Context and text in scientific disciplines of English

a social semiotic perspective

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


As major world languages – Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese, for instance – become the medium of university networks, it may be the right time to take stock of the influence that English has had over the way the disciplines of humanities and sciences have been shaped, directed and evaluated, in particular in the second half of the 20th century. This paper is an attempt to understand some of the textual, linguistic and historical determinants of Disciplinary English (DE) specifically in the spectrum of technical subjects. DE is now a way of meaning which has become associated with objective authority. From this association, DE has shaped our disciplinary knowledge and spread across to registers of bureaucratic and political subject matter. The discussion also considers innovative potential in disciplinary discourses, in particular what Halliday regarded as the “knight’s move” in text: this is the related, analogical effect of Hasan’s “symbolic articulation” in verbal art and grammatical metaphor in the language of technical disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-38
Number of pages35
JournalLanguage, Context and Text
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • social semiotic
  • register
  • context of situation
  • context of culture
  • logogenesis
  • phylogenesis
  • “knight’s move”
  • discipline
  • cultural task
  • textual motivation

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