AbstractObjective: The objective of this paper is to investigate the quantitative and qualitative diachronic evolution of critical (Cr) with respect to non-critical (NCr) references in English medical discourse over a 185 year-period. Materials and Methods: We analyzed a corpus of 90 medical articles drawn from 34 different journals published between 1810 and 1995. Cr and NCr references were recorded in each paper and their frequency of occurrence was computed per 20 year-period. Results were analyzed by means of Chi-square tests. Results: Our quantitative results indicate that in the corpus as a whole NCr significantly outweigh Cr references. When diachronically analyzed, our quantitative data revealed that the corpus analyzed could be divided into 2 blocks: Block A (1810-1929) and Block B (1930-1995), the cutting point being the 1930¿s when NCr references started exhibiting a dramatic ascent. Our findings further showed that, proportionally speaking, Cr references were significantly more frequent in Block A than in Block B, but that NCr references significantly outnumbered Cr ones in Block B. Our quantitative data also indicated that the NCr/Cr reference ratio remained rather constant for the first 120 years studied, but that it changed radically from the 1930¿s. Finally, our qualitative findings revealed that 19th and early 20th century Cr references were formulated in a much more direct, involved, personal and author-responsible manner than their mid- and late 20th century counterparts, the rhetorical features of the latter being a pronounced hedginess and the shifting of the disagreeement responsibility from a human agent (who became a detached and apparently neutral actor) to an inanimate ¿talking fact/finding¿ which is then given a prominent thematic position.
Copyright (c) 1999 Françoise Salager Meyer
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