Writing good English: is scientific English a Latin language in disguise?

ESCREVER CIÊNCIA COM QUALIDADE: SERIA O INGLÊS CIENTÍFICO UMA LÍNGUA LATINA DISFARÇADA?

Mauricio Rocha-e-Silva About the author

BACKGROUND:

English is the lingua franca of science; it is the language of the two last world superpowers and the language of four out of the world's ten greatest producers of science; it is a fairly simple language and the most hybridized language in history, with Latin and French contributing 60% of the entire English lexicon. The object of this study is to determine whether the frequency of use of imported words is a function of literary genre.

METHOD:

Texts were randomly selected from (a) medical scientific original articles, (b) newspaper financial reports, (c) sport reportages, (d) literary texts and (e) colloquial English; for comparison a collection of similarly distributed texts were selected from Portuguese; the frequency of occurrence of Latin or Neo-Latin words was determined in the English texts as well as the occurrence of non-Latin or non-Neo-Latin words in the Portuguese texts; a oneway analysis of variance was used to determine whether significant differences occurred between genres in the two languages.

RESULTS:

The frequency of occurrence of Latin/French words in English text was significantly dependent on the literary genre, being maximal in medical scientific texts and minimal in colloquial English; in contrast, the frequency of occurrence of non-Latin words in Portuguese was constant throughout the same literary genres.

CONCLUSION:

The use of Latin/French words in English is directly proportional to the complexity of the literary genre, a phenomenon not observed in Portuguese, a typical Neo-Latin language.

KEYWORDS:
Medical Education; Scientific language; Ethymology


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