Languages and Cultures in Contact Essay Example
Impact of Culture on Academic Writing: A Critical Review of Literature
This essay is about a critical examination of works related to the subject of the impact of culture on academic writing. The focus of the essay is examining important academic arguments related to the subject that have been developed over the course of time. Several important questions that are related to the subject of the impact of culture on academic writing are examined in the essay. The first one is related to whether culture shapes the practice of academic discourse. To address this question, a detailed examination of the opinion of various researchers is presented. The second important question that is examined in the essay relates to the various ways in which culture shapes the practice of academic discourse. The focus is on evaluating the findings of studies related to the issue that have been conducted in the past. the third important question that is examined in the essay relates to the issue of whether the impact of culture on academic discourse writing is positive or negative. As it is the case for the other related questions, the emphasis at this point is evaluating related findings of recently-conducted studies. The fourth question that relates to the subject of the essay and which is examined in the review is the implications of the impact of cultural norms and practices on the practice of academic writing. A detailed examination of the findings of various studies that relate to the issue is presented in the essay.
Whether Culture Affects Academic Discourse
The question of whether culture affects academic discourse remains contentious. On the one hand, it has been argued that cultural values of the societies to which researchers belong do not necessarily affect the way that the researchers communicate while presenting their research findings (Martin-Martin 193). On the other hand, it is argued that the cultural values of the societies to which researchers belong shape the way that the researchers communicate the findings of their studies (Mauranen 160). The idea that culture does not affect the way the individuals write academic texts arises from the observation that academic discourse is universal in nature and that its universality means that writers can communicate using well-known and uniform conventions (Nieddu 2). It is argued that researchers in general use similar methods and techniques to conduct their inquiries and that this approach forms what may be tentatively referred to as a universal scientific culture (Nieddu 3). It is further argued that because researchers use common methods, techniques and concepts when conducting their studies, it is highly unlikely that they are affected by cultural values when they present their findings (Martin-Martin 194). What this implies is that cultural values may not necessarily play a prominent role in shaping the way researchers communicate as part of their academic discourse practice. Therefore, it can be argued that academic discourse is not necessarily affected by culture.
Several studies support the position that culture does not affects academic discourse. For example, Gotti observes that the process of globalisation has successfully eradicated the cultural differences that existed between societies before and which were prominent in the academic discourse of various geographical locations (71). The basis of this observation is that cultural implications in academic discourse are mainly because of the desire by non-native speakers of major languages in the world attempting to imitate the way native speakers of the languages under consideration speak and write (Gotti 73). As non-native speakers attempt to emulate native speakers in speech and writing, the non-native speakers ascribe to the belief that there is a distinctive style of writing which is shaped by various cultural aspects of various societies. Therefore, it is argued that socio-cultural changes in the society that have occurred over the course of time have weakened barriers among nations, enhanced collaboration and created an environment in which researchers conduct their work and communicate their findings. Moreover, Nieddu is of the opinion that the universality of scientific processes has created a form of common discourse that is universal. Nieddu further observes that cultural norms do not necessarily affect the nature of the universal discourse because researchers in erstwhile disparate fields of study and cultures are aware of and adhere to basic writing conventions (13).
On the other hand, the idea that there exists a kind of scientific community that is characterised by a universal form of discourse has been contested (Mauranen 159). It is argued that culture plays a distinctive role in shaping the way that researchers communicate their findings in academic discourse. In other words, it is argued that as much as researchers seek to communicate effectively, they are unknowingly influenced by specific writing conventions that are unique to particular cultures (Krampetz 6). Moreover, it has been argued that the way that researchers communicate their findings in the form of academic discourse depends on various cultural values (Sanderson 57). Thus, academic writing is not only based on the need to adhere to grammatical conventions, but also to communicate in ways that have been recognised as standard and specific to particular cultural settings (Sanderson 57). In other words, it appears that researchers are of the opinion that contrary to the argument that scientific discourse is universal in nature, academic writing, like any other form of communication is subject to the subtle influences of cultural practices, norms and values. Therefore, when individuals communicate using the various conventions of academic writing, they seek to follow specific conventions that are defined by various cultural practices and norms.
How Culture Affects Academic Discourse
Because many researchers agree that culture affects academic writing, it is important to examine the different ways in which cultural norms and conventions influence the way researchers communicate the findings of their studies in the form of academic discourse. Many studies attempt to analyse the different ways in which academic discourse is affected by culture. Importantly, Siepmann argues that the essence of all studies that attempt to analyse the different effects of culture on academic discourse lies in the early work of Galtung (133). It is observed that Galtung divided academic discourse into the following four subtypes: Saxon, Nipponic, Gallic and Teutonic (Siepmann 133). The Saxon subtype of academic discourse is associated with the United Kingdom and the United States whereas the Gallic and Teutonic subtypes are associated with France and Germany respectively.
