Asian Journal of English Language Teaching Vol. 8, 1998, pp. 1-18
© 1998 CUHK English Lanuage Teaching Unit

Language, Science and Scholarship

John M. Swales
University of Michigan

This lecture opens with a review of the rise of English as the world's predominating language of science and scholarship. In so doing, I express some concerns about this ascent of English. I question certain triumphalist accounts of such an `efficient' solution to global professional communication, and offer evidence of its adverse effects on smaller academic communities. In this current context, Henry Kissinger's dictum that `one side's total security is the other side's total insecurity' seems particularly apt. I then discuss whether and how more might be done to strengthen weaker academic languages, and argue for more research into their linguistic and rhetorical properties. Attention then moves to how we might assist graduate students, scientists and scholars who are not native speakers of English to cope more effectively with this linguistically-skewed world. Within this, I briefly report on some ongoing work on the increasing acceptance of certain `informal' elements in English academic style in many fields, and how this trend provides an additional threat to non-native speakers. The lecture ends by returning to the main theme of academic linguistic imperialism..

Reflections on the Ascent of English

Ninety-nine years ago, an aged Otto von Bismarck, who would indeed die the following year, the famed Iron Chancellor of Prussia, was being interviewed by a young journalist. At one point the young journalist, as young journalists are wont to do, asked Bismarck what he felt had been the determining event of the modern history of his time. Bismarck replied, `The fact that North America speaks English.' Nearly a hundred years later, this strikes me as a very remarkable observation. For two reasons. First, it is an amazingly global, or at least transatlantic, comment from a man who had had, after all, a long and brilliant career comprehensively focused on remaking the map of central Europe. Second, it is amazingly farsighted. In 1898, in the year that Bismarck was being interviewed, German-speaking science and scholarship, German technology and German industry and, perhaps most especially, German-speaking universities were all well ahead of the rest of the world. These pre-eminences would, in fact, long survive Bismarck's death, ultimately undone, at least on the surface, by the loss of two World Wars and the wholely justified flight of German-speaking and mostly Jewish intellectuals in the interregnum. The final impetus was doubtless the fact that America, alone of the major powers, emerged from the Second World War with its economy, and its physical and intellectual infrastructure intact. Otto von Bismarck has been proved right, of course, but only in long sight. This is presumably because cultures can have their own self-preservational instincts even in the face of massive linguistic and cultural infiltration from outside. Recall the famous remark attributed to Porfirio Diaz, who died in 1915: `Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States'. But the Mexicans, along with the French-speaking Quebecois across the US's northern border, can also rightly claim that they are `specialists in cultural resistance'. However, when change does come, it can come fast, and that cultural resistance can quickly crumble. Consider the long story summarized in this example:

1876 (Vol. 1)
Zeitschrift fur Anatomie und Entwicklungageschichte
1974 (Vol. 144)
Zeitschrift fur Anatomie und Entwicklungageschichte
Journal of Anatomy and Embryology
1974/5 (Vol. 146)
Journal of Anatomy and Embryology
Zeitschrift fur Anatomie und Entwicklungageschichte
1983 (Vol. 166)
Journal of Anatomy and Embryology

Or consider the fact that in Sweden the last journals to accept original medical or economics research written in Swedish have recently gone over to an all-English policy; in the former case, the only remaining Swedish-language journal is Lakartidningen or `Doctors' Newsletter', a semi-popularized round-up of research news and other events. These developments, if that is the right word, have been taking place for many languages in many fields. Or consider the case of the world's systematic botanists, in general a very conservative group in matters both non-linguistic and linguistic; after all, they are still expected to write a short diagnostic paragraph in Botanical Latin for any plant new to science. The systematic botanists gather once every six years for an international congress, one of its main concluding events being the ratification by the assembled body of revisions to The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, a complex list of terminological rules and recommendations so designed that `science be not thrown into confusion'. But now consider this extract from the introduction to the 1987 code:

The most striking difference between this new `Berlin Code' and the previous editions of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature is that the text is in English only, lacking the French and German versions that have been a feature of the International Code since the very first, the Vienna Code of 1905. (Greuter & McNeill, 1998:vii)

John Maher astutely observed several years ago that an academic language rises or declines according to the amount of new information it contains (Maher, 1996). Although the editors of the Berlin Code do later state that they hope that translations of the code will be forthcoming, the inevitable delays will undoubtedly push some of the information from the `new' category into that of the `old'.

