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Review of  Metadiscourse

Reviewer: Aleksandar Čarapić
Book Title: Metadiscourse
Book Author: Ken Hyland
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Discourse Analysis
Issue Number: 17.116

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Date: Wed, 11 Jan 2006 09:47:32 +0100
From: Aleksandar Carapic
Subject: Metadiscourse: Exploring Interaction in Writing

AUTHOR: Hyland, Ken
TITLE: Metadiscourse
SUBTITLE: Exploring Interaction in Writing
SERIES TITLE: Continuum Guides to Discourse
PUBLISHER: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd

Aleksandar Čarapić, University of Belgrade


This volume provides an accessible introduction to metadiscourse,
discussing its role and importance in written communication. It
explores examples from a wide range of texts from business,
journalism, academia and student writing to present a new theory of
metadiscourse. The final section of the book explores the importance
of metadiscourse for teachers and students, and details its practical
advantages and applications in the writing class. Accessibly written
and packed with examples, Metadiscourse is an essential introduction
for students of applied linguistics, language teachers and academics.

Kan Hyland has arranged 9 individual chapters into three sets:
Section 1 ''What is metadiscourse'' (1-60) focuses on the key elements
of metadiscourse such as its development, notion, and model; it
clarifies some of the assumptions and conception of the term and
provides a new categorization scheme.
Section 2 ''Metadiscourse in practice'' (61-171) deals with issues
related to discursive and pragmatic aspects of metadiscourse such as
those of rhetoric, genre, culture, and community. It aims to elucidate
the way in which metadiscourse research has been undertaken as
well as how contributes to the study of language in use.
The first part of the Section 3 entitled ''Issues and implications'' (104-
203) is more concerned with the applied linguistics aspects of
metadiscourse, i.e. metadiscourse in the teaching practice, while the
second part deals with some unresolved issues pointing forward to
further research in the area.


Chapter 1 ''First impressions'' (3-15) starts with a brief overview of
metadiscourse. In addition, the author elaborates view according to
which all kinds of speech or writing include expressions, which refer to
the text producer, the imagined receiver, and the evolving text itself.
Such expressions are traditionally considered as metadiscourse. In
other words, metadiscourse are those ''aspects of text which explicitly
organize a discourse or the writer's stance towards either its content
or the reader.'' (p.14). The concept of metadiscourse is based on view
of writing or speaking as a social and communicative engagement,
offering a means of understanding the ways we project ourselves into
our texts to manage our communicative intentions. Despite the fact
that the concept motivated extensive interest, its descriptive and
explanatory potential has remained undeveloped.

In Chapter 2 ''Definitions, issues and classifications'' (16-36) K. Hyland
evaluates a range of approaches to metadiscourse definition. He also
deals with propositional and metadiscourse. The author advocates a
functional approach to the analysis of metadiscourse. Following
Halliday (1994), he particularly pays attention to the following
language functions: the ideational, the interpersonal, and the textual
function. There is a separate subchapter, which deals with another
important notion related to this concept: metadiscourse signals. There
are two categorizations of metadiscourse. The first one is based on
Vande Kopple's two-part classification: (1) textual metadiscourse
which includes text connectives, code glosses, validity markers, and
narrators; (2) interpersonal metadiscourse which includes illocution
markers, attitude markers, and commentaries. The second lies in
Crimsore et al.'s distinction: textual and interpersonal metadiscourse.

Chapter 3 ''A metadiscourse model'' (37-60) establishes three basic
principles of metadiscourse: (1) metadiscourse is distinct from
propositional aspect of discourse, (2) metadiscourse expresses writer-
reader interactions, and (3) metadiscourse distinguishes external and
internal relations. It leads further to a classification of metadiscourse,
which has been proposed in Hyland's earlier works. It is based on
interactive and interactional dimensions: while the first one helps to
guide the reader through the text, latter is involving the reader in the
text. In subchapter, which is focused on the metadiscourse resources,
the author makes interactive resources (transition markers, frame
markers, endophoric markers, evidentials, and code glosses) and
interactional resources (hedges, boosters, attitude markers, self-
mention, engagement markers) distinction.

