The Birth of Scientific English
World science is dominated today by a small number of languages, including Japanese, German and French, but it is English which is probably the most popular global language of science. This is not just because of the importance of English-speaking countries such as the USA in scientific research; the scientists of many non-English-speaking countries find that they need to write their research papers in English to reach a wide international audience. Given the prominence of scientific English today, it may seem surprising that no one really knew how to write science in English before the 17th century. Before that, Latin was regarded as the lingua franca1 for European intellectuals.
The European Renaissance (c. 14th-16th century) is sometimes called the ‘revival of learning’, a time of renewed interest in the ‘lost knowledge’ of classical times. At the same time, however, scholars also began to test and extend this knowledge. The emergent nation states of Europe developed competitive interests in world exploration and the development of trade. Such expansion, which was to take the English language west to America and east to India, was supported by scientific developments such as the discovery of magnetism and hence the invention of the compass improvements in cartography and — perhaps the most important scientific revolution of them all — the new theories of astronomy and the movement of the Earth in relation to the planets and stars, developed by Copernicus (1473-1543).
England was one of the first countries where scientists adopted and publicised Copernican ideas with enthusiasm. Some of these scholars, including two with interests in language — John Wallis and John Wilkins — helped found the Royal Society in 1660 in order to promote empirical scientific research.
Across Europe similar academies and societies arose, creating new national traditions of science. In the initial stages of the scientific revolution, most publications in the national languages were popular works, encyclopaedias, educational textbooks and translations. Original science was not done in English until the second half of the 17th century. For example, Newton published his mathematical treatise, known as the Principia, in Latin, but published his later work on the properties of light — Opticks — in English.
There were several reasons why original science continued to be written in Latin. The first was simply a matter of audience. Latin was suitable for an international audience of scholars, whereas English reached a socially wider, but more local, audience. Hence, popular science was written in English.
A second reason for writing in Latin may, perversely, have been a concern for secrecy. Open publication had dangers in putting into the public domain preliminary ideas which had not yet been fully exploited by their ‘author’. This growing concern about intellectual property rights was a feature of the period — it reflected both the humanist notion of the individual, rational scientist who invents and discovers through private intellectual labour, and the growing connection between original science and commercial exploitation. There was something of a social distinction between ‘scholars and gentlemen’ who understood Latin, and men of trade who lacked a classical education. And in the mid-17th century it was common practice for mathematicians to keep their discoveries and proofs secret, by writing them in cipher, in obscure languages, or in private messages deposited in a sealed box with the Royal Society. Some scientists might have felt more comfortable with Latin precisely because its audience, though international, was socially restricted. Doctors clung the most keenly to Latin as an ‘insider language’.
A third reason why the writing of original science in English was delayed may have been to do with the linguistic inadequacy of English in the early modern period. English was not well equipped to deal with scientific argument. First it lacked the necessary technical vocabulary. Second, it lacked the grammatical resources required to represent the world in an objective and impersonal way, and to discuss the relations, such as cause and effect, that might hold between complex and hypothetical entities.
Fortunately, several members of the Royal Society possessed an interest in Language and became engaged in various linguistic projects. Although a proposal in 1664 to establish a committee for improving the English language came to little, the society’s members did a great deal to foster the publication of science in English and to encourage the development of a suitable writing style. Many members of the Royal Society also published monographs in English. One of the first was by Robert Hooke, the society’s first curator of experiments, who described his experiments with microscopes in Micrographia (1665). This work is largely narrative in style, based on a transcript of oral demonstrations and lectures.
In 1665 a new scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions, was inaugurated. Perhaps the first international English-language scientific journal, it encouraged a new genre of scientific writing, that of short, focused accounts of particular experiments.
The 17th century was thus a formative period in the establishment of scientific English. In the following century much of this momentum was lost as German established itself as the leading European language of science. It is estimated that by the end of the 18th century 401 German scientific journals had been established as opposed to 96 in France and 50 in England. However, in the 19th century scientific English again enjoyed substantial lexical growth as the industrial revolution created the need for new technical vocabulary, and new, specialized, professional societies were instituted to promote and publish in the new disciplines.
lingua franca: a language which is used for communication between groups of people who speak different languages
Complete the summary.
Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 28-34 on your answer sheet.
In Europe, modern science emerged at the same time as the nation state. At first, the scientific language of choice remained 28…………… . It allowed scientists to communicate with other socially privileged thinkers while protecting their work from unwanted exploitation. Sometimes the desire to protect ideas seems to have been stronger than the desire to communicate them, particularly in the case of mathematicians and 29…………… . In Britain, moreover, scientists worried that English had neither the 30…………… nor the 31………… to express their ideas. This situation only changed after 1660 when scientists associated with the 32………… set about developing English. An early scientific journal fostered a new kind of writing based on short descriptions of specific experiments. Although English was then overtaken by 33……… , it developed again in the 19th century as a direct result of the 34……………….
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 3?
In boxes 35-37 on your answer sheet, write
TRUE if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this
35 There was strong competition between scientists in Renaissance Europe.
36 The most important scientific development of the Renaissance period was the discovery of magnetism.
37 In 17th-century Britain, leading thinkers combined their interest in science with an interest in how to express ideas.
Complete the table.
Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 38-40 on your answer sheet.
Science written in the first half of the 17th century
Language used Latin English
Type of science Original 38…………
Examples 39………… Encyclopaedias
Target audience International scholars 40…………, but socially wider
关键词：Europe/nation state/At first
解题思路: 在首段末句，作者提到了 Before that, Latin was regarded as the lingua franca for European intellectuals. 我们隐约可以感觉到拉丁文在学术界的盛行，但这还不足以让我们确定此空就要填Latin一词。在第五和第六段中，作者提到了学术界流行拉丁文的原因。其中第六段开头一句提到A second reason for writing in Latin may, perversely, have a concern for secrecy. 这正好就等同题目中28空后面的那句话，所以我们椎测答案应该填写Latin一词。
解题思路: 题目中告诉我们：有的时候保护个人观点的欲望远远大于与人分享观点的欲望，特别是对于数学家和___。在这里应该填上一个表示职业的名词。而第六段中在mathematician之后，只有一个表示职业的名词，那就是doctors。故答案应该填 doctors。
Question 30 and Question 31
答案： technical vocabulary grammatical resources (in either order)
关键词： Britain/ English/ neither... nor...
定位原文: 第7段第3句“First, it lacked…”
解题思路: 首先用English将此题定位在第七段中，这一段提到了英文为什么迟迟未被用作学术语言的原因。从题目上我们看出这两个原因应该是并列的，进而找到了first和second，然后就选出了答案technical vocabulary和grammatical resources。
答案： Royal Society
关键词：after 1660/ associated with
定位原文: 第8段第1句“... Several members of the Royal Society... ”
解题思路: 按照顺序原则，此题答案应该在第八段出现。在这一段当中作者不断提到皇家学会的科学家如何致力于发展英语作为一种学术语言，并且举出了具体的例子。所以答案应该填Royal Society。
定位原文: 第10段第2句“...as German established itself as…”
答案： industrial revolution
解题思路: 是工业革命促进了科技英语的复兴，所以此题答案应该填industrial revolution。
答案： NOT GIVEN
解题思路: 在此段当中并没有提到文艺复兴时期欧洲的科学家们是如何激烈竞争的，是一道完全未提及型NOT GIVEN。
定位原文: 第2段第4句“ ...was supported by scientific developments such as the discovery of magnetism, improvements…”