It is further noted that these four subtypes are characterised by specific approaches that researchers take when formally communicating their research findings in the form of academic writing (Duszak 185). For example, the Saxonic subtype of academic discourse is described as one that focuses detailed processes of collecting and organising the data (Duszak 185). Moreover, researchers writing under the Saxonic subtype of academic discourse tend to concentrate on the need to consider divergent views in the course of communicating with their peers (Delanoy, Helbig and James 172). On the contrary, the Teutonic subtype of academic discourse is described as one under which the researchers avoid the details that are associated with collecting and presenting data (Delanoy, Helbig and James 172). Thus, the focus of academic writing under the Teutonic subtype of academic discourse is on how to form theories via the process of deductive reasoning. Lastly, it is observed that the Gallic subtype of academic discourse is preoccupied with the need for the researchers to use language in the most appropriate manner (Siepmann 134). Thus, the focus of academic writing under this subtype is on achieving a form of balance between style and content.
A lot of work on the various ways in which academic discourse varies across cultures based on Galtung’s hypothesis has been done. Duszak emphasises the importance of examining how specific aspects of academic discourse vary with different cultures. Duszak further argues that it is necessary for one to take into consideration aspects of style, form, scope, tone and other linguistic aspects when evaluating the ways that different cultural values affect academic discourse (185). In other words, the effect of culture on academic discourse is seen in the way researchers use style in their writing, interact with their audience, choose topics and use particular linguistic tools to communicate effectively to their intended audience.
In the same vein, Mauranen examines how textual aspects of academic writing vary between two culturally-distinct societies: the Anglo-American the Finnish societies (160). It is argued that these two societies have distinct cultural norms and practices (Mauranen 160). Moreover, it is observed that the cultural distinctions between these two societies have an impact on the way academic discourse is practiced in the two societies (Mauranen 161). For example, it is observed that Finnish academic writers tend to focus on providing detailed information at the beginning of the paragraphs, unlike their counterparts who adhere to the Anglo-Saxon tradition of academic discourse (Mauranen 164). What this means is that academic writers from Finland tend to construct their paragraphs in ways that are markedly different from those used by researchers in the United Kingdom and United States of America. Whereas researchers who adhere to the conventions of the Anglo-Saxon tradition emphasise coherence, precision and acuity, those who stick to the Finnish conventions are less inclined to follow the precepts for coherence and accuracy in paragraphing.
Moreover, some researchers have examined how the aspects of clarity and linearity differ among different academic discourse traditions. In general, it is argued that differences in the levels of clarity and the overall approach that researchers use when writing among various traditions of academic discourse are reflections of the specific cultural aspects of the various societies that the academic traditions represent (Siepmann 139). For example, Andraviss compares research articles written by researchers operating under the Anglo-Saxon subtype of academic discourse and those authored by German and French researchers (7). Various differences related to coherence, organisation of content and the overall approach that is used while writing the papers are observed. For instance, it is observed that under the Anglo-Saxon tradition of academic discourse, researchers pay close attention to the need to develop highly coherent and elaborate arguments (Andraviss 14). In other words, academic discourse in the United Kingdom and the United States of America is characterised by the high level of emphasis that the researchers put in making their work linear in form of argumentation. However, in other traditions, such as in that which is predominant in Germany, researchers tend to focus more on the content that they write about at the expense of the need to make their research papers linear in form and argumentation (Siepmann 141). What this means is that researchers working under the aegis of the German academic discourse tradition are likely to use sentences that can be regarded as distractive under other academic discourse traditions.
From the foregoing, it is clear that researchers link structural differences in academic writing to particular traditions of academic discourse. Moreover, it is evident that academic discourse can be subdivided into various traditions and that the traditions are related to particular cultural groups. In addition to this, it is clear that all the subtypes of academic traditions are characterised by specific writing conventions. In other words, the internal structurers of academic papers can reveal specific traditions of the academic discourse subtype that the paper belongs to.
It is necessary to point out at this stage that some researchers have successfully linked various aspects of academic writing traditions to norms and values related to various national cultures (McSweeney 97). For example, Koutsantoni (98) observes that the specific attributes that are evident in research papers authored by Greek researchers reveal peculiar characteristics of the Greek national culture as described using Hofstede’s dimensions of national culture. Koutsantoni further observes that the Greek national culture is characterised by the following important dimensions as proposed under the Hofstede’s dimensions of national culture: high levels of uncertainty avoidance, collectivism as opposed to individualism and a score of high power distance (98). According to the findings of a detailed analysis of research papers written by Greek researchers, it is found that all the papers bear specific characteristics that are linked to the scores of the Greek national culture based on these dimensions. For example, it is found that in most of the papers examined, the researchers use a language that portrays strong conviction in their arguments and that the researchers repeatedly allude to common or shared knowledge (Koutsantoni 102). These two distinctive characteristics of Greek academic writing portray the high level of uncertainty avoidance and the high score of collectivism as opposed to individualism that the Greek culture is said to have.