Chapter 4 ''Metadiscourse and rhetoric'' (63-86), which is the opening
chapter of Section 2, starts with the concept of rhetoric. In addition,
the author argues rhetorical relevance for academic discourse. In the
subchapter ''Metadiscourse, ethos, and The Origin of Species'',
Hyland elaborates the significance of ethos in the establishing a
successful academic writing based on the view that ''metadiscourse
provides a perspective on author-reader interactions that broadens
our view of ethos'' (p. 67). Charles Darwin's famous and highly
prestigious text The Origin of Species is a case study, i.e. Darwin's
use of modality markers (hedges and boosters), attitude markers and
commentary in his text. Two final subchapters are dealing with
business discourse and metadiscourse relations as well as with the
analysis of metadiscourse and rhetoric in company annual reports.
Aims of these analyses are twofold: they can show linguist how to
undertake metadiscourse research, but they also ''may help students
of academic and business communication how to develop more
effective rhetorical and verbal repertoire to better operate in the
professional domains in which they will find themselves.'' (p. 85).

At the very beginning of Chapter 5 ''Metadiscourse and genre'' (87-
112) it is claimed that a central aspect of metadiscourse is its
dependency of context, the closeness between the norms and
expectations of those who use it and in particular setting. He
continues theoretical discussion the concept of genre and relations
between metadiscourse and genre. In the succeeding subchapters he
gives overview and analysis of metadiscourse in academic research
articles, in popular science articles, and finally, in introductory
textbooks. In the final part of the chapter Hyland comes to the
following conclusions: metadiscourse helps the research writers to
establish their voice ''which balances confidence and circumspection,
facilitates collegial respect, and seeks to locate propositions in the
concerns and interests of the discipline'' (p. 112); the role of
metadiscourse in popular science article is helping the authors to
present findings as relevant and newsworthy; for the authors of
textbooks metadiscourse provides a means of presenting an
authoritative authorial stance and of engaging with readers while
setting out information as facts as explicitly as possible'' (p. 112) All of
the above patterns help the authors to achieve their rhetorical goals
and to define genres and contexts in which they write.

Chapter 6 ''Metadiscourse and culture'' (113-137) focuses on culture
and on use of metadiscourse in other languages as well as on writings
in English by native speakers of those languages. Reviewing
relationship between language and culture, Ken Hyland starts with
highlighting three perspectives on culture adopted from Atkinson:
Received views of culture, Postmodern views of culture, and Cultural
studies views of culture. The author mostly relies on the relationship
between language and culture as it was established in the field of
Contrastive Rhetoric (RC), which actively uses the notion of culture to
explain differences in writing texts and writing practices. He gives an
overview of metadiscourse across languages -- nominalization in
Japanese, indirectness in Chinese, implicitness and theme in Finnish,
and reflections in Thai. In addition, he examines Spanish and English
editorials and articles, Finnish and English essays. These findings
help to create a descriptive understanding of variation of in the written
discourses of various languages and language using groups.
Subchapter ''Interactive metadiscourse in English'' deals with
transitions and frame markers. The subsequent
subchapter ''Interactional metadiscourse'' is focused on boosters,
hedges, and engagement. Closing this chapter, Hyland concludes that
the role of culture in writing is controversial -- while CR
helps ''teachers and writers avoid getting trapped in English in an
Anglophone cultural ethnocentrism where non-English writing
practices appear as deviant anomalies.'' (p.136). Researchers lately
become ''sensitive to community based orientation to literacy, so that
differences in the use of metadiscourse should be understood not only
in relation to national culture of the writer, but also in relation to the
genre and immediate discourse community to which the text is
addressed.'' (p. 137).

Chapter 7 ''Metadiscourse and community'' (138-171) aims to show
how close are relationships of metadiscourse practices and social
activities, cognitive styles, epistemological beliefs, and academic
communities. It starts with the concept of community, which is a key
idea in discourse analysis considering that researchers become more
insightful to the ways genres are written, used and responded to by
individuals acting as members of social groups. The author discusses
issues related to community, academic writing and metadiscourse. He
is concerned with metadiscourse variation and interactional
metadiscourse in articles across disciplines as well in textbooks across
disciplines. He focuses on the main patterns such as hedges and
boosters, self-mention, attitude markers, engagement markers.
Another group of patterns in interactional metadiscourse in articles
across disciplines are endophorics and evidentials. Summarizing the
chapter Hyland reminds that research articles in the chapter show that
metadiscourse is sensitive to differences in the ways disciplines
understand the world and conduct their practices. Pedagogic texts
reveal similar disciplinary differences in writers' use of metadiscourse,
attitudes to knowledge approaches to instructions.