On the broader front, there are of course impressive statistical claims made for the advance of English, such as in this field or that field the percentage of papers written in English has now increased to 70-something or 80-something per cent. While we might continue to question the accuracy of such figures, since they are premissed on already English-inclined US databases, the overall rise of English cannot be contested. And in this we see, above all, the increasingly predominant role of the United States. In a recent Scientific American, Wayt Gibbs, in an article entitled `Lost Science in the Third World' (Wayt Gibbs, 1995), calculates that in 1994 no less than 31 per cent of all papers published in mainstream journals originated in the United States. Japan was next with only eight per cent. Sample percentages from countries with large university systems are: Brazil, 0.6 per cent, and Mexico and Egypt with around 0.3 per cent. These are staggering disproportions, and such repeated and recursive differences thus structurate, to use the term of sociologist Anthony Giddens (1984), or reinforce America's role as the global academic gatekeeper.

Second, the trend to English is accelerating as computer-mediated developments such as the World Wide Web accelerate. A recent report on America's National Public Radio estimated that 85 per cent of the world's homepages used English, and only two per cent were in French. Meanwhile, on a recent trip to Brazil, I learnt that the Brazilian diplomatic service has just decided to drop French from its entrance examination.

Unfortunately, these trends largely continue to be reported in triumphalist terms by anglophone commentators, who continue, for example, to poke fun at efforts by the French government to maintain both the viability of the French language and its historically Gallic character. In 1995, my local newspaper carried an Associated Press report from Paris which opened with one of those elaborate and, alas, all-too-familiar military metaphors:

As French government officials fight the invasion of English words like `airbag' and `software', a new survey reports that they may be losing their army.

Nearly 71 per cent of French speakers welcome the entry of foreign words into their language, according to a survey published Friday in the newspaper Le Figaro. (Ann Arbor News, 3rd March 1995)

It is also unfortunate that valiant and interesting attempts by critics like Robert Phillipson and Alastair Pennycook to undermine this triumphalist rhetoric by relating it to new manifestations of neo-colonialism, to misplaced privileges being given to native speakers of English, and to the consumerist marketing of English as a `worldly' global commodity, now seen as the lingua franca of the `haute bourgoisie' around the world, will likely fall on deaf ears in the Anglophone majoritarian cultures, however much their criticisms may be discussed and appreciated in smaller speech and discourse communities around the world. John Honey, for example, admittedly representing very much the opposite part of the political spectrum to left-wingers like Robert Phillipson, ends his review of Phillipson's Linguistic Imperialism as follows:

`Its main value is in forcing those who teach English and those who theorize about the forms of the language to re-examine the bases of their own convictions about the function and value of their work. It has certainly reinforced mine.' (Honey, 1994: 121)

And here is another take on this controversial book, this time by well-known language-testing expert, Alan Davies:

LI [Linguistic Imperialism] may not be a spoof but it is a clever book. Clever, not because it illuminates our understanding in a new way but because it taps delicately and accurately into the widespread guilt felt by the rich North about the poor South. But, as a general theory to explain the growth of ELT [English Language Teaching] in the world, it will not do...

In spite of a thirty-year involvement with English for Academic Purposes (EAP), I do not today share Honey's convictions, nor accept Davies' dismissal of Phillipson's central thesis. In fact, Phillipson's general account seems to work quite well, although its particulars are rather harder to accept, such as that the dominance of English has been created by a conspiracy between the BBC and The British Council, aided by the latter's academic front, the Department of Applied Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, the leading unit of its kind in the 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, I have belatedly come to recognize a certain self-deception in this long involvement with academic and scientific English. Certainly in the 1970s I accepted the widely-held position which argued that what Third World countries needed was a rapid acceleration in their resources of human capital, which could be achieved by a hurried transmission of Western technical and scientific know-how delivered through the medium of English and supported by appropriate English language programmes. I also believed that working overseas in scientific English, as researcher, materials writer, and teacher, was, in essence, a culturally and politically neutral enterprise. In doing so, I conveniently overlooked the links between the teaching of technical languages and the manufacture and export of technical equipment. So, when I read, say, Phillipson's counter-culture account of how British ESL (English as a Second Language) created an academic and commercial base for itself, I find myself caught up in some serious reflection. I now see the `accommodationist' and `technocratic' stance adopted by most of us in the English for Academic Purposes movement about the value of English as a wider window on the world is not unconnected to the enormous resources that, both publicly and privately, have accrued to ESL. And here one of my favourite quotes comes from the opening page of Richard Bailey's Images of English. It is from a Pakistani commentator: `Teaching English has become a multimillion-dollar business the world over, a lucrative business next only to drug trafficking' (1991:1). A further illustration of this motif again comes from my recent Brazilian experience. There, the slogan of one of the largest chains of private language schools, painted on their external walls of their schools, directly translates as `English is in your future'. My Portuguese colleagues and I found this a strikingly ambiguous and subtle formula with readings that varied from `you cannot escape encountering English in the future' to the much more ominous `you have no future without English'.

