A corpus-based study of metadiscoursal boosters in applied linguistics dissertations written in Thailand and in the United States



Year of publication 2020
Type Chapter of a book
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description This study investigates the use of ‘boosters’, markers of certainty and authorial commitment to propositions (Hyland 1998a, Dobakhti 2013), in two corpora of applied linguistics doctoral dissertations: a corpus of 20 PhD dissertations submitted to universities in Thailand, and a corpus of 20 PhD dissertations submitted to universities in the United States. While previous studies on boosters, metadiscoursal devices and academic discourse tend to focus on disciplinary variation (e.g. Bondi 2008), the present study addresses cross-cultural and rhetorical-chapter variations. Using Hyland’s (2005a) interactional model of metadiscourse, different boosters in the dissertations were identified and classified. The analysis reveals that there are significant differences in terms of distribution and usage patterns of metadiscoursal boosters across the corpora. First, dissertations by Thai writers of English displayed more substantial use of metadiscoursal boosters, but a more limited range of structural patterns where boosters were utilized was evident in their writings. Second, boosters in doctoral dissertations by Thai writers occurred most frequently in Results, Literature Review and Discussion chapters, while in dissertations by American writers it was in Literature Review followed by Results and Discussion chapters. In addition, boosters were employed in the personalized patterns using first person pronouns by the native American writers while this structural pattern was almost absent from the dissertations by Thai student writers. The differences are argued to reflect constructions of student writers’ identities and stances, which are in turn linked to specific cultural and institutional settings in which the writing is produced as well as to the readership. This qualitative interpretation of the rhetorical differences is made in the light of genres, sub-genres, discourse communities and writing practice. The findings of this study may help draw some pedagogical implications for academic writing and its teaching in EFL and EAP contexts.
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