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On the Discourse of Social Science



On the Discourse of Social Science


Wignell, Peter F


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This book uses the theory and analytical tools of Systemic Functional Linguistics to examine the discourse of social science from two perspectives. First the prototypical discourse patterns of undergraduate textbooks in the disciplines of Economics, Sociology and Political Science are analysed. The rationale for this analysis is to show how the current orthodoxy of the disciplines is constructed. Second, the book considers the evolution of the discourse patterns of social science. It does this by examining canonical works from the history of the social sciences. As a contrast works from the humanities discipline of moral philosophy from the same time scale are analysed. It is argued that the discourse of the social sciences evolved as a kind of hybrid of the discourses of the humanities and the physical sciences. At the time of writing, Peter Wignell was a senior lecturer in Applied Linguistics in the Faculty of Education, Health and Science at Charles Darwin University. One of Peter's main research interests in the role of language in the creation of specialised knowledge.


To purchase this book online visit the CDU Press website via the link below

Table of contents

Ch. One -- Ch. Two -- Ch. Three -- Ch. Four: Part One:Systemic functional linguistic work on the discourses of science and humanities; Part 2: Reational for selection of texts and means of analysis -- Ch. Five: The discourse of social science: a synchronic perspective -- Ch. Six: The discourse of social sciences: diachronic analysis. Francis Bacon's Of Fortune (1625) -- Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan (1651) -- John Locke's Of Property -- David Hume's Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding -- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations 1776) -- David Ricardo (1817) The Principles of Politicial Econony and Taxation -- John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism -- Karl Marx's Capital -- Emile Durkheim's The Division of Labour -- Max Weber's The theory of social and economic organisation -- Ch. Seven: Summary, conclusions and speculations.




2004 - Linguistics; 1399 - Other Education; 1699 - Other Studies in Human Society; Language; Politics & Society

Publisher name

Charles Darwin University Press (CDU Press)

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x, 224 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

File type



9780980292350; 980292352


Attribution International-NoDerivative 4.0 (CC-BY-ND 4.0)

Copyright owner

Wignell Peter F.



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119 Chapter Five the other disciplines. In addition, technicality, once established, is pushed to points of information prominence. 5.3 Chapter summary This section summarises and synthesises the discussion of the three social science disciplines examined above. In doing this it looks at both similarities and differences with a view to reaching a conclusion as to whether they can justifiably be regarded as being of the same kind, or examples of, in broad terms, the same discourse type. If the first question is resolved in the affirmative it remains to be considered whether this discourse of social science is much the same as or different from the discourse of science. The differences among the social science disciplines will be considered first. This will be followed by a discussion of similarities. Following this will be a discussion of social science in comparison/contrast with science. The three disciplines, sociology, economics and political science each take as their domain different areas of human experience. Apart from this obvious difference there is also a difference of scope. Sociology claims as its domain all of human society, in particular industrial society. It would be possible to have, say, a sociology of politics or a sociology of economics just as there is a sociology of medicine or the family. What the sociology textbook presents is sociology having a more or less unified technical means of analysing any aspect (institution) of society. This is not to suggest that the interpretation or conclusions will be the same, but rather that the way of looking will be more or less common. Sociology presents itself as a more or less internally unified (in terms of means) discipline. In contrast, economics and political science claim for themselves smaller domains of human experience. In the case of economics, the textbook presents one unified way of looking: one set (albeit a very large set) of technical and theoretical tools. It is both relatively narrow in scope and narrow in method. Economics presents itself as an internally unified discipline. In this way it is both different from and similar to sociology: different in scope and similar in means. Political science is similar to economics in the scale of its scope: both deal with smaller portions of human activity than sociology. It presents itself as different from both sociology and economics in terms of internal unification. Political science presents itself as a diversified discipline both in terms of the object of analysis (what is the scope of politics?) and in terms of ways of looking. There is, however, a kind of unity in this diversity. Different approaches are discussed and evaluated using technicality. For example, while different approaches might regard power as being realised differently and attempt to measure it differently, there appears to be no dispute that power is fundamental to politics, no matter how broadly or narrowly politics is defined. The diversity appears to be at the highest levels of abstraction. Sociology and political science both use semiotic abstractions more frequently than does economics, in which they are hardly found at all. However, they appear to use them differently. Sociology uses semiotic abstractions as a source of technicality (values, ideology), while political science does not construe semiotic abstractions technicality (it does not make them technical). Instead, generic abstractions and metaphors appear to be made technical (power, influence, authority) and are then used as semiotic abstractions (concepts) to produce semiotic abstractions (understandings). This point is taken up in Chapter Five after the phylogenesis of the discourse has been analysed and discussed. The three disciplines do, however, have one thing in common. The three disciplines use lexicogrammatical and discourse semantic resources to construe their domains similarly. The deployment of these resources will be discussed below in relation to metafunctions. Logically, at the macro scale, the pattern is similar in all three disciplines. The preferred conjunctive relation at this scale is implicit internal similarity (elaboration). The logical organisation of all 21131 text.indd 119 17/5/07 11:42:11 AM

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