The transparency trope: Deconstructing English academic discourse

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English Academic Discourse has always presented itself as a neutral vehicle of objective fact. Through the use of clearly defined terms and straightforward syntax, and the studied avoidance of forms of overt manipulation of the reader, it claims to offer a transparent window onto some pre-existing external reality. Today, however, most linguists agree that objectivity is a linguistic construct, achieved by the systematic use of grammatical forms such as nominalizations and the passive voice which mask human agency. Similarly, it is now generally understood that even the most positivistic science texts contain a certain amount of rhetorical manoeuvring designed to convince the reader of the truth value and utility of the claims made. This paper draws upon a range of linguistic, historical and philosophical sources to question this discourse’s status as the hegemonic vehicle of knowledge in the modern world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-19
Number of pages15
JournalDiscourse and Interaction
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • English academic discourse
  • Epistemology
  • Rhetoric
  • Science
  • Transparency


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