Scholarly article on topic 'Discourse Strategies of Science and Technology Academic Texts: A Malay Language Account'

Discourse Strategies of Science and Technology Academic Texts: A Malay Language Account Academic research paper on "Computer and information sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Computer and information sciences, author of scientific article — Idris Aman, Norsimah Mat Awal, Mohammad Fadzeli Jaafar

Abstract Conveyance of knowledge is a strategic and unique action. It is due to the discourse that is produced which discusses specific discipline of knowledge and targeting a certain group. The process of conveying knowledge not only involves vocabulary, terms, and sentences, but what is more crucial is the discourse strategy. This study discusses the discourse strategy of academic text of science and technology (S&T) written in Malay language as employed and published in high impact journal. This is due to the number of S&T academic publications in Malay are unsatisfactory as a result of the hegemonic of English as international language. The strategy is analyzed from two dimensions, i.e. the discourse properties and textual features. Discourse properties interpret the practice of the text by means of intertextuality and content. Textual analysis describes the main features of text, namely initial adverbial, types of sentences and theme types employed. The study is limited to the introduction section of texts. From the analysis it is found that the strategy adopted by S&T texts is with the inclusion of issue and objective of the study, utilizes static paraphrase technique of intertextuality, situational initial adverbials, prioritizing simple sentence and marked Theme. Identification, description, and explanation of the strategy potentially acts as guidance to the S&T academia in order to write and enhance the number of academic text published in high impact journal in the medium of national language. Indirectly, it would also help to enrich publications and uphold the language as a language of knowledge, besides being useful for local students.

Academic research paper on topic "Discourse Strategies of Science and Technology Academic Texts: A Malay Language Account"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 136 (2014) 344 - 349

LINELT 2013

Discourse Strategies of Science and Technology Academic Texts:

A Malay Language Account

Idris Amana *, Norsimah Mat Awalb, Mohammad Fadzeli Jaafarc

a Institute of Malay World & Civilisation (ATMA), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, UKM Bangi, 43600 Malaysia b School of Language Studies & Linguistics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, UKM Bangi,43600 Malaysia c School of Language Studies & Linguistics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, UKM Bangi, 43600, Malaysia

Abstract

Conveyance of knowledge is a strategic and unique action. It is due to the discourse that is produced which discusses specific discipline of knowledge and targeting a certain group. The process of conveying knowledge not only involves vocabulary, terms, and sentences, but what is more crucial is the discourse strategy. This study discusses the discourse strategy of academic text of science and technology (S&T) written in Malay language as employed and published in high impact journal. This is due to the number of S&T academic publications in Malay are unsatisfactory as a result of the hegemonic of English as international language. The strategy is analyzed from two dimensions, i.e. the discourse properties and textual features. Discourse properties interpret the practice of the text by means of intertextuality and content. Textual analysis describes the main features of text, namely initial adverbial, types of sentences and theme types employed. The study is limited to the introduction section of texts. From the analysis it is found that the strategy adopted by S&T texts is with the inclusion of issue and objective of the study, utilizes static paraphrase technique of intertextuality, situational initial adverbials, prioritizing simple sentence and marked Theme. Identification, description, and explanation of the strategy potentially acts as guidance to the S&T academia in order to write and enhance the number of academic text published in high impact journal in the medium of national language. Indirectly, it would also help to enrich publications and uphold the language as a language of knowledge, besides being useful for local students.

