Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

An Analysis of Generic Features of Acknowledgments in Academic Writing: Native Speakers of English vs. Non-Native (Iranian)

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

An Analysis of Generic Features of Acknowledgments in Academic Writing: Native Speakers of English vs. Non-Native (Iranian)

Article excerpt


The literature on the generic structure of acknowledgment has revealed that, beyond the role it plays in academic gift giving and self-presentation, the textualization of gratitude reveals the effect of disciplinary, sociocultural and contextual variations on shaping this genre (Hyland, 2003; Giannoni, 2002; Yang, 2012). However, there is relatively scant research on the ways that acknowledgements in different genres are characterized by their distinctive communicative purposes. To fill this gap, this study analyzes through two phases the acknowledgment sections of various genres (20 MA & 20 PhD theses, 20 textbooks, and 20 research articles) written by native speakers of English (n=40) and Iranian (n=40) in applied linguistics. The results of move analysis phase which insights was from Swales' (1990) model, showed that genre of acknowledgment was constituted of a main "Thanking" move framed by two optional "Reflecting" and "Announcing" moves in theses, two optional "Framing" and "Announcing" moves in textbooks, and one optional "Framing" move in research articles. Despite observing the "Thanking move" in acknowledgment sections of all genres, cross-generic differences were also found in the type and frequency of constituent steps used to realize this move and other optional moves. These differences indicate how the contextual, cultural, and institutional forces influence the production and reception of academic genres.

Keywords: academic writing, genre, move, systemic functional linguistics

1. Introduction

Acknowledgments are universal features of academic writing which are commonly used in Theses and books and have increasing presence in research articles (Giannoni, 2002).This genre not only provides a space for writers to signify interpersonal relationship, but reflects their personal identity, socio cultural and contextual or conventional values (Hyland, 2004; Cheng, 2012). In other words, acknowledgments are not entirely personal but can also be context-embedded. For example, how writers position themselves as student, researcher, or book author could affect their expressions of gratitude. That is, distinctive communicative purposes of different genres can influence the shaping of generic structures of acknowledgments.

Previous studies have mainly focused on the expressions of gratitude and their generic structures used by a single ethnic group in one social context across disciplines (Hyland, 2004; Hyland & Tse, 2004; Giannoni, 2006) or the comparisons of acknowledgments written by native speakers of English (NSE) and non-native speakers of English in two different social contexts (Giannoni, 2002; Lasaky, 2011; Al-Ali, 2010; Cheng, 2012). However, there is relatively scant research on comparing acknowledgments of various academic genres (i.e., Textbooks, Research articles, MA & PhD Theses) written by NSE and NNSE. Furthermore, none of the existing research on acknowledgments has applied systemic functional linguistic text analysis to show how "discourse context influences" of each genre determine the author's linguistic and functional choices in two different cultures. Therefore, this study aims to compare and contrast acknowledgments of various genres written by NSE and NNSE (Iranian) to provide a contextual framework of the factors that are thought to be responsible for the possible crossgeneric variations.

The importance of genre knowledge in helping language learners to understand and master academic, professional or educational discourse has been widely acknowledged for over two decades (Swales, 2004). Bhatia defines a genre as a recognizable communicative event characterized by a set of communicative purpose(s) identified and mutually understood by the members of the professional or academic community in which it regularly occurs. He claims that "by analyzing genre, analysts can understand how a particular genre defines, organizes and finally communicates social reality" (Bhatia, 1993, p. …

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