Tropes, science and communication

Abstract: 

Compared to expert-to-expert - or peer-to-peer - communication, the language of popular science is characterised by a wider use of figurative devices. This applies to all forms of verbal and non-verbal communication. Specialized texts are characterised by a restricted and rigorous lexicon both in spoken and - even more so - in written language. Namely, a widespread use of terms which are monosemic, unambiguous and non context-dependent terms, and a minimum amount of natural linguistic choices. The few polysemic, ambiguous and context-dependent words encountered in a scientific text are highly functional, since meaning is mainly conveyed through field-specific terms. The same rules apply to the iconography of a scientific text, where most pictures are graphs, diagrams or schemes. Their purpose is to give the reader a visual photo-like equivalent of the concepts discussed in the text. These images are all the more effective thanks to the use of colours, external references, highlighting and other devices, which make them functional to their explanatory purpose.

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Published: 

21 March 2003