On the Writing of Science and the Science of Writing: Hedging in Science Text and Elsewhere
The present paper discusses certain well-documented generalizations said to represent the scientific style of writing.
The starting point for this research is the 'hard' claim taken from a standard textbook, that spoken language is incapable of carring ideas of precision and subtlety, but only scientific written language, which the authors consider undoubtedly an oversimplification of the problem. This leads them to argue that scientific writing really consists of text which is intended to "sell" an idea, relating this assertion to the phenomenon of hedging in science writing.
The paper then describes the historical development of hedging, drawing on results obtained by Shapin (1984) and his examinations about the original British emperistics, led by Robert Boyle.
In the following discussion, the paper gives a detailed overview of the current research on hedging, discussing authors like Crismore and Farnsworth (1990), Barton (1993), Butler (1990) and others, referring especially to their results about overall modal use.
Subsequently, the authors outline their method of text analysis, which is pretended to include not only linguistic signals of hedging but also those of emphasis and assertation. They also detail their decision procedures to count text phenomena or as a hedge or an emphatic. The authors applied their model to a corpus of 50 texts classified as belonging to five different text types. The results of this analysis show the use of modals and the frequency totals for modals, hedges and emphatics across the five text types.
In the discussion general conclusions can be drawn about the use of modals and hedges in different text types. In addition, modal counts are compared to the results of Butler (1990) and Crismore and Farnsworth (1990).
The study reveals the potential for exploring hedging and emphatic markers across a wide ranger of texts than science texts or academic texts and to have a critical look at traditional advice offered in textbooks for scientific writing.