Language accessibility in academic publishing: the role of the editor in bridging the linguistic gap

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University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Accessibility to academic text has often been understood to refer to factors other than language, such as physically being able to access the text, which has led to discussions on open access systems. In this research, the question of accessibility refers to the editor’s understanding of the reader’s ability to comprehend academic text. The purpose of this research was to understand how editors of academic books consider the varying language backgrounds of South African academics. The research used the concept of the linguistic gap to identify the role of the editor in navigating the gap that exists between academic authors and their audience. The investigation made use of a qualitative research method, which included primary and secondary data collection. This was made up of literature that was consulted to build the literature review, along with the discussions with the participants. The data collection method of the research included the information gathered in the literature review, along with the interviews conducted with the research participants. This method was relevant to understanding the role of the editor in making academic text accessible, because it equipped the researcher to investigate the experiences of academic editors and publishers in ensuring that the text that is published is accessible to the reader. The study showed that there is definitely a gap that exists between the academic author and the reader. The cause of this gap was identified as being two-fold, the first cause being the miscommunication between first language and second language speakers of English. The second reason is the varying levels of education between the author and the reader. The research findings have shown that the role of the editor is to ensure that the message communicated by the author is seamlessly received by the reader. The editor exists within a balance of ensuring that they meet the editing brief that has been specified by the publisher, along with making sure that the author is satisfied with the edit conducted on the text and, lastly, ensuring that the reader is able to understand what is being communicated. Recommendations for further research include, picking up where this research left off, by including academic authors and readers of different levels in the study. This would provide a holistic view on the question of language accessibility in academic publishing.
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Humanities, School of Literature, Language and Media, University of the Witwatersrand in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Publishing Studies, 2022
Academic publishing, Audience, Editor, Language accessibility, Linguistic gap