The tone of this lecture is thus somewhat reflective. After all, mine has been a working life attached to the coat-tails of the growth of academic English, a very small part of the much larger story of efforts around the world to help non-native speaker students, scholars and researchers survive and then flourish in increasingly Anglophone academic and technical environments. As the EAP movement would likely tell it, this narrative would be a strongly historicist account of solid advance and achieve-ment, since it is one marked by tremendous growth in the money spent on it, and in the number of materials, research papers, and conference talks generated by it. While I am not dissatisfied with my longstanding role as advocate for the non-native speaker of academic English, I have become aware of how this story of English ascendant has been strikingly unbeset by anxieties about the place of the English language itself. In great contrast to many of our colleagues in other language departments, especially in the US and other English-speaking countries, those of us in ESL have been blandly and often arrogantly confident about the popularity of and demand for our target language. We have conveniently forgotten Henry Kissinger's dictum that `one side's total security is the other side's total insecurity'.

The Need to Create Academic Languages

In 1991, Joshua Fishman, a leading US sociolinguist, wrote a book with the main title of Reversing Language Shift. In this book Fishman takes on the Jeremiahs who lament that `it is too late', or `nothing can be done' to save dying languages. He argues that small cultures have the right and ability to `live and inform life for their own members as well as to contribute thereby to the enrichment of humankind as a whole' (p. 35). As we might expect, a strong subtext is a human variant of the well-known arguments for preserving global biodiversity, which in turn parallel the arguments of theoretical linguistics about the intellectual need for linguistic diversity. Key for Fishman is preserving `mother tongue transmission' from one generation to the next. This he views as triply beneficial: first, it provides a crucial nurturing mechanism; second, it is a cultural right; and thirdly, it operates as a resource for society in general.

However, my use of Fishman's marriage of scholarship and social responsibility is somewhat side-shifted, because I want to move the concern to another area more directly relevant to my own occupations and pre- occupations. This is not the loss of languages per se, but the loss or decline of specialized registers or varieties of languages, or of their lack of development, in otherwise healthy languages as a clear consequence of the global advance of English. Of course, in some areas, registral biodiversity seems secure. The special varieties of language that have evolved to orchestrate religious practice, especially through the genres of sacred texts and religious services, particularly when supported by indigenous religious educational institutions, would seem largely immune to being overtaken by English, if only because the world's religious belong to such a wide range of age groups and social classes. Another protected area would seem to be the law since the law (colonial legacies aside) has very much been a history of national development divorced from international engagements. Kirstin Fredrickson, for example, is able to show that Appeals Court documents in a Swedish province and a US state are substantially different in their length, citational uses, and patterns of intertextuality in consequence of differ-ences in traditions of court procedure, in the varying authority of precedent, and in the different weights given to written and oral legal arguments (Fredrickson, 1996). Such differences will likely endure.

However, as we know, it is in other areas such as the media (film, theatre, television, pop music, radio, print journalism) that the concern about English domination is greater. As Michiko Kakutani says in a recent article in the New York Times Magazine:

The question isn't why American culture has gone global -- as scholars have told us, this is a simple function of the ascendancy of the English language, America's early mastery of the techniques of mass communication, the growing international demand for audiovisual product and the glossy production values of American entertainment. The question is why we've gone from exporting the best our culture has to offer to the worst. (8th June 1997, pp. 30 - 31)

Rambo, Disney, Baywatch, MTV. In consequence of this globalization, there must be doubts -- to use but a single example -- whether a recognizedly world-class Swedish-language film-making career like that of Ingmar Bergman's will be possible in the next half-century.

