Changing Russian academic discourse in the past 30 years

Кедрова Г.Е., Потемкин С.Б.

МГУ имени М.В.Ломоносова, 119991, Москва, Ленинские горы, д.1. +74959391478, kedr@philol.msu.ru

Impersonal evidentials refer to the knowledge that the author references to as common or shared knowledge, so one of the most important roles of impersonal evidentials in a text is to express of the degree of reliability of knowledge. It has been noticed that frequency of use of evidentials in the text of research articles (RA) strongly depends on cultural stereotypes common to a certain scientific community [1]. In Russian language there are several synonymous expressions for addressing knowledge common for author and reader, i.e.: kak izvestno, kak khorosho izvestno, izvestno, chto, etc. In previous research it has already been noticed that in Russian-language scientific texts impersonal evidentials were used more often than their equivalents in the German-language publications [2]. Therefor the main question of our research was as follows: what tendencies could be identified (if any) in the frequency of occurrence of the Russian lexical bundles expressing evidentials in Russian-language scientific publications over a sufficiently long period of time. To explore longitudinal changes we’ve analyzed RA in the leading Russian psychological journal “Voprosy Psikhologii” throughout 30 years’ publication activity (1980-2010). The data set for quantitative and qualitative analysis comprises 5,214 research articles with 13,324,235 words (digital characters excluded). The metrics used, namely the frequency of occurrence of each expression in relation to the total number of words in each year’s publications, made it possible to represent more clearly main trends in the occurrences. Our data shows general tendency towards a considerable decrease in the frequency of use of impersonal evidentials in Russian scientific texts over time. However, although phrases kak izvestno and izvestno, chto are recognized as synonymous expressions in the Russian dictionaries, our data also reveals significant differences in the frequency of using these phrases and, especially, in the general tendency of their occurrence during the period under investigation. We attribute these differences to the semantic differences between assertion and presumption, where assertion (izvestno, chto) can be true or false, while presumption (kak izvestno) is what the speaker pretends to be undoubted truth.


1. Mur-Dueñas, P. An intercultural analysis of metadiscourse features in research articles written in English and in Spanish. Journal of Pragmatics, 43, 2011. P. 3068–3079.

2. Janik, C. As academics we are not disposed to say “I know the world is round...”: Marking of evidentiality in Russian and German historiographic articles. In Cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspectives on academic discourse. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2009. P. 19–32.

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