While examining the impact of cultural values on academic discourse, some researchers focus their attention on the way the cultural differences are seen in the works done by native and non-native speakers of particular languages. For example, Davaei and Karbalaei examine differences in the way native and non-native speakers of the English language write the acknowledgement sections in their academic works (221). The study considers various parameters such as the length of the acknowledgement section and how references to God, the family members and colleagues of the researchers are made in the acknowledgement sections of works by native and non-native speakers of the English language. Interestingly, Davaei and Karbalaei find that native speakers of the English language tend to write longer acknowledgement sections than what non-native speakers of the language do (222). Moreover, it is pointed out that it is common for non-native speakers of the English language to make detailed references to God and their family members as part of the acknowledgement sections in their academic works than it is the case for researchers who are native speakers of the language (Davaei and Karbalaei 222).
Similarly, it is argued that there are clear differences in the way non-native speakers of English present the acknowledgement sections of their research work from what native speakers of the language do (Giannoni 27; Hyland and Tse 264). The major finding in this research is that researchers who are non-native speakers of English tend to be more detailed in their acknowledgements than are researchers who are native speakers of English (Hyland and Tse 266).
Whether the Impact of Culture on Academic Discourse is Positive or Negative
The impact of whether the impact of culture on academic discourse is negative or positive has not received a considerable level of academic attention. While the reason as to why this issue has not received a lot of academic attention cannot be clearly pointed out, it is worth mentioning that some researchers have examined the issue in passing. In most cases, researchers examining the specific characteristics of academic writing as practised by native and non-native writers have mentioned in passing the positive or negative effect of the impact of culture on academic discourse. For example, it is pointed out that the desire by researchers who are non-native speakers of the English language to copy the linguistic conventions exhibited by native speakers of the English language may enhance the clarity of the academic works written by the non-native speakers of English (Byrum, Grybkova and Starkey 23). Moreover, it is argued that the desire by non-native speakers of the English language to write in ways that reflect the norms and cultural values indicated in the writings of native speakers may help the researchers to not only achieve high levels of cultural competence, but also communicate effectively with their audience (Nilson 123). Two important conclusions can be drawn from the preceding discussion on the issue of whether the impact of culture on academic discourse is positive or negative. The first one is that the answer to the question is generally tied to how non-native speakers of any language communicate while writing academic works. The second one is that as far as non-native speakers of a language attempt to imitate the conventions exhibited by the native speakers of the language, the non-native speakers not only attain grammatical fluency in their work but also show high levels of cultural competence.
Implications of the Impact of Culture on Academic Discourse
Various implications of the impact of culture on academic discourse can be drawn from the preceding discussion. In the first place, the link between culture and academic discourse is based on the impact of culture on language in general. It is generally accepted that language reflects the cultural norms that individuals in any given society adhere to (Delanoy, Helbig and James 172; Koutsantoni 102). Because of the strong link between culture and language, it is inevitable for researchers who carry out studies and report their findings in the form of academic writing to be influenced by various cultural norms.
The second important implication of the impact of culture on academic discourse is that the various subtypes of academic traditions can be modelled on national cultures. The concept of national culture that is used in this sense refers to the way cultures countries can be described using Hofstede’s dimensions of national culture. However, it is important to note that regardless of the criticisms that have been levelled against Hofstede’s model, researchers in the field of the impact of culture on academic discourse continue to base their propositions on the model. Thus, it is possible to describe the academic discourse tradition that is prevalent in the France, for example, using characteristics that are based on Hofstede’s model of national culture.
In conclusion, culture has an impact on academic discourse. This conclusion implies that the way that researchers communicate the findings of their studies in the form of academic writing is affected by the subtle cultural values of the societies to which the writers belong. Second, the impact of culture on academic discourse is witnessed in various other ways apart from the need for researchers to adhere to the principles of grammar and correctness. For example, the tone of voice, form, choice of subject and even level of coherence of academic works are affected by the cultural values of the societies to which the researchers belong. Moreover, various academic discourse types are identified based on how various researchers construct paragraphs and approach many other aspects of their academic work. Third, many studies point out the importance of the need of non-native speakers of any given language to adhere to the conventions of the language when writing academic works to helping the writers master cultural competence. Lastly, many studies indicate that the impact of culture on academic discourse is organised along national cultures and the way language is used by native and non-native speakers of various languages in academic discourse.
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