Apart from these areas, there is also growing concern about register loss in the world of scholarship. There are several aspects that need to be considered. First, there are the attempts being made to create and foster modern scientific varieties of languages; more specifically, the attempts to nurture scientific or academic varieties of languages such as Swahili, Arabic, Bahasa Melayu, Hebrew, and Filipino. We can note that these are all non-western, non-European languages, and thus a case can be made for their support for reasons of counteracting the current disparities between the northern and southern hemispheres. Of course, the protection and evolution of such registers or specialized languages is full of difficulties. One difficulty that can be addressed has been a relative lack of interest in such languages on the part of linguists and applied linguists. While some attention surely needs to be given to threatened aboriginal languages, to sociolinguistic processes of code-switching from one language to another, and to the complex pragmatics of intercultural communication, not enough effort or will seems left over for studying and developing academic registers as embodiments of national cultural aspirations. All too often such potentially sensible endeavours have been substituted by state-run language academies with their partly misplaced concerns about developing terminologies along linguistically pure and properly prescriptivist lines. After all, if we have no preliminary basis of research which will tell us what academic registers in, say, Italian or Arabic or Malay or Hindi are really like, we are not in a very good position to properly teach them or appropriately assess people's knowledge of them.

At my own institution, foreign languages, including ESL/EAP, are widely taught, but my institute has more expertise and more resource allocation for testing in ESL than all the other foreign language departments put together. There might be special reasons for this, but for further evidence of dominating anglophonicity in testing, we need look no further than the programme at this year's Language Teaching Research Colloquium, an annual gathering of the world's language testing experts. Here is my breakdown of the colloquium's abstracts and the languages mentioned in them:

No specific language mentioned11
Unspecified foreign languages5
Modern Greek1
Southern Min1

As can be seen, the predominance of research into the testing of English as a Second Language is staggering. There is in fact an order-of-magnitude difference between ESL/EFL (with 36 presentations or posters) and the next group of major languages (French, German, Russian, and Spanish) with but three. Meanwhile back at my place, my university's commit-ment to requiring doctoral students to demonstrate a reading ability in scholarly languages other than English is dying, and where it still lingers, the testing of that proficiency typically consists of the written translation of a couple of randomly chosen academic paragraphs from that language into English. Not frankly a very impressive performance by a major research university at the end of the twentieth century. And when we read Bernard Spolsky's massively informed history of foreign language testing, we note that in the early decades there is broad coverage of many languages, but as it moves closer and closer to the contemporary scene it focuses more and more on the ESL testing carried out by the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey, and by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate. Our resource allocations seem increasingly out of balance.

Another kind of threat to sustaining local academic languages comes from the well-attested tendency of off-centre scholars to try and publish `their best in the west', offering more minor works for local publication. A third and relatively new trend is for promotion in more and more countries to become much more directly tied to publication in international refereed journals, which are of course predominantly English-language publications. This is by no means always a sensible policy, because, in many applied fields, perhaps most crucially in agricultural and ecological sciences and in preventive medicine, the advantages of developing local research and publication traditions is clearly of benefit to many parties, from government ministers, to those concerned with environmental issues, to agricultural extension officers, and social workers.

