publication . Article . 2020

The evolutionary pattern of language in scientific writings: A case study of Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society (1665–1869)

Kun Sun; Haitao Liu; Wenxin Xiong;
Open Access English
  • Published: 17 Dec 2020 Journal: Scientometrics, volume 126, issue 2, pages 1,695-1,724 (issn: 0138-9130, eissn: 1588-2861, Copyright policy)
Abstract
AbstractScientific writings, as one essential part of human culture, have evolved over centuries into their current form. Knowing how scientific writings evolved is particularly helpful in understanding how trends in scientific culture developed. It also allows us to better understand how scientific culture was interwoven with human culture generally. The availability of massive digitized texts and the progress in computational technologies today provide us with a convenient and credible way to discern the evolutionary patterns in scientific writings by examining the diachronic linguistic changes. The linguistic changes in scientific writings reflect the genre shifts that took place with historical changes in science and scientific writings. This study investigates a general evolutionary linguistic pattern in scientific writings. It does so by merging two credible computational methods: relative entropy; word-embedding concreteness and imageability. It thus creates a novel quantitative methodology and applies this to the examination of diachronic changes in the Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society (PTRS, 1665–1869). The data from two computational approaches can be well mapped to support the argument that this journal followed the evolutionary trend of increasing professionalization and specialization. But it also shows that language use in this journal was greatly influenced by historical events and other socio-cultural factors. This study, as a “culturomic” approach, demonstrates that the linguistic evolutionary patterns in scientific discourse have been interrupted by external factors even though this scientific discourse would likely have cumulatively developed into a professional and specialized genre. The approaches proposed by this study can make a great contribution to full-text analysis in scientometrics.
Persistent Identifiers
Fields of Science and Technology classification (FOS)
05 social sciences, 0501 psychology and cognitive sciences, 050105 experimental psychology, 0509 other social sciences, 050904 information & library sciences
Subjects
free text keywords: Library and Information Sciences, Computer Science Applications, General Social Sciences, Argument, Epistemology, Concreteness, Scientific culture, Scientometrics, Semantic similarity, Professionalization, Specialization (logic), Scientific discourse, History
Related Organizations
Communities
  • Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage
  • Social Science and Humanities
Funded by
EC| WIDE
Project
WIDE
Wide Incremental learning with Discrimination nEtworks
  • Funder: European Commission (EC)
  • Project Code: 742545
  • Funding stream: H2020 | ERC | ERC-ADG
Validated by funder
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Article . 2020
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Scientometrics
Article . 2020
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