© 2014 The Authors. PublishedbyElsevierLtd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of LINELT 2013. Keywords: discourse strategy, discourse properties, textual features, initial adverbials, Theme

1. Introduction

Corresponding Author: Idris Aman. Tel.: +603-8921-5289 E-mail address: idrisa@ukm.my

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of LINELT 2013. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.05.339

Conveyance of knowledge involves the writing medium. In the writing of knowledge, it not only involves vocabulary, terms, and sentences, but what more crucial is the writing strategy or discourse strategies. Discourse strategy is a well arranged planner of the writer or speaker in achieving his aims. Gumperz (1982) generally refers 'discourse strategies' to verbal strategies that people engaged in conversation employ to understand each other within the context of a particular conversation. But we also use the term here to refer to writing strategy, specifically to connote that in academic discourse authors organize and shape discourse strategically according to their academic goals. Discourse strategies may be idiosyncratic to each individual (Sandoval et al. 1999), across whatever activity structures they use in their writing. Activity structure and discourse strategies are deeply intertwined in that language organizes activity (Vygotsky, 1978), and activity affords and constrains particular patterns of discourse (Sandoval et al. 1999). We are especially interested to identify specific discourse strategies that academia in science and technology (S&T) used to construct discourse in their writing of academic materials.

Academic research articles, especially structural aspects, social construction and historical evolution has been studied previously. These studies looked into the overall organisation of several academic research articles which include sections on introduction, findings, discussion and abstract, each from Swales, Thompson, Hopkins & Dudley-Evans, and Salager-Meyer (Habibi 2008).

There are also several descriptions on S&T discourses in Malay, i.e. Omar (2006), Ahmad (1996) and Nathesan (1995). However perspectives on discourse strategies were not highlighted and analysis were not based on inductive-exploratory method from texts as published in recognized journals. Omar (2006) and Ahmad (1996) are in the form of a book. In this form therefore its description is in general and expository based. Even though Nathesan (1995) was a study, his discussion was confined to language register aspect, which focuses on vocabulary.

Identifying and explaining academic discourse strategies in S&T discipline in Malay scientifically through inductive-exploratory analysis is a reasonable task. The description of strategies in S&T academic writing in Malay through scientific inductive-exploratory analysis is able to give a more viable guidance to academicians in order to increase the number of publication in the national language. Besides, the number of S&T articles written in Malay was not satisfactory. For example, from our calculation on 2011 Sains Malaysiana journal it is found that out of 210 articles published, only 38 or 18% were in Malay. In 2012, out of 194 articles, only 33 (17%) articles were in Malay. For that, this study looks into and describes the strategy of academic discourse in S&T discipline in Malay as employed in this recognized journals. For a start, this study is confined to the introductory segment only. The introduction segment is the most important part in any writing. This is the section where the writer sets the track and direction of his writing.

Introduction section of academic articles as one of the most important sections studied gained the attention of scholars started with efforts from Swales (1981, 1990) who studied structure movements of introduction research articles who later proposed CARS (create a research space) model. After which many other research applied the same model, such as the nature of the introduction, use of references, studies on written text in different languages and cultures, citation practice in academic texts, and comparison on introduction section from two disciplines (Habibi 2008).

2. Methodology

This study analyses S&T academic discourse from two dimensions, namely discourse properties and textual features (Fairclough 1992, 1995; Aman 2006, 2012). From the dimension of discourse properties, focus is given to interpret the intertextuality and the contents of a paragraph. Intertextuality is the other voices that have been utilised by writers in producing their discourse (Fairclough 1995).The utilization of other voices acts as a support or justification to the writers own voice. The analysis of intertextuality emphasizes on what other voices had utilised and how it was utilised. Usually the other voices were utilised through direct quotation, paraphrases, selected texts, presupposition, and metadiscourse (Fairclough 1995; Jones 2012). Meanwhile, content of paragraph is identified through inductive analysis approach.

Analysis of the textual dimension on the other hand describes on the three features of a text, namely the type of initial adverbial, types of sentences and Theme type. Initial adverbial is sentence elements placed at the beginning of a sentence functioning as specifier for the sentence (Aman 2007). Initial adverbials are presented with either an adverbial phrase or adjectival phrase or both. Halliday (1994) identified 9 types of initial adverbials, however in this study it is categorised into four parameters only, i.e. situational, viewpoint, time and location.