Chapter 8 ''Metadiscourse in the classroom'' (175-193) is the opening
chapter of Section 3. The author is trying to consider what the study
of metadiscourse offers language teachers and how they might go
about putting it in use. In subchapter ''Students, writing and audience
awareness'' Hyland claims that ''metadiscourse is a central feature of
communication since when we have correctly assessed both the
readers' resources for interpreting a text and their likely responses to
it can we reconstruct our arguments effectively.'' (p. 175) In addition
he represents advantages of teaching metadiscourse features. He
outlines three main advantages to students: first, it helps them to
better understand the cognitive demands that texts make on the
readers and the ways writers can assist them to process information;
secondly, it provides them with resources to express a stance towards
their statements; thirdly, it allows them negotiate this stance and
engage in a community-appropriate dialogue with readers. He also
sketches twelve possible contributions that metadiscourse can make
to texts. Focused on teaching principles, Hyland ''suggests that
teacher need to consider the following elements: (1) the writer's
needs; (2) the writer's prior writing and learning experiences; (3) the
role of language in expressing functions; (4) the importance of social
interactions; (5) the use of authentic texts; (6) the role of audience
and community practices.'' (p. 181). Text analysis, manipulating texts,
understanding audiences, and creating texts are discussed as
teaching strategies.

Chapter 9 ''Issues and directions'' (194-203) is the final part of the
volume. Ken Hyland revisits the main issues raised in this discussion
in order to highlight some of the key features and to stress the
significance of metadiscourse as a systemic means of studying
interactions, and to look forward to future directions.


Metadiscourse by Ken Hyland will be useful textbook for both
beginners (and/or for students) who are interested in studying
metadiscourse and also for scholars and researchers in this field,
because it gives a comprehensive overview of concept of
metadiscourse guiding a reader through issues related to this notion
systematically. It provides scientific toolkits for future courses on
related subjects in discourse linguistics. I entirely agree with Professor
Vijay K. Bhatia who says, ''In this engaging and highly insightful
account of multifunctional metadiscourse, Ken Hyland expertly re-
examines the relationship between writers and readers through the
mediation of texts to highlight the interactive nature of discourse as
social engagement. The book gives a new meaning and direction to
study of form-function relationships in the analysis of discourse and
the ways it is embedded in the wider contexts of genre, culture and
society.'' Despite of different and critically oriented views of
metadiscourse (cf. Ifantidou 2005), Hyland's book represents a
valuable and comprehensive study, which not only imposes relevant
questions, but provides valid answers in regards to this subject
establishing new directions for the future investigations.


Connor, U. (2002) ''New directions in contrastive rhetoric''. TESOL
Quarterly, 36: 493-510.

Dahl, T. (2004) ''Textual metadiscourse in research articles: a marker
of national culture or of academic discipline''. Journal of Pragmatics,

Halliday, M. A. K. (1994) An Introduction to Functional Grammar (2nd
edn). London: Edward Arnold.

Hyland, K. (1999) ''Talking to Students: Metadiscourse in Introductory
Coursebooks''. English for Specific Purposes, 18 (1): 3-26.

Ifantidou, E. (2004) ''The semantics and pragmatics of metadiscourse''.
Journal of Pragmatics, 37:1325-53.

Paltridge, B. (1995) ''Working with genre: A pragmatic perspective''.
Journal of Pragmatics, 24: 393-406.

Renkema, J. (2004) Introduction to Discourse Studies. Amsterdam:
John Benjamins.

Aleksandar Čarapić is writing the final version of his thesis on _The
Pragmatic Analysis of Verbs in Narrative Model of Dubravka Ugrešić_
(University of Belgrade, Department of General Linguistics). His
interests lie in the areas of discourse linguistics and critical discourse
analysis, e.g. text strategies, text typology, cohesion, genres. He has
published a few academic articles in Serbian as well as review articles
both in Serbian and in English.

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