Similarly to Latin in Europe in the Middle Ages, nowadays it is English that performs the role of lingua franca of international academic communication all over the world. However, recent studies on written discourse have shown considerable cross-cultural variation in academic texts produced in English (see e.g. Clyne 1987, Ventola and Mauranen 1991, Cmejrkova and Danes 1997, Duszak 1997, Chamonikolasova 2005, Mur-Duenas 2008, Povolna 2012). Consequently, the question arises as to whether or not authors from different cultural backgrounds and intellectual traditions should follow the Anglo-American conventions of academic style when producing academic texts in English. Many linguists and students of language wonder whether the dominant Anglo-American conventions ought to be regarded as the standard for all academic texts written in English even though there are no native speakers of academic English and, moreover, English viewed as “the global lingua franca of academia” is “predominantly used by non-native speakers” (Mauranen et al. 2010: 183). The variation in the world language of academia concerns all text characteristics, including differences in the organization of form and meaning in academic texts. It results from the influence of L1 writing habits and culture- and language-specific conventions which experts working in different fields of research transfer from their mother tongue to their academic texts written in English.
Since the achieving of a certain level of academic literacy is an indisputable prerequisite for acceptance within an international academic community, academic written discourses (e.g. research articles, reviews, abstracts, annotations) have to be mastered by non-native writers as part of their “secondary socialization” in educational and research institutions (Mauranen et al. 2010: 184). In order to become recognized members of international academia authors from different cultural backgrounds and intellectual traditions have to write in English which is why for the most part they attempt to adhere to conventions typical of academic discourses as produced by native speakers of English.
Anglo-American academic texts resemble nonacademic texts in many respects (Clyne 1987). In general, they tend to be rather dialogic in character and more interactive, thus providing more space for negotiation of meaning between the writer and the reader(s). They are more reader- oriented, which stems, for example, from an overall linear organization of discourse through explicit signposting, including text organizers such as discourse markers. These characteristics are in contrast to rather monologic, less interactive texts, which include numerous digressions and provide readers with knowledge and theory rather than space for negotiation. Such writer-oriented texts, which are more demanding for reader(s), are mostly connected with Teutonic intellectual traditions attributed to academic texts written in some Central European languages such as Czech, German and Polish (Galtung 1985, as quoted in Duszak 1997). These academic and cultural backgrounds and intellectual traditions prefer a more impersonal style of academic writing with fewer reader-friendly devices such as text organizers and fewer explicit clues concerning content, such as clear paragraphing and transparent section headings. Instead, a considerable amount of intellectual effort and an ability to process rather demanding texts filled with knowledge and theory are usually required of the reader(s). In consequence, it is assumed that negotiation of preferred levels of interactivity and dialogicality as well as the overall discourse organization of form and content in academic written texts across different fields, languages and cultures become indispensable in the ongoing process of increasing internationalization of all scholarship.
The aim of this chapter is to discover cross-cultural variation, above all in certain language means native speakers of English and Czech expert writers apply in order to express important semantic relations in the genre of RAs. Owing to their complexity and above all importance in academic argumentation and presentation of the author’s own standpoints, causal and contrastive relations are often expressed by certain explicit text organizers, mostly labelled discourse markers in the relevant literature (Povolna 2010). Besides, since an appropriate knowledge of DMs including those under investigation is commonly listed among language features that are taught and practised in courses of academic writing at universities and often mentioned by authors of manuals of English academic style (Bennett 2009), this study investigates variation in the ways in which English and Czech expert writers have adopted the use of causal and contrastive DMs when establishing relations between messages in academic texts. Moreover, for a comparison of Czech expert and Czech novice writers, some results from the author’s previous research into novice academic writing have been included (for more details, see Povolna 2012).