Questioning certainty in research articles and popular science articles

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This paper is a comparative study of the use of direct and indirect modalized wh-questions in research articles and popular science articles. The corpus analysis reveals that these questions are often interpreted as rhetorical questions and that they are often used to question a proposition that has been previously presented as certain or almost certain. We first suggest that rhetorical questions of this form fall into three semantic types (non-polyphonic, polemic and pseudo-polemic). Their distribution and/or function are then shown to vary across genres – they tend to serve argumentative purposes in research articles and explicative purposes in popular science articles. Finally we examine the parameters which affect the strength with which the presupposition is questioned.


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