Gender and metadiscourse in British and Saudi newspaper column writing: male/female and native/non-native differences in language use

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Alsubhi, Aeshah Saadi
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University College Cork
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The topic of gender differences has proved to be a popular line of inquiry for researchers for decades, and the recent growing interest in the pervasive phenomenon of metadiscourse makes it a major domain in the research of discourse analysis and corpus-based analyses. This study extends the investigation of gender and metadiscourse to newspaper opinion columns. The study seeks to explore both gender and metadiscourse in media texts by analyzing a corpus of British and Saudi opinion columns. Using corpus-linguistics techniques, the study aims to investigate gender differences in the writings of men and women columnists regarding their use of metadiscourse and selected linguistic and stylistic features. Drawing on Hyland’s (2005) model of metadiscourse, the study further aims to compare the use of metadiscourse markers among both columnists in order to identify which categories predominate in this type of discourse and how they are distributed according to cultural preferences. The corpus consists of 320 opinion columns totaling 273,773 words, selected from four elite newspapers. The columns were searched electronically using concordancing software programs and then all the metadiscourse devices were examined qualitatively in context to determine their actual functions. All frequencies reported have been normalized and tested statistically. Results confirmed that there were 33,854 metadiscourse tokens in the corpus, an average of 105.49 occurrences per column or 3 elements of metadiscourse in every 25 words in each of the two corpora. Findings revealed both male and female columnists showed more similarities than differences in their overall use of metadiscourse especially in the interactive dimension. In spite of that, some significant gender-based variations in the use of interactional dimension of metadiscourse were also found. Female columnists used more self-mentions, engagement markers, adjectives, pronouns, and adverbs than their male counterparts, and tended to adopt a personalized engaging subjective style that relies on personal experiences. In contrast, male columnists used more hedges, verbs, numerical terms, and swear words, and tended to adopt a more factual informative style. In addition, results revealed that both columnists made use of interactive and interactional metadiscourse, and some statistically significant variations in the amount and type of metadiscourse were reported. The study concludes that metadiscourse is a useful concept in the discourse of opinion columns and that gender is a significant source of variation that influences the linguistic and the stylistic choices of opinion columnists along with the genre’s conventions.
Metadiscourse , Gender , Discourse analysis , Media discourse , Native and non-native differences
Alsubhi, A. S. 2016. Gender and metadiscourse in British and Saudi newspaper column writing: male/female and native/non-native differences in language use. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.