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Stance in climate science: A diachronic analysis of epistemic stance features in IPCC physical science reports

Authors:

Robert Poole ,

University of Alabama, Department of English, US
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Nicholas Hayes

University of Oxford, Clarendon Institute, GB
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Abstract

This diachronic corpus-based analysis investigates the use of epistemic stance devices in
reports from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
from the date of its first report on the physical science of climate change in 1990 to its
sixth contribution in 2021. Applying the framework of stance (Biber & Finegan, 1989),
the study focuses upon changes in the use of the epistemic stance markers of modal verbs
and adverbs across the approximately 30-year period. To empirically measure the
strength of trends in the use of these stance devices, Kendall’s Tau correlation coefficient
was calculated for each item using their normalized frequencies from the six reports.
Analysis displayed that the use of modal verbs has consistently decreased across this
period of time in which the scientific consensus regarding the anthropogenic origins of
climate change expanded and solidified. Additionally, of the greater than twenty stance
adverbs displaying consistent use trajectories across the period, the majority of these
items were emphatic adverbs declining in use.

How to Cite: Poole, R., & Hayes, N. (2022). Stance in climate science: A diachronic analysis of epistemic stance features in IPCC physical science reports. Journal of Corpora and Discourse Studies, 5(1), 37–60.
Published on 19 Sep 2022.
Peer Reviewed

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