Science and Languages

  • Charles Forsdick


This chapter recognises the need for a lingua franca in scientific research, in order to enable collaborative working and the circulation of knowledge. However, it challenges the monolingual assumptions that the acceptance of such a lingua franca often implies. The contemporary cultural dominance of English as a lingua franca often eclipses any awareness of the diversity of languages on which the development of science has historically depended. It disguises the ways in which the development of knowledge depends on complex processes of translation—of concepts, terms and ideas—which reveal the inherently multilingual nature of scientific research. The chapter considers the interdependency of science and languages, underlining the extent to which scientific research as a fundamentally human endeavour relies on, and is enhanced by, a recognition of linguistic diversity.

Further Reading

  1. Amano, T., González-Varo, J. P., & Sutherland, W. J. (2016). Languages Are Still a Major Barrier to Global Science. PLOS Biology, 14, 12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Gordin, M. (2015). Scientific Babel: The Language of Science from the Fall of Latin to the Rise of English. New York: Profile Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Johnson. (2017, February 2). The Giant Shoulders of English. The Economist. Available at
  4. Meneghini, R., & Packer, A. L. (2007). Is There Science Beyond English? EMBO Reports, 8(2), 112–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Montgomery, S. (2013). Does Science Need a Global Language?: English and the Future of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles Forsdick
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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