Features and Functions of Scientific Language(s) in TIMSS 2011

Tomas Persson, Åsa af Geijerstam, Caroline Liberg


This study is examining differences in language use within different scientific subjects by analysing all grade 8 science items from TIMSS 2011. Four meaning dimensions are identified as central for analysing what functions different linguistic features fulfil in scientific language. They concern the level of Personification in a text, and the levels of Packing, Precision and Presentation of information.


Results show that the language use in TIMSS in some regards differs between the scientific subjects. The average physics language uses more words. The language use in biology shows higher Packing and lower Precision, whereas physics show the opposite pattern. Although items are generally low in Personification, the language of physics has higher levels of Personification, especially when compared to earth science. The language in chemistry often presents information in ways that are more complex. With the results, the study is challenging the notion that there is a single scientific language.


TIMSS, Systemic Functional Linguistics, Science education, Scientific language, Large scale studies

Full Text:


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5617/nordina.2425

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.