Writing without conviction: hedging in scientific research articles

  • Hyland K
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Hedging is the expression of tentativeness and possibility and it is central to academic writing where the need to present unproven propositions with caution and precision is essential. Hedging has received a great deal of attention in conversation analysis where devices such as I think, sort of, maybe and possibly are frequently used to create conviviality, facilitate discussion, show politeness and oil the phatic wheels (eg Holmes, 1984 & 1995; Coates, 1987). Hedges have also been associated with conveying purposive vagueness (eg Powell, 1985; Dubois, 1987; Channell, 1994), treated as a form of metadiscourse (eg Vande Kopple, 1985; Crismore et al, 1993) and as a means of achieving distance between a speaker and what is said (eg Prince et al, 1982; Skelton, 1988). In linguistics, hedging has been the subject of a considerable body of conceptual and empirical research and we now know a great deal about the semantic and formal aspects of epistemic devices, particularly the modal auxiliaries (Lyons, 1977; Coates,1983; Palmer, 1990).

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  • Ken Hyland

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