At close range: prefaces and other text types in the Coruña Corpus of English Scientific Writing

Palabras clave: discourse studies


What we nowadays term “front matter” was conceived of in the past as a direct address to the reader. Over time, standard formulae were developed and certain rhetorical devices consolidated. Despite the evolution in the style used for the transmission of scientific knowledge, late modern authors were familiar with the highly conventionalised patterns of prefaces and dedications and left any traces of “discursive freedom” for their scientific works. This paper revolves around the either parallel or divergent development of prefaces to scientific works and the body of the texts themselves. For this we have analysed samples written by women between 1700 and 1900 in the Coruña Corpus of English Scientific Writing. The study of some linguistic elements generally admitted to express or denote involvement have rendered a decline in the use of involvement features but opposite frequency of use of the same features in both prefaces and actual works. Unexpectedly, the overall frequency of these features is higher in the texts than in their corresponding prefaces.


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