eng1-10-reading_materials_the_birth_of_scientific_english.docx

Eng1-10-reading_materials_the_birth_of_scientific_english.docx

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Unformatted text preview: The Birth of Scientific English World science is dominated today by a small number of languages, including Japanese, German and French, but it is English which is probably the most popular global language of science. This is not fast because of the importance of English- speaking countries such as the USA in scientific research; the scientists of many non-English-speaking countries find that they need to write their research papers in English to reach a wide international audience. Given the prominence of scientific English today, it may seem surprising that no one real knew how to write science in English be re the 17th century. Before that, Latin was regarded as the Hague Franca' For European intellectuals. The European Renaissance (c. idih—i 6th century] is sometimes called the 'revival of learning’, a time of renewed interest in the 'lost knowledge' of classical times. At the some time, however, scholars also began to test and extend this knowledge. The emergent nation states of Europe developed competitive interests in world exploration and the development of trade. Such ex nsion, which was to take the English anguage west to America and east to India, was supported by scientific developments such as the discovery oi magnetism (and hence the invention of the compass}, improvements in cartography and - perhaps the most important scientific revolution of them all — the new theories of astronomy and the movement at the Earth in relation to the planets and stars, deve|0ped by Copernicus (1473—1543]. England was one of the first countries where scientists adopted and publicised Copernican ideas with enthusiasm. Some of these scholars, including two with interests in language —Jahn Wallis and John Wilkins — helped Found the Royal Society in i660 in order to promote empirical scientific research. Across Europe similar academics and societies arose, creating new national traditions of science. in the initial stages of the scientific revolution, most publications in the national languages were popular works, encyclopaedias, educational textbooks and translations. Original science was not done in English until the second half of the l7th century. For example, Newton blished his mathematical treatise, frilown as the Principle, in Latin, but published his later work on the properties of light — Opticlrs — in English- There Were several reasons why original science continued to be written in Latin. The first was simply a matter of audience. Latin was suitable for an international audience oi scholars, whereas English reached a socially wider, but more local, audience. Hence, popular science was written in English. ' tongue frame: a [onstage which is used forcammunication between groups of people who sneak (litter-cm languages A second reason for Writing in Latin'may, perversely, hoVe been a concern for secrecy. Open publication had dangers in putting into the public domain preliminary ideas which had not yet been fully exploited by their ‘authar'. This growing concern about intellectual proper rights was a Feature of the period — it re lected both the humanist notion of the individual, rational scientist who invents and discovers through private intellectual labour, and the growing connection between original science and commercial exploitation. There was something of a social distinction between 'scholars and gentlemen' who understood Latin, and men of trade who lacked a classical education. And in the mid-17th century it was common practice tor mathematicians to keep their discoveries and proofs secret, by writing them in cipher, in obscure languages, or in private messages deposited in a sealed x with the Royal Socie . Some scientists might have felt more com ortable with Latin precisely because its audience, though intemational, was socially restricted. Doctors clung the most keenly to Latin as an 'insider language'. A third reason why the writing of original science in English was delayed may have been to do with the linguistic inadequacy of English in the early modern period. English was not well equipped to deal with scientific argument. First, it lacked the necessary technical vocabulary. Second, it locked the grammatical resources required to represent the world in an obiective and impersonal way, and to discuss the relations, such as cause and effect, that might hold between complex and hypothetical entities. Fortunately, several members of the Royal Society possessed an interest in language and become engaged in various linguistic projects- Although a proposal in 1664 to establish a committee for improving the English language come to little, the society's members did a great deal to foster the publication at science in English and to encourage the development of a suitable writing style. Man members of the Royal Society also pub ished monographs in English. One ofthe first was by Robert Hooke, the society's first curator of experiments, who described his experiments with microscopes in Micrographia (1665}. This work is largely narrative in style, based on a transcript of oral demonstrations and lectures. In 1:565 a new scientific iournal, Philosophical Transactions, was inaugurated. Perhaps the first international English-language scientific iournal, it encouraged a new genre of scientific writing, that of short, focused accounts of particular experiments- The 17th century was thus a formative period in the establishment of scientific English. In the following century mach of this momentum was last as German established itself as the leading European language of science. It is estimated that by the end of the 13th Century 1101 German scientific ioumals had been established as opposed to 96 in France and 50 in England. However, in the 19th century scientific English again enioyed substantial lexical growth as the industrial revolution created the need for new technical vocabulary, and new, specialised, professional societies were instituted to promote and publish in the new disciplines. ...
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