Types of sentences in the context of this study refer to simple or compound sentences utilised by the text writer.

A simple sentence is a sentence that is produced through utilising only one process element. A compound sentence on the other hand is produced with two or more processes (Aman 2012). From another angle, a sentence also has Theme and Rheme elements. Theme refers to a known section of the sentence or old information, whereas Rheme is the section conveying new information. Theme is a point of departure to the new information found in a sentence (Halliday 1994). In a text, Theme could be present in the unmarked or marked form. An unmarked (normal) themed sentence has the structure of Subject + Process + Object. A marked theme sentence differs from the normal themed sentence where it can be by fronting of object (foregrounding), passivation of verb, and utilising initial adverbials in the sentence.

The data consists of 7 introduction section from 7 S&T Malay articles published in Sains Malaysiana journal one each for January-July 2012 publications. The number is 21.2% from 33 Malay articles published in 2012. The articles in this journal are Malay academic writing pieces of very high quality because it is indexed and abstracted in I SI Thompson Reuters (Science Citation Index Expanded/SciSearch, Journal Citations Reports/Science Edition), SCOPUS, Chemical Abstracts, Google-Scholar, MyAis and Zentralblatt MATH, Impact Factor - JCR/SE 2011 is 0.268, Q3. Sains Malaysiana is published monthly by UKM Press. It contains articles on Earth Sciences, Health Sciences, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences and Physical Sciences. Other than that Sains Malaysiana is backed by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), a university that was set up with the mission to uphold Malay language as the knowledge language for the country. With this mission in mind, without any doubt this journal too shoulders the same responsibility.

Analysis began with the extraction of the introduction section of the text. Next, each of the texts is analysed to identify discourse properties and textual features of the seven discourse units selected. Analysis was also carried out at paragraph, sentence and word level. Then, the discourse properties and regular textual features present, identified is synthesized thus the patterns are labelled. Finally, every pattern that was identified was described its properties and features. It is based on these properties and features that S&T discourse introduction strategies were able to be clarified.

3. Result and Discussion

The results of the analysis are presented in Table 1 and 2 consecutively. From the analysis done on the seven S&T texts, then the discourse introduction strategies were able to be formulated.

3.1 Discourse properties

From the dimension of discourse properties, firstly, the compulsory content of S&T introduction sections identified is description on research issues and statement of objective. These two aspects define the main strategy of discourse in S&T introduction unit. It has been proven in all the text studied. Meanwhile, statement of problem is the optional content. This is due to only 42.8%, which are T3, T4 and T6 having problem statement of the study. This means that a research problem statement is not the main criteria in discourse strategies for S&T introduction text. It could be presented or none at all.

Secondly, in terms of intertextuality, it is found that referring to other voices through paraphrasing is a strategy which is habitual of S&T text introduction. All texts utilise this technique of intertextuality. Paraphrasing techniques too has been utilised in static which places other voice resources in brackets at the end of a clause, for example ... (Kramer 1990). (T1), or transformed other voice as doer, such as Hock dan Bray (1981) mengkolerasikan... (T2), and ...oleh Hirata et al (2004) (T6). However, the most outstanding strategy used is the static technique, amounting to 61.5% or 32 times, whereas the technique transforming it into a doer is 38.5% or 20 times.

Table 1. Discourse properties of S&T introduction texts

Discourse Properties No. T1 T2 T3 T4 T5 T6 T7 Total & (%)

Paragraph: 3 1 4 5 1 5 3 -

Sentence: 16 8 16 23 7 31 29

1. Content of Paragraph

a. Description of issue V V V V V V V 7 (100)

b. Statement of problem - - V V - V - 3 (42.8)

c. Objective statement V V V V V V V 7 (100)

d. Description of method - - - - - V V 2 (28.5)

e. Description of location - - - - - - V 1 (14.3)

2. Intertextuality

a. Direct quotation - - - - - - - -

b. Paraphrase: Static: 2 - 9 5 4 6 6 32 (61.5)

As doer: 8 2 1 - - 5 4 20 (38.5)

c. Pre-supposition - - - - - - - -

d. Metadiscourse - - - - - - - -

There is no direct quotation, presupposition, and metadiscourse technique that has been utilised. This shows that the three techniques is not the usual discourse strategy used for S&T paragraphs. Intertextuality by paraphrasing as found here, without direct quotation and metadiscourse properties, is closely related to the S&T discourse nature which prioritise reference with justification compactly and summarised.

