This paper analyzes a scientific research article (RA) in the field of planetary science
using the perspective of genre analysis. A subject specialist informant was interviewed to
provide insight into writer choice and language use in the genre. This study worked largely
within Myers' (1989) framework in which a variety of language phenomena in RAs are
explained by application ofthe Brown and Levinson model of politeness. The purpose of the
study was to better understand the ways in which writers use various politeness devices (such as
expression of emotion and the hedging of claims), and the choices writers make to employ or not
employ such politeness devices. The results of the study show infrequent use of positive
politeness strategies, but heavy use of negative politeness strategies, primarily hedging. Hedging
was used almost exclusively in the Introduction and Discussion sections of the article, and the
amount of hedging seems to be linked not to the relative strength or weakness of the claims, but
rather the amount of face-threat those claims presented, the communicative purposes of different
sections of the article, and the authors' choice about the degree to which they want to sound firm
or even aggressive. Finally, hedging in this case was used not only as a politeness strategy to
save face for the readers, but also as a defensive move to shield the authors' position from attack
and save their own face in the event of counter-arguments.
1 online resource (PDF, 26 pages, plus 3 appendices). Submitted May 19, 2003 as a Plan B paper in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a master's degree in English as a Second Language from the University of Minnesota.
Was there life on Mars?: Politeness strategies in a research article from a heated scientific debate.
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