Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Personal Attribution in English and Spanish Scientific Texts

Pedro Martín Martín


Scientific discourse is usually thought to be impersonal. In fact, most style manuals encourage academics to use impersonal constructions in order to avoid making explicit their authorial presence in the texts. However, recent research has shown that in scientific writing the choice to announce the writer’s presence in the discourse, mainly by means of the use of first person pronouns, is a rhetorical strategy frequently used by the members of the international English-speaking community for promotion and gaining accreditation for research claims. In this study, I have analysed the distribution and frequency of occurrence of first person pronouns in research article abstracts written in English and Spanish in the social sciences disciplines, in an attempt to reveal whether there is cross-linguistic variation in the use of personal attribution in the texts. I have also examined the possible semantic references and different socio-pragmatic functions that these pronouns may perform. The results showed a high tendency to impersonality in both languages. This indicates that most academics in English and Spanish favour strategies of depersonalisation: the use of agentless passive and impersonal constructions, which function as hedging devices that diminish the author’s presence in the texts, avoiding personal responsibility for their claims.

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