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Sociolinguistics Symposium 19: Language and the City

Sociolinguistics Symposium 19

Freie Universität Berlin | August 21-24, 2012

Programme: accepted abstracts

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Abstract ID: 1406

Part of General Poster Session (Other abstracts in this session)

Metadiscourse in Persuasion: A Contextual Perspective

Authors: Hsieh, Chia-Ling
Submitted by: Hsieh, Chia-Ling (National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan, Republic of China)

     Persuasion occurs when language is used to influence a person’s inner attitude or external behavior (Chaiken 1996; Gass & Seiter 1999). A key resource that allows language users to engage with their audience is metadiscourse (Crismore et al. 1993; Hyland 2005). A wide array of metadiscourse devices has been identified in persuasive discourse (Fuertes-Olivera 2001; Dafouz-Milne 2008). However, more emphasis needs to be given to the contextual factors that affect the pragmatic roles of metadiscourse. This paper discusses these factors from the perspective of communication media and culture as they relate to metadiscourse strategies, with a particular focus on how they affect persuasiveness in Chinese and English Internet forums.

     The data observed are authentic persuasive messages posted on Taiwan and American websites. Results indicate that the communication medium yields a unique effect. Due to the efficiency required in computer-mediated communication (Ferrara et al. 1991; Aitchison 2001), devices that specify the macro-structure of a text (e.g. frame and endophoric markers) are underrepresented in both languages. Interactive (e.g. evidential markers) and interactional (e.g. self-mention markers) metadiscourse often co-occur to compensate for the limitation of non-face-to-face interaction (Herrings 2002; Barnes 2003). First-person pronouns are omnipresent, demonstrating how the Internet has created platforms for greater voluntary self-disclosure. The operation of metadiscourse is also culture dependent, exhibiting a salient distinction between individualist and collectivist values (Triandis and Gelfand 1998; Goncalo and Staw 2006). More boosters thus appear in English to uncover conflicting viewpoints, while more hedges in Chinese to maintain group cohesion.

     Despite the conceptual and functional generalities in metadiscourse across languages, the selection and distribution of metadiscourse devices also reflect communicative norms specific to particular communication media and cultures. Language use is therefore more than communication, it is itself a sociocultural act that decides and accounts for the way language is presented and understood.

 

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