LANGUAGE(s) IN KNOWLEDGE DISSEMINATION: Expert-Lay communication across disciplines

The research project aims at analysing language use in knowledge dissemination (KD) in a theoretical, descriptive and applied perspective.

a) The theoretical investigation looks at the notion of popularising discourse and at the elusive nature of what we mean by “simple” in the inherently complex domain of texts. The approach pays attention to popularising as “mediation” between expert and lay audience on the part of a “third party”, as well as to forms of knowledge dissemination directly enacted by experts. The problem is seen in terms of inter-discourse communication, i.e. communication across the borders of discourse communities. The discursive construction of professional identity and intercultural communication become key concepts in the definition of KD.

b) The descriptive investigation looks at the language strategies and textual moves attributed to popularisation in the literature on the issue, as well as at the strategies and moves that characterize the most recent electronic formats of knowledge dissemination. In terms of language strategies and textual moves, the aim of the project is to explore how far knowledge dissemination is actually characterized by the features most often associated with “popularising” in the literature. These cover: intense use of metadiscourse (i.e. discourse about the evolving text), forms of readers’ engagement, systematic use of definitions, reformulation, higher degrees of explicitness, careful use of word-image relationship. The framework will be integrated or modified on the basis of a data- driven analysis of multilingual and multidisciplinary corpora. Special attention will also be paid to web genres, with their multi-modal and intercultural features.

c) The applied perspective looks at the implications of the theoretical approach developed and at the descriptive results obtained, illustrated with reference to a sample case study of a specifically cultural area of expertise (i.e. cultural heritage), in order to develop:

– the definition of guidelines for document design
– sample (multilingual) lexicographic and phraseological tools for writers and translators.