Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Metadiscourse Use in the Persuasive Writing of Malaysian Undergraduate Students

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Metadiscourse Use in the Persuasive Writing of Malaysian Undergraduate Students

Article excerpt

Abstract

Metadiscourse is a prevalent linguistic resource that helps writers to manage the flow of the propositional contents and to direct their stance towards their contents and readers. Its dominance in persuasive writings has motivated this study which is to examine the occurrences and forms of metadiscourse use in the writing of both the high (HEP) and low (LEP) English proficiency Malaysian undergraduate writers. Both the quantitative and qualitative findings of the metadiscourse use were obtained using a concordance software (MP2.2). The results indicated that between the two main domains of metadiscourse, both groups of writers exhibited a greater preference for the use of interactional metadiscourse than the interactive. Between the two groups of writers, it was the HEP writers who exhibited a higher frequency of use for both the interactive and interactional metadiscourse. In terms of the forms used, the HEP writers also used a greater variety of metadiscourse forms when compared to the LEP writers. Based on the results, it can be concluded that the HEP writers had a greater awareness of the academic writing conventions, while the LEP writers still lacked this awareness in their writing. Furthermore, variant forms of metadiscourse use were also noted. This finding implies that more instructional help may be needed to raise the LEP writers' awareness on the importance of metadiscourse use in a persuasive discourse.

Keywords: metadiscourse use, persuasive writing, interactive metadiscourse, interactional metadiscourse

1. Introduction

Writing is a social act which carries a communicative intent of the writer. This notion that writing and in particular, academic writing, is a social act is very much grounded in the theory of social constructionism (Vygotsky, 1978). This theory purports that both the writer and the reader are actively involved in the 'building, shaping, and elaborating meaning' in a written text (Spivey, 1995, p. 313). In academic writing, this communicative process is manifested through the persuasive rhetoric of the writer. Be it a research article or an academic assignment, the primary goal of the writer is to sway the reader's opinion to that of his. In other words, academic writing is essentially a persuasive endeavor (see e.g. Silver, 2003, who has argued for this stand succinctly). This act of persuasion is done through the writer's use of logical reasoning in presenting his propositions and also his ability to employ linguistic features that build relationship with his readers. Furthermore, the art of persuasion involves the writer's skill in sequencing his thoughts so that they are well received by his reader (Jones, 2011; Hyland, 2005). These persuasive skills are encapsulated in Aristotle's famed rhetorical strategies which are lagos, ethos and pathos and the employment of the use of appropriate metadiscourse is one of the important strategies in this persuasive act.

1.1 Definition of Metadiscourse

Over the decades, writing scholars have been fascinated by the role of metadiscourse in writing and each of these scholars has defined metadiscourse in their own way. For Vande-Kopple (1985) metadiscourse functions as a linguistic device in writings which indicates the writer's presence but does not add any additional propositional information.This notion is also held by Crismore, Markkanen and Steffensen (1993, p. 40) who adds that metadiscourse helps the listener and reader to "organize, interpret and evaluate the information given." In a similar vein, Hyland and Tse (2004) also see metadiscourse as a writing device that helps writers to structure their writing discourse and display their stance towards the text or the reader. More recently, Williams (2007, p. 65) commented that metadiscourse is the language that refers "not to the substance of your ideas, but to yourself, your reader, or your writing." With these myriad definitions, one point is clear and that is the use of appropriate metadiscourse in writing helps the writer to maneuver his writing to meet the demands and expectations of the discourse community (Nasiri, 2012; Hyland, 2005). …

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