occurrence of apposition and gloss in the corpus

                                 ABC’S Texts Apposition Gloss

                                    ABC #1           3          3

                                    ABC #2           1          1

                                    ABC #3           5          1

                                    ABC #4           6          1

                                    ABC #5           4          1

                                    ABC #6           6          0

                                    ABC #7           4          1

                                    ABC #8           3          0

                                    ABC #9           4          0

                                   ABC #10           3          0

                                   ABC #11           5          0

                                   ABC #12           13         1

                                   ABC #13           3          0

                                   ABC #14           7          0

                                   ABC #15           4          2
Example 5:

                Both teams used a common cold virus to deliver a normal version of one damaged gene
   ABC #12      that causes the disease, called RPE65, directly into patients' eyes. (line7)



Example 6:

                "[…] Don't panic. Don't call your gynaecologist tomorrow morning," says lead researcher
   ABC #10      Dr Ernst Rietzschel of Ghent University in Belgium, whose team presented the results at
                an American Heart Association meeting this week. (line5)



Example 7:


   ABC #14      The finding, published today in the journal Science, begins to explain […] (line 7)




         In example 5, the scientific name of a gene that causes a disease called Leber’s
congenital amaurosis, which affects the vision, is being presented in the text for the purpose
of introducing new terms to the reader. Example 6 is introducing the researcher credentials,
and Example 7 is situating the reader where this survey was published. The use of this kind
of apposition is a strategy of giving authority and recognitions to scientists/institutions or
towards what is said in the SP news. This strategy of bringing other voices to SP texts, which
gives credibility to the research, is an evidence of the journalistic discourse, seen as a
“mobilizer of the public debate” (GERHARDT, 2011 apud MOIRAND, 2003).
         The three branches of journalistic discourse in SP news genre – pedagogic, scientific
and journalistic – comes to highlight the ABC’s mission statement which is “content that
informs, educates and entertains” in the sense that the journalist brings to the non-
specialized public issues that are a recontextualization of knowledge, from the scientific field
to a more understandable one, which can achieve a wider public.


FINAL CONSIDERATIONS
         Fairclough (1992, p. 63) sees language use as a form of social practice rather than a
purely individual activity. That is, discourse is a mode of action, in which “people may act
upon the world and especially upon each other” (Ibidem).
         Therefore, this analysis has shown that every discourse can be understood in many
different ways and this reflective thinking opens a range of possibilities to establish a
dialogue between theoretical and social practices. Furthermore, through this analysis it could
be understood how language acts within social life and how discourse influences people’s
lives.
The analysis of the pedagogical discourse demonstrates to be important to put into
debate as it can socialize science by recontextualizing knowledge in media settings for non-
specialized readers, that is, the pedagogical discourse in SP news gives opportunities to
non-specialized readers to become aware of the social practices that surround them.
        Concerning the educational field, ACD linked to SP news texts published online can
be a great source to explore the relations among language, science and society. By
exploring these texts in classroom, teachers can raise consciousness on students’ social
practices. Furthermore, the analysis of SP news texts in classrooms can raise a critical
thinking on students and it can encourage them to reconstruct texts as a system of meanings
which may be more or less congruent with the ideology which informs it (HEBERLE, 2000, p.
119).
        In conclusion, the tools proposed by Gee (2011) may be helpful strategies for
language teachers and students as ways to analyze and reflect about texts.


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