CAUSAL CHAINING AND THE ACTIVE/PASSIVE RATION IN SCIENCE TEXTS

Christoph Haase

Abstract

In this contribution, a number of constructions of the type X CAUSE Y (and its morphosyntactic variants) are investigated under the perspective that the causer and the caused (and perhaps the causee) stand in a causal relationship but also in a relationship of different degrees of agency. The most obvious syntactic signature of this is the difference between active and passive sentences. It also offers the advantage to be quantifi ed and examined statistically. For this end, a corpus of academic texts from the natural sciences was queried and the frequencies and domains analysed. The fi ndings may help to improve understanding the rationale behind causal chaining and facilitate cause-effect comprehension for the reader due to inferencing in the ‘correct’ or reversed order. They further demonstrate that the scientifi c process (which involves the fi nding of natural laws by means of an establishment of cause-effect relationships) is gradually different in ‘softer’ sciences (which often operate on correlation instead of causation).

Keywords

causation; agency; active-passive; corpus linguistics; English for Academic Purposes; EAP

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https://doi.org/10.5817/DI2015-2-21


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