Gearing the Discursive Practice to the Evolution of Discipline: Diachronic Corpus Analysis of Stance Markers in Research Articles’ Methodology Section

Document Type: Research Paper


1 English Department, Tabriz Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tabriz, Iran

2 English Department, Maragheh Branch, Islamic Azad University, Maragheh, Iran



Despite widespread interest and research among applied linguists to explore metadiscourse use, very little is known of how metadiscourse resources have evolved over time in response to the historically developing practices of academic communities. Motivated by such an ambition, the current research drew on a corpus of 874315 words taken from three leading journals of applied linguistics in order to trace the diachronic evolution of stance markers in methodology section of research articles from 1996 to 2016. Hyland’s (2005b) model of metadiscourse was adopted for the analysis of the selected corpus. The data were explored using concordance software AntConc (Anthony, 2011). Moreover, a Chi-Square statistical measure was run to determine statistical significances. The analysis revealed a significant decline in the overall frequency of stance markers in methodology section of RAs. Interestingly, this decrease was entirely due to the overall decline in the use of self-mentions. Approaching interactional dimension of academic writing from such a diachronic perspective, it might be argued that the very selective use of stance markers by academic writers over time means metadiscourse does not operate in vacuum and is sensitive to changes within disciplines and their academic practices.


Ädel, A. (2006). Metadiscourse in L1 and L2 English. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Anthony, L. (2011). AntConc 3.4.3.

Atkinson, D. (1999). Scientific discourse in sociohistorical context. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Becher, T., & Trowler, P.R. (2001). Academic Tribes and Territories. Intellectual enquiry and the culture of disciplines. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Benson, P., Chik, A., Gao, X., Huang, J., & Wang, W. (2009). Qualitative research in language teaching and learning journals, 1997-2006. Modern Language Journal93(1), 79-90.

Berliner, D. (2003). Educational research: the hardest science of all. Educational Researcher, 32, 18–20.

Brumfit, C. (2004). Applied linguistics in 2004: Unity in diversity? AILA Review17(1), 133-136. DOI: 10.1075/aila.17.12bru

Bygate, M. (2005). Applied linguistics: A pragmatic discipline, a generic discipline? AppliedLinguistics26(4),568581.

Crismore, A. (1989). Talking with readers: metadiscourse as rhetorical act. New York: Peter Lang.

Davies, A., & Elder, C. (Eds.). (2004). The handbook of applied linguistics.  Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Freeman, M., DeMarrais, K., Preissle, J., Roulston, K., & St. Pierre, E. A. (2007). Standards of evidence in qualitative research: An incitement to discourse. Educationalresearcher36(1),2532.

Gass, S. (2009). A survey of SLA research. In W. Ritchie & T. Bhatia (Eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 3–28). Bingley, UK: Emerald.

Gillaerts, P. ( 2013). Move Analysis of Abstracts from a Diachronic Perspective: A Case Study. In Johannesson, Nils-Lennart / Melchers, Gunnel / Björkmann, Beyza (eds) Of butterflies and birds, of dialects and grenres. Essays in honour of Philip Shaw.

Gillaerts, P. (2014). Shifting metadiscourse: Looking for diachrony in the  abstract genre. In M. Bondi, &  R. Lor_es Sanz (Eds.), Abstracts in academic discourse: Variation and change (pp. 271-286). Bern: Peter Lang.

Gillaerts, P., & Van de Velde, F. (2010). Interactional metadiscourse in research article abstracts. Journal  of English for Academic purposes9(2), 128-139.

Harwood, N. (2005a). “We do not seem to have a theory . . . The theory I present here attempts to fill this gap”: Inclusive and exclusive pronouns in academic writing. Applied Linguistics, 26, 343-375.

Harwood, N. (2005b). “Nowhere has anyone attempted . . .. In this article I aim to do just that”: A corpus- based study of self-promotional I and we in academic writing across four disciplines. Journal of Pragmatics, 37,   1207-1231.

Hyland, K (1998a). Hedging in scientific research articles. Amsterdam: John  Benjamins.

Hyland, K. (1999a). Talking to students:  Metadiscourse in introductory textbooks. English for Specific Purposes, 18(1), 3-26.

Hyland, K. (1999b). Academic attribution: Citation and the construction of disciplinary knowledge. Applied Linguistics, 20, 341-367.

Hyland, K. (2001a). Humble servants of the discipline? Self-mention in research articles. English for Specific Purposes, 20, 207-226.

Hyland, K. (2001b). Bringing in the reader: addressee features in academic writing. Written Communication. 18. 549-574.

Hyland, K. (2002a). Directives: Argument and engagement in academic writing. Applied Linguistics, 23, 215-239.

Hyland, K. (2002b). Options of identity in academic writing. ELT Journal,56, 351- 358.

Hyland, K. (2002c). Genre: Language, context, and literacy. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 22, 113-135.

