Quantitative Data Presentation in German Research Articles in Economics
Irena Vassileva (Bernau bei Berlin, Germany)
Harwood (1995:48) describes the ‘clash of academic cultures’ when German scientists – refugees from the Nazi regime immigrated to the USA – as follows: “The émigrés were struck by their American hosts’ preoccupation with method and measurement while the Americans were amazed by their guests’ predilection for theorizing on a grand scale”. The Americans were an academic “community that was predominantly experimental”. The same observation is also made by Galtung (1985) in his seminal paper on intellectual styles of scientific communication.
In order to test the above hypotheses in view of present-day scientific argumentation practices the study aims to look at the ways and means of quantitative data presentation in German with special attention to the correlation between occurrences of exact quantities versus approximated quantities. The functional (or communicative) values of the elicited vague expressions are discussed in terms of Channell’s (1994) and Dönninghaus’ (2005) classifications. Further on, the investigation focuses on the linguistic means of realisation of approximations such as ungefähr, einige, fast and the like.
The investigation is based on research articles in economics written by native speakers of German and published in leading peer-reviewed journals, as well as in collections of articles (20). The presentation of statistical data is evaluated in terms of layout, quantity and relevance, with particular emphasis on data treatment and discussion (upgrading / downgrading the importance of data, ignoring, approximating, covering for lack of specific information, etc.) The results are then compared to Channell’s (1994) observations on English economic articles.
The results point to both cross-cultural and interpersonal variations in the employment of the above strategies, as well as to differences in the linguistic realisation of approximating. At the same time, however, the outcomes of the study reveal a definite shift among German scholars towards more empirical, statistically supported research. This fact demonstrates once again the far-reaching consequences of the process of globalisation – the Anglo-American rhetorical patterns of academic discourse presentation have irrevocably permeated all fields of academic communication.
- Channell, Joanna (1994): Vague Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Dönninghaus, Sabine (2005): Die Vagheit der Sprache. Begriffsgeschichte und Funktionsbeschreibung anhand der tschechischen Wissenschaftssprache. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
- Galtung, Johann (1985): Struktur, Kultur und intellektueller Stil. Ein vergleichender Essay über sachsonische, teutonische, gallische und nipponische Wissenschaft. In: Alois Wierlacher (Hrsg.) Das Fremde und das Eigene. München: Judicum-Verlag. 151–193.
- Harwood, Jonathan (1995): Are There National Styles of Scientific Thought? Genetics in Germany, 1900–1933. In: Weingart, Peter (ed.) Grenzüberschreitungen in der Wissenschaft = Crossing Boundaries in Science. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlag.