Identity Formation in Second Language Writing: Models of Metadiscourse

Identity Formation in Second Language Writing: Models of Metadiscourse

Nayef Jomaa (Karabuk University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6508-7.ch011
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Part of the researcher's duties towards his supervisees is to guide them in their postgraduate research journeys. Two important questions were raised by his supervisees. One of them is why the majority of studies follow Hyland's framework in analysing identity. The other question is why we do not follow Hyland's (framework in analysing the reporting verbs instead of Halliday's transitivity system. Is it because the latter is so difficult to understand? Therefore, this chapter aims at focusing on identity in second language (L2) writing, comparing between Halliday's modality, Vande Kopple's taxonomy, Crismore et al.'s taxonomy, and Hyland's model of metadiscourse. The findings showed a sort of similarity as well as variety, thus resulting in overlapping and lacking a solid model for analysing how writers reveal their identity. Therefore, a necessity arises to present a comprehensive model that can be used to identify all the categories and subcategories related to interpersonal meanings.
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The increasing expansion in the number of students studying abroad implies the diversity of students attending the universities, including ethnicity and age (Coffin et al., 2003; Hyland, 2006). More specifically, the diversity of cultural and social backgrounds, the students’ academic needs, and the linguistic diversities of non-native speakers of English entail students’ varieties in their identities, understanding, and learning (Lillis, 2001; Coffin, et al., 2003). This casts more responsibility on the shoulder of the university academic staff and represents significant challenges for them in teaching second language writing due to several reasons. Among these challenges is that the concept of academic language is unfamiliar to the non-native speakers of English (Manjet, 2016) during the high school period (Hyland, 2006), as well as students’ interpretation and understanding will be different (Coffin, et al., 2003). Consequently, universities require staff with specific training and skills to cope with students’ needs, particularly students’ writing in English, which has become the international language of research (Bruce, 2008). In addition, publishing in English has increased worldwide recently (Ferguson et al., 2011), including not only countries with English as the official language or the first language but also those with English as the Second Language (ESL) or English as the Foreign Language (EFL), either as a personal choice or as a necessity (Tang, 2012). Thus, it can be argued that these kinds of developments represent rational reasons to unpack the academic discourse (Hyland, 2011), particularly the issue of the writer’s identity. Writing is concerned not only with communicating the content but also with the representation of self. Writers can achieve credibility by means of projecting their identity, thus revealing confidence, certainty, probability, usuality or commitment. This raises the issue of teaching students when and how to project this identity while communicating their ideas in L2 writing.

Analysing discourses represents a strategy to study language in action or examine a text within its social context. The research in the area of academic genres could demonstrate the varied ways and strategies adopted by the writers in different disciplines (Hyland, 2009; Hyland, 2016). The writer’s stance towards the arguments should be ‘appropriate’ and of ‘acceptable voice’ (Hyland, 2008, p.7, 2011, p.9; Bloch, 2010). However, lack of evaluation (Petric`, 2007; Monreal & Salom, 2011), difficulty, neutrality, and ambiguity in adopting an attitude by the writer can be attributed to the influence of the writer’s native language, its academic culture (Rowley-Jolivet & Carter-Thomas, 2014) and a cross-cultural variation (Jalilifar & Dabbi, 2012). Novice writers’ dependence on conversational words and ‘fancy’ verbs in academic writing (Lang, 2004; Monreal & Salom, 2011; Nguyen & Pramoolsook, 2015) reflects a non-academic perspective and might taint a fact or a piece of information with subjectivity (Parkinson, 2013). Writing is central to our personal experience and social identities (Hyland, 2005). However, due to lack of theoretical rigour and empirical explicitness of the use of metadiscourse (Hyland, 2005), this chapter explores how identity is formed in L2 writing by discussing models that have addressed identity, particularly Halliday’s (1985) modality and Hyland’s (1998b, 1998c, 1999b) model. This linguistic comparison of varied models could contribute to the field of teaching L2 writing to ESL/EFL learners by highlighting the implicit meanings of metadiscourse and linguistic devices in order to employ them appropriately and avoid using them randomly at the same time.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Identity: Represents an essential element of the pragmatic competence which signifies the abilities of the writers in representing themselves as well as their claims credibly, and at the same time confirming themselves as members of their communities.

Evaluation: Can be simply defined as revealing the writer's stance towards the reader or the information in the text.

Metafunction: Postulates that the content system in all languages is organized into interpersonal, ideational, and textual components.

Modality: Is defined as the intermediate degrees of meaning that fall between yes and no, thus intermediating between the positive and the negative poles.

Metadiscourse: Is defined as revealing the writer’s strategy to negotiate and communicate academic knowledge in a way that corresponds to the conventions of the academic community to which s/he belongs.

Cited Author: Is the researcher whose information or findings are reported by the citing writer.

Citations: Are employed in order to indicate a research area and pave the way for the unknown, thus creating a space for more studies to be researched.

Clause Complex: Is the term used by systemicists for the grammatical and semantic unit formed out of two or more clauses which are linked in particular systematic and meaningful ways.

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