Hyland, K. (2002d). Specificity revisited: How far should we go now? English for Specific Purposes, 21, 385–395.

Hyland, K. (2002e). Activity and evaluation: Reporting practices in academic writing. In J. Flowerdew (Ed.), Academic discourse (pp. 115-130). White Plains, NY: Longman.

Hyland, K. (2004). Disciplinary discourses. Social interactions in academic writing. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

Hyland, K. (2005a). Metadiscourse: Exploring Interaction in Writing.  London: Continuum.

Hyland, K. (2005b). Stance and engagement: A model of interaction in academic discourse. Discourse studies7(2), 173-192.

Hyland, K., & Tse, P. (2004). Metadiscourse in academic writing: A reappraisal. Applied Linguistics, 25(2), 156–177.

Hyland, K., & Jiang, F. K. (2016b). “We must conclude that…”: A diachronic study of academic engagement. Journal of English for Academic Purposes24, 29-42.

Hyland, K., & Jiang, F. K. (2018a). “In this paper we suggest”: Changing patterns of disciplinary metadiscourse. English for Specific  Purposes51, 18-30.

Kaplan, R. B. (2002). The Oxford handbook of applied linguistics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Kaplan, R. B. (2010). The Oxford handbook of applied linguistics. Oxford University Press.Kramsch, C. (2018). Trans-spatial utopias. Applied Linguistics39(1), 108-115.

Kuhn, T. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions. (2nd edn). Chicago: University Chicago Press.

Kuhi, D., & Dustsadigh, Z. (2012). A cross-cultural diachronic study on hedging devices diversity in chemistry research articles. Paper presented  at the Second International Conference on Foreign Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo.

Kuhi, D., & Mousavi, Z. (2015). A diachronic study of interpersonality in  research article discussion section: The field of applied linguistics. International Journal of Research in Humanities and Social Studies,2(4), 6–13.

Lang D.J., Wiek A., Bergmann, M., Stauffacher, M., Martens, P., Moll, P., Swilling, M., & Thomas, C.J. (2012). Transdisciplinary research in  sustainability science: practice, principles, and challenges. Sustainability science7(1), 25- 43.

Lazaraton, A. (2000). Current trends in research methodology and statistics in applied linguistic TESOL Quarterly, 34, 175–181.

Manathunga, C., & Brew, A. (2012). Beyond tribes and territories: New metaphors for new times. In Trowler, P., Saunders, M., & Bamber, V. (Eds.), Tribes and territories in the 21st century: Rethinking the significance of disciplines in higher education. (pp. 44–56). Routledge.

McNamara, T. (2015). Applied linguistics: The challenge of theory. Applied Linguistics36(4), 466-477.

Plonsky, L. (2015b). Quantitative considerations for improving replicability in CALL and applied linguistics. CALICO Journal, 32(2), 232–244. doi: 10.1558/cj.v32i2.26857


Nwogu, K. N. (1997). The medical research paper: Structure and functions . English for Specific Purposes,16(2), 119–138.

Rajagopalan, K. (2005). “The Philosophy of Applied Linguistics”. In D. Alan and C. Elder (eds) The Handbook of Applied Linguistics. 397 – 420. New York: Blackwell Publishing.

Richards, K. (2009). Trends in qualitative research in language teaching since 2000. Language teaching42(2), 147-180.

Salager-Meyer, F. (2001). From self-highlightedness to self-effacement: a  genre-based study of the socio-pragmatic function of criticism in medical discourse. LSP and professional communication (2001-2008)1(2).

Schmitt, N. (2002). An introduction to applied linguistics. New York: Arnold.

Storer, N., & Parsons, T. (1968). ‘The disciplines as a differentiating force’. In E. B. Montgomery  (ed.), The Foundations of Access to Knowledge (pp. 101–21). Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.

Trowler, P. (2012). Disciplines and academic practices. In P. Trowler, M.  Saunders & V. Bamber (Eds.), Tribes and territories in the 21st century  (pp.30–38). London: Routledge.

Trowler, P. (2014). Academic Tribes and Territories: the theoretical trajectory. Österreichische Zeitschrift Für Geschichtswissenschaften,  25(3), 17–26.

Trowler, P., Saunders, M., & Bamber, V. (Eds.). (2012). Tribes and  territories in the 21st century: Rethinking the significance of disciplines in higher education. International studies in higher education, London;New York: Routledge.

Wilkins, D. A. (1999). Applied linguistics. In B. Spolsky (Ed.). Concise encyclopedia of educational  linguistics (pp. 6-17). Amsterdam:Elsevier.

Vande Kopple, W. (1985). Some exploratory discourse on metadiscourse. College Composition and Communication, 36, 82-93.

Vande Kopple, W. (2002). Metadiscourse, discourse, and issues in composition and rhetoric. In E. Barton & G. Stygall (Eds.), Discourse  studies in composition (pp. 91–113). Cresshill, NJ: Hampton Press.