A Cross-linguistic Study of Metadiscourse Markers in English Academic Writing of Saudi EFL Students and UK Native Speakers of English – Nasser Alqahtani

For an enlarged version, click on the poster or download the file:

Abstracts page

Bios page

Difficulties:

1) This study looks at functions of MD markers in a clause, which functions of the 4 basic clause constituents (subject, predicate, complement, adjunct) they are serving. For example, the study suggests that….

Here, suggest is a predicate and this instance is clear. However, other markers are quite problematic as some of them like attributive adjectives do not usually serve any of the 4 basic functions of the clause by themselves. For example,

because the most influencial studies are presented in chapter 2.

Influencial here has no main functions of clause constituents itself and it occurred in an adjunct clause, but we cannot classify it as an adjunct because it is not an adjunct. So, to code it, we decided to look at the immediate function of the marker in the clause where it occurs regardless of the clause as a whole. If the marker has no immediate function as clause constituents itself, then we look at in which part of the clause it occurred and classify it as part of that clause constituent. Influential is functioning as part of the subject but not a subject, so we classified it as part of the clause subject as it modifies the head noun.

This is our approach to such instances, but I would like to ask you kindly if you could suggest any alternatives to deal with this or maybe to comment on it.

2) We have not yet started our qualitative analysis, what would you kindly suggest we analyse qualitatively or do for it? Maybe for example, we could qualitatively analyse the 10 most frequent markers in each category i.e. how they are used at specific points in the text across the corpora and how they are rhetorically functioning

Comments

  • Lucy Chrispin

    Hi Nasser,

    I really enjoyed reading your poster, it’s very well executed and the results are really interesting. I agree with your analysis process analysing as part of the clause subject – I can’t think of another way to do it but would be interested in seeing alternative ideas.

  • Alex Carr

    Hi Nasser,

    Nice Poster! It’s interesting that writers seem to be more interested in text organisation than more interpersonal aspects. I was waiting to see if anyone else would comment on this about your analysis of classifying ‘influential’ as part of the clause subject. I also agree with your classification of this, as like Lucy, I can’t currently think of an alternative way to classify this.

    I also like the idea of taking a certain number of the most popular markers and doing a closer qualitative analysis on them. I think this would provide a nice continuation from the work you have already done. The number of popular markers you pick will, of course, have to be methodologically justified, as will the amount of data you look at (you’ll know this anyway).

    It might also be interesting, seeing as your finding about hedges contradicts other scholars’ work, if you explored this finding in a qualitative study. Perhaps hedges are able to function as MDs in multiple ways, and for multiple purposes. E.g. maybe there are different ways hedges are used to diminish certainty and express caution? Just an idea of course!

  • Nasser Alqahtani

    Hi Lusy,

    Thank you so much for your comments and feedback. Indeed, it would be very interesting to see different ideas.

  • Nasser Alqahtani

    Hello Alex,

    Thank you so much for making the time to go through my poster and commenting on it.

    Your ideas are brilliant and I really like the one about hedges.

  • Lucy Chrispin

    I have a question regarding the second research aim “to assess which factor could have the most effect on students’ use of MD (1) native-ness (Arabic vs English), (2) discipline or (3) institutional context (Saudi universities vs UK universities).” – How will you assess whether the discipline has an effect on use of MD if all data is from the same discipline?

  • Nasser Alqahtani

    Hi Lucy,
    Thank you for your question!

    In previous research factors like genre, discipline, L1 and native culture are claimed to have influence on the use of MD (Hyland 2005; Alshahrani 2015). So, for us to know if discipline has impact on the students’ use is if the students from the three groups show similar results. That is because we can roll out the factors of nativeness and institutional context. However, if the Saudi students in Saudi Arabia show different results from the Saudi students in UK, then institutional context might have greater influence in the students more than discipline because they are all from the same discipline but yet based in two different institutional context. Finally, if the two Saudi groups show similar results to each other but different ones from the UK native speakers of English, then these might be attributed to nativeness and native culture as the other controlled factors (discipline and institutional context) did not influence their use.

    Hope this answers your question and please if you have any different ideas on this, I would really love to hear them.

  • Nasser Alqahtani

    Hi Lucy,
    Thank you for your question!

    In previous research factors like genre, discipline, L1 and native culture are claimed to have influence on the use of MD (Hyland 2005; Alshahrani 2015). So, for us to know if discipline has impact on the students’ use is if the students from the three groups show similar results. That is because we can roll out the factors of nativeness and institutional context. However, if the Saudi students in Saudi Arabia show different results from the Saudi students in UK, then institutional context might have greater influence in the students more than discipline because they are all from the same discipline but yet based in two different institutional context. Finally, if the two Saudi groups show similar results to each other but different ones from the UK native speakers of English, then these might be attributed to nativeness and native culture as the other controlled factors (discipline and institutional context) did not influence their use.

    Hope this answers your question and please if you have any different ideas on this, I would really love to hear them.

  • Katy Jones

    Some great comments from Lucy and Alex! The idea of letting the data guide your qual analysis is good. So if your data shows some interesting things about hedges, then that should be explored. I wonder if the results are because of the discipline. Do linguistics students hedge more than in other disciplines? Interesting stuff Nasser!

  • Kate Kavanagh

    Hi Nasser, thanks for the poster! My thoughts echo those that people have already posted. Like Lucy, I wondered how you could consider Discipline as a variable when all three corpora were from Applied Linguistics. I think that if the factors of nativeness and institutional context are ruled out, that can only tentatively suggest that discipline may be a factor unless you are comparing against other similar studies that use corpora from other disciplines.
    Also like the others, I would probably choose to look at your interesting results in more detail for the qualitative analysis. What particularly struck me was the very high usage of ‘can’ – I wonder if it is used in other ways than hedging within the corpus… Maybe it sometimes acts as a booster, for example? Cheers!

  • Nasser Alqahtani

    Hi Katy,

    Thank you so much for your feedback!

    Indeed, Applied Linguistics students in general use more MD markers and also more hedges than other students in different disciplines (see Hyland and Tes 2004).

  • Nasset Alqahtani

    Hello Kate,

    Thank you for your comments and feedback!

    Your are right ’can’ sometimes is used to show possibility and also as an edoohoric marker e.g ’we can see in Table 2 below’, but these instances were not counted as hedges as they are not functioning as hedges.
    Cheers!

  • Gerard O'Grady

    Hi Nasser, thanks for the poster. While reading your poster I noticed that you report significant differences between different types of markers but you do not provide p values. Nor do you tell us what kind of tests you carried out. It would be good to know this. One thought I had about a further development would be to use your quantitative data to identify the MDs which are the most salient and analyse them qualitatively in their original contexts.

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