University of Cambridge > > CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) seminar > Linguistic discrimination, processing fluency, and the foreign language effect in science

Linguistic discrimination, processing fluency, and the foreign language effect in science

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The English language now dominates scientific communications. Yet, many scientists are not English native speakers. Their proficiency in the language is often more limited, and their scientific contributions (e.g., manuscripts) in English may frequently contain linguistic features that disrupt the fluency of a reader’s or listener’s information processing even when the contributions are understandable. Scientific gatekeepers (e.g., journal reviewers) sometimes cite these features to justify negative decisions on manuscripts. Such justifications may rest on the prima facie plausible assumption that linguistic characteristics that hinder fast and easy understandability of scientific contributions are epistemically undesirable in science. I shall raise some doubts about this assumption by drawing on empirical research on processing fluency. I also argue that directing scientists with English as a foreign language toward approaching native-level English (as science journals commonly do) can have the negative consequence of reducing their potential to make scientific belief formation more reliable. These points suggest that one seemingly compelling justification for linguistically discriminating against potentially many scientific contributions in non-native English is questionable and that the common insistence by scientific gatekeepers on native-like English can be epistemically harmful to science.

This talk is part of the CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) seminar series.

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