So far, I have been at some pains to stress that our knowledge of academic and scientific English is far greater than that of any other languages, and indeed perhaps greater than all the other such languages put together. That said, I can report there is today growing interest in comparing and contrasting academic styles and rhetorics across languages. Ummul Ahmad (1997) has recently completed what I believe to be the first substantial investigation into the current status and character of scientific Malay (Bahasa Melayu). She finds support for some suggestions from elsewhere (Fredrickson & Swales, 1994) that small research communities do not need to write as competitively, as strategically, or as negatively as can be found in mainstream English-language research journals. Instead, there is concern to maintain contact with a more multi-disciplinary readership, and to justify the research project per se, rather than to argue a particular viewpoint or to test a particular hypothesis. In the Malaysian context, Ahmad additionally ascribes the avoidance of negativism in research articles to the structure of Malaysian higher education, whereby each university is given a specialized role. As a result, a member of the single department of fisheries in the country may well be unwilling to climb up on the backs of other researchers who are perforce his or her only local professional colleagues and collaborators. These studies suggest that small discourse community size and its local distri- bution combine with socio-rhetorical traditions themselves to create an alternate rhetoric of a looser and gentler kind. We thus have an account of scientific Malay that more accurately and truly reflects the rhetorical concerns of its writers; more specifically, Ahmad builds a Malay-intrinsic model that does not start from the position of seeing how and why Malay scientists fail to do what English-using researchers might do. Such initiatives are particularly welcome as they are in Yamunu Kachru's words (herself our leading authority on academic Hindi), `a legitimate activity for fostering cross-cultural understanding via an appreciation of cultural differences' (Kachru, 1995:182). However, even if the applied linguistics' world is beginning to make a more proactive and pluricentric effort to understand alternative academic and scientific traditions of scholarship, there is still a pressing need for some transfer of resources, both material and intellectual, to support well-conceived local scholarly publication initiatives in the first place.

The Need to Preserve Academic Languages

A rather different scenario is emerging in Scandinavia, where the preservation of academic registers, rather than their creation, is matter of considerable concern and debate. As I mentioned earlier, in Sweden for example, the last journal to publish original medical research in Swedish has recently gone over to an all-English policy. The full written medical register looks lost. One possible response is to adapt Fishman's `intergenerational mother tongue transmission' so that older scholars, as practised and fluent users of threatened registers, undertake greater responsibility in helping younger ones acquire these special languages. While, of course, there may be dangers here of quasi-archival preservation of traditional styles, I believe these can be lessened if the enterprise is entered into in a spirit of cross-generational collaboration and seen as a means of actually enlivening and expanding native scholarly language registers. Again, we need to encourage research and development programmes for academic languages other than English.

The loss of professionally marked registers has several fairly obvious consequences and some less obvious ones. One of the latter is the loss of professional linguistic differentiation for the purposes of literary characterization, for enjoyment, entertainment, or for parody. If nobody talks and writes any more like a medical professor or a research scientist, or even an avant-garde critic, because all these roles are now occupied by English, then creative national culture is itself impoverished. While I note that nobody apparently questions that religious scholars need to know the languages, such as Sanskrit, Chinese, Hebrew, New Testament Greek and Arabic, wherein the founding texts were originally created, nobody seems to recognize that Swedish has actually been the vehicle for much of this century for articulating the most developed forms of social democracy and the welfare state, or that, as Grafton (1994) has brilliantly showed for history, it is German scholarship that has elaborated and maintained the persuasive rhetorical device of the footnote, and as Clyne (1987) has suggested, it is German that has developed the Exkurs, inevitably and pejoratively glossed in English as `digression', or that, according to Montgomerie (1996), French science writing has maintained a certain `writerly' quality now largely lost to English. These are, I would suggest, rich observations about rich cultural phenomena.

More generally, Sigmund Ongstad, himself a Scandinavian, has observed that when a culture starts to lose its genres (or specialized text-types), it begins to die (Ongstad, 1992). Of course, there are many who would argue that the trend to academic English is unstoppable, if only because having a global academic language is so obviously `efficient', and that to resist this trend is to be both naive and sentimental. Against this, there is Finnish discourse analyst Anna Mauranen's `cultural rainforest' argument to parallel Fishman's. She writes, for example: `Insofar as rhetorical practices embody cultural thought patterns, we should encourage the maintenance of variety and diversity in academic rhetorical practices -- excessive standardization may counteract innovation and creative thought by forcing them into standard forms' (Mauranen, 1993b:172).

Mauranen's back-up strategy is to accept that, in her case, scholarly writing in Finnish is not likely to long survive outside of various kinds of Finnish studies themselves. But does this mean, she asks, that if we have to use English for academic publications, we have to use it just like the anglophones? Her own research shows that Finnish rhetoric differs con-siderably from Anglo-American rhetoric, being more implicit, being more poetic, being less inclined to `market' its text by talking about it, and so on (Mauranen, 1993a). Should we not try, she argues, to preserve our Finnish rhetorical traditions in another and much more widely distributed tongue? And how can we persuade the majoritarian anglophone cultures to accommodate our concerns and thus accept rhetorical -- if not linguistic -- diversity? While there are again many questions that arise about the transference of cultural traditions in this way and what indeed might be preserved within the matrix of another language, Mauranen's arguments should cause us to reflect soberly on anglophone gatekeeping practices. Gatekeepers would no longer be able to get away with saying that `these foreigners just don't know how to frame issues and arguments in ways that we feel comfortable with', because those foreigners would no longer be trying to do those things in the first place.

