The Language of Discovery


  • Wiley Souba Dartmouth



Discovery, as a public attribution, and discovering, the act of conducting research, are experiences that entail “languaging” the unknown. This distinguishing property of language - its ability to bring forth, out of the unspoken realm, new knowledge, original ideas, and novel thinking – is essential to the discovery process. In sharing their ideas and views, scientists create co-negotiated linguistic distinctions that prompt the revision of established mental maps and the adoption of new ones. While scientific mastery entails command of the conversational domain unique to a specific discipline, there is an emerging conversational domain that must be mastered that goes beyond the language unique to any particular specialty. Mastery of this new conversational domain gives researchers access to their hidden mental maps that limit their ways of thinking about and doing science. The most effective scientists use language to recontextualize their approach to problem-solving, which triggers new insights (previously unavailable) that result in new discoveries. While language is not a replacement for intuition and other means of knowing, when we try to understand what’s outside of language we have to use language to do so.

Author Biography

Wiley Souba, Dartmouth

Dean, Dartmouth Medical School VP for Health Affairs, Dartmouth College




How to Cite

Souba, W. (2011). The Language of Discovery. DISCO: Journal of Biomedical Discovery and Collaboration, 6, 53–69.