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“ Our results seem to suggest…” : HEDGING IN ACADEMIC DISCOURSE. Françoise Salager-Meyer Universidad de Los Andes MÉRIDA - VENEZUELA. Talk presented at Castell ó. Universidad Jaume I . May 3 rd , 2007. INTRODUCTION The concept and importance of hedges. Scientific discourse: weigh evidence
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Universidad de Los Andes
MÉRIDA - VENEZUELA
Talk presented at Castelló. Universidad Jaume I. May 3rd, 2007
Fundamental characteristics of science:
Stubbs (1986): Allsentences encode a point of view. Academic texts are no different in containing the author’s presence.
These objectives are linguistically realized by means of hedging devices, such as: can, perhaps, may, suggest, indicate.
- IMRaD sections of research papers (RP)
- academic genres
(Not mutually exclusive)
1. Cover-up tactic:hedges as scientific imprecision
This position associates hedges with scientific imprecision, understatements and/or linguistic cues of bias used to convey:
In this view, hedges = the “politician’s craft”(Skelton 1996)
- Our resultsseem to suggest that in Third World countries the extensive use of land to grow exportation products tends to impoverish these countries’ population even more.
- Somewhat paradoxically perhaps, on the wave of a rising hegemony of English, voices can be heard in favor of papers and dissertations being written in Polish. Only to some extent this may be the effect of the interdisciplinarity of research topics. It may also be interpreted as a lowering of standards with students having difficulties with writing academic English despite their passive knowledge of the language and good fluency in speech.
2. Ways of being more precise in reporting results
Hedges may represent the true state of the writer’s understanding.
3. Positive or negative politeness strategies(Myers 1989)
Hedges are used to mitigate 2 central positions characteristic of scientific writing
- Our analyses indicate that higher doses of fish oil can benefit individuals with untreated hypertension.(Double/compound hedge)
- Influenza is the most important viral infection of the respiratory tract.
-I think that perhaps you should have analyzed the benefits these exportation products could have on foreign currency increases.
4. Conventional scientific writing style(Banks 1994)
“Hedges are first and foremost the product of a mental attitude and decision about the function of a span of language are bound to be subjective” (Salager-Meyer 1994)
1. Modal auxiliaries
may, can, might, could, would
-Such a measure might be more sensitive to changes in health after specialist treatment.
- Concerns that naturally low cholesterol levels could lead to increased mortality from other causes may well be unfounded(Cumulative hedging effect).
- Advances in technology could allow exploration of the anatomical basis of subjective fatigue.
2. Modal lexical verbs (“speech act verbs” expressing doubt and evaluation)
- Our analyses suggest that high doses of the drug can lead to relevant blood pressure reduction.(Here too we have a cumulative hedging effect)
- These results indicate that the presence of large vessel peripheral arterial disease may reflect a particular susceptibility to the development of atherosclerosis.(Same cumulative hedging effect as above)
- In spite of its limitations, our study appears to have a number of important strengths.
- Without specific training, medical students communication skills seem to decline during medical training.
-Septicemia is likely to result, and this might threaten the patient’s life.
- The setting of the neural mechanisms responsible for this sensation is possibly altered in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.
- This is probably due to the fact that Greenland Eskimos consume diets with a high content of fish.
4. Approximatorsof degree, quantity, frequency and time: e.g.,approximately, roughly, about, often, occasionally, generally, usually, somewhat, somehow, a lot of.
- Fever is present in about a third of cases and sometimes there is neutropenia.
- Persistent subjective fatigue generally occurs in relative isolation.
- We believe that the chronic fatigue syndrome reflects a complex interaction of several factors. There is no simple explanation.
-If true, then our study contradicts the myth that fishing attracts the bravest and strongest men.
- It seems reasonable/probable
- This may suggest that
- It seems likely that
- It would indicate that
- This probably indicates
- It seems reasonable to assume that
- It would seem somewhat unlikely that
- It may appear somewhat speculative that
1. Hedging is a human enterprise, a resource that is inherent to common language (need of modulating discourse).
2. Hedges are "strategic stereotypes" that permit language users/scientists to:
4. Hedges: devices (or discourse strategies) used to reflect:
A full understanding of hedging devices is critical to academic success and eventual membership in a professional discourse community.