An interesting, if oblique, commentary on whether choosing a scholarly language entails choosing a rhetoric occurred with Tatanya Yakhontova, a professor of English from the Ukraine, and a Fulbright scholar who came to work with me at Michigan. She wanted to publish an article about how the teaching of academic English in her home institution might be improved. She chose an American composition journal that was typical of its kind -- a journal favouring post-modern theory, identity politics in composition, and an essayist style, and a journal that hardly ever publishes an article from outside the United States. Tanya and I therefore decided that she should, in her paper, be explicit and directly discuss her Slavic preference, doubtless reinforced by decades of Marxist control, for a `high context' style, i.e. one in which much is left implicit; a style of winks and nods, of hints and allusions. As best as I can read the story, Tanya eventually and ironically prevailed precisely because of her explicitly `low context' attempt to explain her decision to follow her traditional `high context' style of writing (Yakhantova, 1995).

More generally, support for threatened or underdeveloped scholarly languages will require a mix of strategies, several of which I have already discussed. There is at least one more that I have not discussed so far, principally because I cannot make up my mind about it. This is whether we should encourage borrowing `strong' genre features from academic English and incorporating them into other languages. If we assume, for a whole host of reasons, that, say, conference abstracts, grant proposals, research papers and their reviews are somehow on average more `developed' in English than in other languages, then should efforts be made to adopt them elsewhere? Desiree Motta-Ruth (1997) has recently shown, for example, that Brazilian conference written in Portuguese are less structured, less complete and have a lower level of that elusive character of `interestingness' than their English-language counterparts. So? According to Alastair Pennycook (personal communication), the Japanese have been particularly successful at this kind of rhetorical modelling and borrowing. But should we be trying to preserve linguistic diversity at the expense of indigenous cultural practices? And as a final take on what is for me a difficult and as yet unresolved issue, let me briefly tell you the story of Vladimir. Vladimir is a Russian astrophysicist who works as a research scientist at the University of Michigan. Some years ago, he audited one of my advanced writing classes for graduate students who are not native speakers of English. When a textbook based on this class appeared, he came to see me and asked if he could try and arrange for a Russian language version to be published by a university press in Moscow. When we had a meeting with the Director of the University of Michigan Press, it became clear that Vladimir's purpose was not to help Russian scientists and academics write better English, but to help them to write better Russian! It is with more relief than sorrow that I report that the project fell through.

Practical Implications

As might be expected, many of the reflections and concerns I have voiced in this lecture find their way into the research paper and dissertation writing courses that I offer to international doctoral students who may come from any of the university's 17 colleges. Here we look at different academic traditions around the world, especially in terms of criticism, patterns of citing practice (e.g. Block & Chi, 1995), author-reader relationships and the like. We discuss exemplars of what I have elsewhere called the `occluded' or hidden genres of the academy (Swales, 1995b), such as applications, recommendations, and referees' critiques. We explore case histories of international student academic success and failure (such as those discussed by Diane Belcher, 1994). We see what can be learned from academic parody and humour. And we look at what is involved in my class participants making their first moves toward establishing their academic credibility with an audience wider than their individual class instructors or advisers.

This past year, and with the help of my own doctoral students in linguistics, I have also been looking at another phenomenon, what I perceive to be growing elements of informality in many kinds of academic writing. We have found, for example, that imperatives were quite common in scholarly articles in four of the 10 fields we examined: philosophy, linguistics, statistics, and geology, even though most imperatives are face-threatening in peer-to-peer situations, however acceptable they may be in textbooks, manuals, and other instructional texts (Swales et al, in press). Other informal signs of our academic times are the greater use of first person pronouns, the beginning of rather more sentences with `and' or `but', the more acceptable employment of certain kinds of sentence fragments or verbless sentences, and the greater acceptability of direct rather than indirect questions. Doubtless these developments can be associated with the renewed emphases currently being given to narrative, to qualitative methods, and to a post-modernist privileging of the individual voice. After all, this lecture has been prepared for publication, and yet it contains the following:

Sentences beginning with imperatives
Recall the famous remark...
Consider the long story...
Or consider the fact...

