Expressing cause and effect in hard and soft scientific discourse


Academic writing
hard science
soft science
disciplinary variation
English for Academic Purposes

How to Cite

Pérez-Guerra, J., Smirnova, E. ., & Kostareva , E. . (2024). Expressing cause and effect in hard and soft scientific discourse: A corpus-based analysis. Ibérica, (47), 121–148.


This study is a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the use of cause and effect expressions in two corpora that comprise research articles in four hard and four soft disciplines, selected to represent a broad cross-section of academic discourse. Linguistic expressions of cause/effect are hypothesised to deviate in hard and soft sciences, and the differences pertain not only to key lexical categories but also to syntactic patterns. With the ultimate goal of facilitating practitioners of ESP (English for Specific Purposes) and EAP (English for Academic Purposes) to produce discipline-specific materials, which can effectively address the needs of learners of different sciences, this study investigates the productivity of lexical units, representative of cause/effect expressions in hard and soft scientific disciplines, as identified in the Louvain EAP Dictionary, as well as the main grammatical patterns where the former are attested. This paper shows that cause expressions are more common in soft sciences, while the expressions of effect are used in similar proportion in the two categories. As for lexical strategies, soft sciences tend to use more nouns to express cause/effect, while hard sciences rely on prepositions and conjunctions to a larger extent.

Copyright (c) 2024 Javier Pérez-Guerra, Elizaveta Smirnova , Elena Kostareva

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


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