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What is the meaning of the phrase "new strands of research" in the following sentence:

The last two decades have also seen the emergence of new strands of research on multilingualism which have incorporated critical and poststructuralist perspective from social theory and embraced new epistemologies and research methods.

Is there any synonym for this phrase or for the word strand in this context?

  • It's probably a natural off-shoot of the phrase "line of research", with the added caveat that "strand" perhaps indicates that the subject is less heavily researched. – Maroon May 9 '15 at 16:42
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    See also thread of the argument, skein of discourse, weaving a story, etc. The metaphor theme Writing Is Weaving is very old and dates to the invention of writing, which was described in terms of weaving, a previously invented technology, rather the same way we talk about computing using office metaphors like file. This theme is echoed in the etymology of the PIE root *teks-, the source of both text and textile. – John Lawler May 9 '15 at 17:04
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One of the definitions of strand denotes this metaphoric application:

1.3 An element that forms part of a complex whole:

ODO

The research is the complex whole, and the strands are elements of that research.

The etymology makes the analogous word picture clear:

"individual fiber of a rope, string, etc.," late 15c., probably from a continental Germanic source akin to Old High German streno "lock, tress, strand of hair,"
Middle Dutch strene "a skein, hank of thread,"
German Strähne "a skein, strand," of unknown connection.
Perhaps to English via an Old French form.

Etymonline.com

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