Sentence fragments
For two reasons.
Rambo, Disney, Baywatch, MTV.
Not frankly a very impressive...

Sentences beginning with `and'
And here one of my favourite quotes...
And when we read...
And how can we persuade...

But as usual, my interest in such developments is more instrumental than intrinsic. Preliminary questionnaire and interview results suggest that my non-native speaker students are troubled by these developments. They want clear rules for formal scholarly writing. Doing that, they say, is hard enough. They do not want to have to confront the subtleties of having to consider the effects of using `I' at a particular juncture, or of whether using an imperative at another is snappy and sharp or simply heavy and bossy. With one exception so far, for my students, the trends I have mentioned are seen as yet another threat to their linguistic security and not at all as an opening for flexibility or permissiveness.

Like Jay Lemke (1994), I believe that knowledge of any genre is best viewed as a crucial strategic resource, but genre is not the only shot in the strategic locker. At least for my sophisticated senior graduate students, visiting scholars, and faculty, equally resourceful or resource-rich are discussions of anglophonicity and its insidious spread; of the causes and effects of being members of small and large discourse communities; and of being networked and off-networked. In so doing, I try to make them like the Mexicans, specialists in cultural resistance to the overarching dominance of anglophone native-speakerism. And here I can remind them that at my university, across the board international students obtain Ph.Ds in less time and with a higher percentage of success than their American counterparts. And beyond this, there is one final aspect that increasingly engages my attention, as both a writing instructor and as a linguist. I try to turn discussion to what linguistic responsibilities my participants might have. After all, they are on a fast track to success in their fields of expertise, in engineering, medicine, economics, public health, and so on. They are likely to have academic positions, and be mentors to their younger compatriots. So, if there has been rhetorical consciousness-raising about the academic language issues, such as the contemporary power imbalance between English and other scholarly languages, is there anything that they -- not me -- might want to do about it?

Earlier I was somewhat critical of the narrowing focus in Bernard Spolsky's insider account of the recent history of foreign language testing. However, Spolsky is entirely right in his arguments that history is important, since it explains how we have got to where we are. I think we have now reached a stage when many people do not see very clearly where and how English has become a tyrant, but I think we need to do so. The latest TESOL Matters, a magazine for teachers of ESL, carries a version of the plenary talk given at the 1997 TESOL Convention by Roger Bowers, a senior British Council official. Among other things, he discusses the findings from the council's `English 2000 global consultation'. Here is the extract that is most relevant to my argument:

Offered the proposition that `Exposure to and promotion of English and its cultural assumptions endangers other cultures and values', globally only 28 per cent agreed with the proposition, 49 per cent disagreed, and 11 per cent disagreed strongly. In East Asia and Pacific, 66 per cent disagreed or disagreed strongly. In the Americas, 76 per cent disagreed or disagreed strongly. (p.5)

Although I do not have the details of which kinds of people and in what numbers were offered this proposition, the fact that only a comparatively small minority of those polled assented to the danger does, I believe, reinforce my position and provide outside support for the concerns I have been raising.

Of course, intellectual and linguistic empires have so far been no more permanent than other kinds. If Otto von Bismarck had been alive at the end of this century rather than at the end of the last, he might have observed to that young journalist how Spanish was recolonizing the southern parts of the United States, or pointed to the strengths of Mandarin in the most populous and fastest developing of the world's major powers.


I owe the opening anecdote to the preface of Scott L. Montgomery's The Scientific Voice. I am grateful to Dr. Jens Trup of the University of Michigan Dental School for the story of the German Journal of Embryology and Anatomy. I would like to thank Dr. Alastair Pennycook for particularly incisive comments on an earlier version of this lecture.


Ahmad, U. K., `Scientific Research Articles in Malay: A Situated Discourse Analysis', Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Michigan, 1997.

Bailey, R. W., Images of English: A Cultural History of the Language, Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 1991.

Belcher, D., `The Apprenticeship Approach to Advanced Academic Literacy: Graduate Students and Their Mentors', English for Specific Purposes, 1994, 13, pp. 23 - 34.