3.2 Textual features

From the textual analysis dimension, firstly, it has been identified that an initial adverbial that is obvious is utilised strategically in introduction of S&T text is situational type and viewpoint. Situational as initial adverbial recorded the highest score which is 45.8% which was utilised by 5 texts namely T2, T3, T4, T6 & T7. Viewpoint initial adverbial type is placed as second with a score of 35.4% while using 5 texts too which are T1, T3, T4, T6 and T7. Location initial adverbial had utilised 12.5% while the time adverbial was the least amounting to 6.3%. The prioritising situational and viewpoint initial adverbials with the lacking of place and time on S&T introduction unit as a turning point of message is aligned to the nature of the discourse introduction itself as situational background statement and views. In other words, in structuring the turning point of the sentence in introduction of S&T texts, situational and viewpoint are the best strategies. The examples below show the usage of initial adverbial (underlined) according to types.

(a) Situational:

T2.1.2 Dalam konteks ini, ciri-ciri kekuatan geomekanik bahan batuan merupakan input utama dalam merekabentuk struktur-struktur tersebut.

(b) Viewpoint:

T3.2.3 Menurut Lim dan Flint (1995), perlakuan haba telah digunakan secara meluas bagi memusnahkan sel-sel vegetatif.

(c) Location:

T1.1.6 Di Semenanjung Malaysia pula hanya 17 takson direkodkan dalam lima genus tidak termasuk Davalloides kerana taburan spesies ini hanya terdapat di Sabah dan Sarawak (Parris & Latiff 1997).

(d) Time:

T4.3.1 Pada tahun 2000, jualan produk berasaskan roselle mencatat nilai RM1.5 juta iaitu merupakan 1.4% daripada jumlah pasaran semasa jus buah-buahan yang bernilai RM107 juta (Anon, 2002).

From the example of the initial adverbial, it is seen how a writer decides on the point of departure of the sentence. In example (a) the writer decides on the situation Dalam konteks ini as the turning point message of the sentence, and not in other different context. In (b), the writer restricts the turning point message to a viewpoint Menurut Lim dan Flint (1995) only. In (c), the writer decides on the place that will be the message starter in the specified sentence that is Di Semenanjung Malaysia only.

Table 2. Textual features of S&T introduction texts

1. Textual Features T1 T2 T3 T4 T5 T6 T7 Total & (%)

1. Initial Adverbials

a. Situational - 3 3 6 - 7 3 22 (45.8)

b. Viewpoint 2 - 4 2 - 6 3 17 (35.4)

c. Time - - - 1 - 2 - 3 (6.3)

d. Location

2. Sentence Types

a. Simple

b. Complex

3. Theme Types

a. Normal

b. Marked:

13 7 13 19 6 3 13 4 1

10 14 1

8 10 -

11 12 57 (43.8)

20 17 73 (56.2)

16 7 48 (65.8)

4 10 22 (30.1)

31 23 112 (86.2) - 6 18 (13.8)

1 1 6 (12.5)

Initial adverbial

Passivization

Inversion

3 (4.1)

Next, among the types of sentences formed, those utilising simple sentence is the second important textual strategy in S&T writing. In other words, in S&T texts, knowledge is mostly conveyed through simple sentences. A simple sentence is built from a process word. Simple sentence is used 86.2% (112 times) compared to complex sentence 13.8% (18 times). Each text also utilised simple sentences more than complex sentences, with T6 utilising simple sentences 100% (31 times). Utilisation of simple sentences dominantly in S&T discourse makes the idea that wanted to be delivered in every sentence clearer, obvious and easier to follow due to one idea that was stated for each sentence. Example of usage of simple sentences and complex sentence in a text is seen below. In (e), the process is adalah 'is'. In (f) the processes are merupakan 'is' and dikomersialkan 'commercialised' making it having two clauses which is marked by //.

