Research axis n°4: Discourses, domains and specialized milieux

Area Manager and Contact: Fanny Domenec

Specialised discourse is not created ex nihilo and its analysis should, therefore, be based on the communities and milieus which produce it, the domain (academic or professional) it comes from and its history, place and function in society. For linguists, analysing specialised discourse in context – not only textual but also historical, social and cultural – allows for a better understanding of how domains are born, how they evolve, as well as the extent to which the specialist discourse is influenced by tradition and by a milieu’s culture as well as by their aims and the public they serve. The analysis of specialised discourse, which necessitates the creation of corpora, is supported by digital tools (concordancers and other programs) which allow for the search of atypical characteristics in any given discourse. This analysis can be conducted from a diachronic or synchronic perspective, depending on the researcher’s needs.

Terminological aspects are indispensable in the study of specialised language, but they are only one point of entry into a specialisation. Beyond what can be learnt from terminological and conceptual trees, all variations from “common” language that are characteristic of a particular domain should be closely considered. Researchers in specialised language take into account various textual genres. They also explore issues related to rhetoric and stylistics. For example, they call attention to euphemisms and discursive precautions questioning their motivation using a pragmatic approach.

In this way, intersections with sociological and ethnographical approaches can be forseen in order to place specialised discourse in its context of production and reception. Interacting with actors from a specialised milieu can, for example, provide new perspectives on the lexical and rhetorical choices identified when analysing the corpus. Similarly, analysing perceptions associated with certain terms can explain certain evolutions from a diachronic perspective.

When it comes to academic disciplines, the study of metaphors is a precious resource that makes the history of ideas shaping the specialty accessible. Indeed, the metaphors that constitute specialised domains are essential. They show up as metaphorical terms; studying them in a diachronic way makes scientific paradigm shifts possible. They are also important in the conversation between science and society. In professional domains, metaphors can act as a tool to persuade providing clues as to how locutors express their vision of the world or shape their audience’s thinking (framing).

In any case, metaphors can have an iconic, heuristic, pedagogical and argumentative function; studying them makes it possible to gauge the pulse of a period, of a particular culture or institution. This research area aims to tackle all the aforementioned facets of specialised discourses.