Belcher, D. & Braine, G. (eds.), Academic Writing in a Second Language, Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1995.

Block, J. & Chi, L., `A Comparison of the Use of Citations in Chinese and English Academic Discourse', in Belcher, D. & Braine, G. (eds.), Academic Writing in a Second Language, 1995, pp. 231 - 271.

Bowers, R., `New Purposes, New Paths', TESOL Matters, 1997, 7(4), pp. 1, 5 & 16.

Clyne, M., `Cultural Differences in the Organization of Academic Texts', Journal of Pragmatics, 1987, 11, pp. 211 - 247.

Davies, A., `Ironising the Myth of Linguicism', Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 1996, 17, pp. 485 - 496.

Fishman, J. A., Reversing Language Shift: Theoretical and Empirical Foundations of Assistance to Threatened Languages, Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters, 1991.

Fredrickson, K. M., `Contrasting Genre Systems: Court Documents from the United States and Sweden', Multilingua, 1996, 15, pp. 275 - 304.

Fredrickson, K. & Swales, J. M., `Competition and Discourse Community: Introductions from `Nysvenska Studier'', in Britt-Louise Gunnarsson et al. (eds.), Text and Talk in Professional Contexts, Uppsala: ASLA, 1994, pp. 9 - 22.

Giddens, A., The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1984.

Grafton, A., `The Footnote from de Thon to Ranke', in Marchand, S. & Grafton, A. (eds.), Proof and Persuasion in History, Germany: Beiheft, 1994, pp. 53 - 76.

Greuter, W. et al., International Code of Botanical Nomenclature: Adopted by the Fourteenth Botanical Congress, Berlin, July-August 1987, Konigstein, Germany: Koeltz Scientific Books, 1988.

Honey, J., `Review of Phillipson's Linguistic Imperialism', RASK, 1994, 1, pp. 117 - 121.

Kachru, Y., `Cultural Meaning and Rhetorical Styles: Toward a Framework for Contrastive Rhetoric', in Cook, G. & Seidlhofer, B. (eds.), Principle and Practice in Applied Linguistics: Studies in Honour of H. G. Widdowson, 1995, pp. 171 - 84.

Lemke, J., `Genre as a Strategic Resource', paper presented at NCTE, Orlando, FL, November 1994.

Maher, J., `The Development of English as the International Language of Medicine', Applied Linguistics, 1986, 7, pp. 206 - 218.

Mauranen, A., Cultural Differences in Academic Rhetoric, Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1993a.

Mauranen, A., `Cultural Differences in Academic Discourse -- Problems of a Linguistic and Cultural Minority', in Lofman, L. et al. (eds.), The Competent Intercultural Communicator: A AFinLA Yearbook, Helsinki: AFinLA, 1993b, pp. 157 - 174.

Montgomery, S. L., The Scientific Voice, New York: The Guilford Press, 1996.

Motta-Roth, D. & Hendges, G., `The Abstract as Means of Access to the International Scientific Community', paper presented at XIV ENPULI, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, July 1997.

Pennycook, A., The Cultural Politics of English as an International Language, Harlow, UK: Longman, 1994.

Ongstad, S., `The Definition of Genre and the Didactics of Genre', paper presented at the Re-thinking Genre Seminar, Ottaw, April 1992.

Phillipson, R., Linguistic Imperialism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. Spolsky, B., Measured Words, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Swales, J. M., `Occluded Genres in the Academy: The Case of the Submission Letter', in Ventola, E. & Mauranen, A. (eds.), Academic Writing: Intercultural and Textual Issues, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1996, pp. 45 - 58.

Swales, J. M., Ahmad, U., Chang, Y., Chavez, D., Dressen, D. & Seymour, R., `Consider This: The Role of Imperatives in Scholarly Writing', Applied Linguistics, in press.

Wayt, G. W., `Lost Science in the Third World', Scientific American, August 1995, pp. 92 - 99.

Yakhontova, T., `Bahktin at Home and Abroad', Journal of Advanced Composition, 1995, 17, pp. 83 - 94.

Professor John M. Swales is a professor of linguistics and director of the English Language Institute at the University of Michigan. Among his numerous publications is his latest book, Other Floors, Other Voices: A Textography of a Small University Building.