(e) Simple sentence:

T6.2.2 SAR ADALAH parameter yang digunakan untuk mengukur kadar tenaga radiasi EM yang diserap oleh tisu biologi.

(f) Complex sentence:

T4.1.4 Roselle dahulunya MERUPAKAN tumbuhan herba yang ditanam di sekitar laman kediaman sebagai pokok hiasan // namun kini penanamannya mula DIKOMERSIALKAN (Morton 1987).

Another textual criteria which is the main discourse strategy for S&T introductory text is a sentence that is constructed from marked theme. By marked theme the sentence means making the turning point element of the sentence as extraordinary, through its mark, like passivization, inversion or initial adverbials. A theme becomes extraordinary when the element which usually occurs at the back of a sentence, is placed in front of a sentence. By giving a mark or fronting those elements in the sentence means the writer wants to make them as the starting point of his message. In this study, it is found S&T community prioritise marked theme in construction of its sentences which is 56.2% compared to unmarked theme which is 43.8%. A majority of the marked theme is done through initial adverbials (68.8%) followed by passive (30.1%). Marked theme through inversion sentence are not many, appearing only three times or 4.1%.

Below is an example of marked theme (underlined) which was benefited in a researched text. (g) is a marked theme through initial adverbial. By having initial adverbial Tanpa bahan tercemar meant the writer is making that specific adverb as a starting point for the message for that particular sentence. (h) is an example of marked theme through passivization of process (verb) digunakan. By passivization, the object Reka bentuk SRRs yang beroperasi pada 900 MHz is fronted. The fronting of an object means the writer wants to make that element important and become the starting point for the message. This technique is extraordinary moreover strategic.

(g) Initial adverbial:

T7.1.11 Tanpa bahan tercemar, beberapa logam berat hanya wujud dalam jumlah yang sedikit atau tidak melebihi paras latar belakang dalam tanah dan air.

(h) Passivization:

T6.5.2 Reka bentuk SRRs yang beroperasi pada 900 MHz telah digunakan dalam kajian ini untuk mengurangkan nilai SAR.

As a comparison, (i) is example of sentence with normal or unmarked theme construction. The theme is Goodman (1980), its Rheme is ada melaporkan nilai-nilai... California dan lain-lain lokasi. It is said it has normal theme because the structure of the sentence is Subject + Process + Object with process word melaporkan.

(i) T2.1.3 Goodman (1980) ada MELAPORKAN nilai-nilai kekuatan mampatan sepaksi untuk pelbagai batuan yang diperolehi daripada beberapa lokasi di Amerika Syarikat termasuk Ohio, Arizona, Wyoming, New Jersey, California dan lain-lain lokasi.

4. Conclusion

This study has revealed the discourse strategy of S&T academic text writing in Malay, especially in the introduction segment. In short, S&T introductory segment contained issues and objective of the study, utilising foremost static paraphrase intertextuality, prioritizing situational initial adverbial, simple sentences, and marked themed sentences. This identified introduction strategy has been tested. Identification and explanation of the strategy has the potential of providing guidance to S&T academician to write or improve their writing in the national language. The increase of academic reading material in S&T will directly enrich the knowledge resource in Malay indirectly upholds the language as language of knowledge, other than making the learning process easier for local students.

Acknowledgements

Our gratitude to the government of Malaysia and Institute of Malay World and Civilization (ATMA), UKM for funding this research coded CoE II/005/2012.

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