Metadiscourse is the term used for self-reflective linguistic expressions that refer to the evolving text, to the writer, and to the imagined readers of that text. It is based on a view of writing as social engagement and in academic contexts reveals the ways writers project themselves into their discourse to signal their attitudes and commitments to matters in the text and to their disciplinary communities. This paper examines the frequencies and pragmatic purposes of metadiscourse in the relatively neglected academic genre of the book review. On the basis of a corpus of 84 reviews from three contrasting disciplines and interviews with journal editors and reviewers, we describe the ways these writers use metadiscourse to offer a credible representation of themselves and their work in different fields. The analysis shows how metadiscourse use can be seen as pragmatic strategies through which writers shape their social purposes to the formal constraints of the genre and the preferred practices of their disciplines. It therefore suggests how this genre not only draws on readers' familiarity with disciplinary knowledge of the field, but also an interpretive framework that includes appropriate social interactions.
About the authors
Polly Tse is an instructor at the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education where she teaches English for Specific and Academic Purposes and research writing. Her M.Phil. in applied linguistics explored the use of interactions of discipline, gender, and metadiscourse in book reviews. Her research interests include academic writing, interaction in text, and systemic functional linguistics.
Ken Hyland is Professor of Education and director of the Centre for Academic and Professional Literacies at the Institute of Education, University of London. He has published over 100 articles and 11 books on language teaching and academic writing. Recent publications include Metadiscourse (Continuum, 2005), EAP: An Advanced Resource Book (Routledge, 2006), and Feedback on Second Language Writing (co-edited with Fiona Hyland for Cambridge University Press, 2006). He is co-editor of the Journal of English for Academic Purposes.
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