Author: McKeown, Jamie
Title: Gendered use of metadiscourse in the workplace email of British marketing professionals
Advisors: Li, Lan (ENGL)
Ho, Victor (ENGL)
Ladegaard, Hans (ENGL)
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2018
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Discourse analysis
Language and languages -- Sex differences
Department: Department of English
Pages: xi, 376 pages : illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: Metadiscourse is a type of reflexive language, the frontiers of which have barely been breached. In answer to a research call from Aguilar (2008) and Smart (2016) with regards to interactive data and metadiscourse, the present study conducts a contrastive analysis into the use of the phenomenon in workplace group email. In the absence of a directly applicable framework, a relatively novel model of metadiscourse is used: the reflexive, minimally integrationist model. The model combines taxonomies of the broad approach to metadiscourse (Vande Kopple, 1985; Hyland, 2005); with theoretical precepts of the narrow approach (Adel, 2006). It it minimally integrationist in that it advocates for the inclusion of a restricted class of stance markers (justified on reflexive grounds). This latter point effectively means that the model gives recognition to stance as a category of reflexive metadiscourse. Nevertheless, metadiscourse is upheld as consisting in a specific set of references (i.e. the reflexive triangle) within the world of discourse. In answer to a research call with regards to metadiscourse and gender, the latter is used as the contrastive variable in the present study (Adel, 2006). The use of the two cultures model (Maltz and Borker, 1983; Holmes, 2006) provides a conceptual measure for both the comparison of female and male behaviour, as well as the classification of language use in terms of gendered discourse norms. As will be seen, gender manifests in all forms of communicative phenomenon such that it is possible to observe affiliative and assertive principles in communication.
A total of 286 emails (comprising 54 chains), taken from three companies within the British marketing industry, are analysed in the present thesis. Qualitative textual analysis is the primary method. In terms of analysis, a given email chain is treated as the most meaningful unit of data (Androutsopoulos, 2006) meaning a text internal relation is treated as capable of stretching beyond the immediate message. It also means that a sender is taken as able to use metadiscourse in relation to another sender's content (e.g. express reflexive attitude). Where relevant, the level of analysis shifts from the sentential level to the macro-text level. This allows for insight into the global functions of certain markers (e.g. transitions and frame markers). In terms of the core findings, senders in all three discourse communities displayed a pronounced orientation towards affiliative communication. Assertive communication was rare and by no means the chicane of male senders. Metadiscourse by its nature is highly facilitative and so was predominantly used in the execution of affiliative discourse strategies. Female and male senders displayed a pronounced degree of similarity in their frequency usage of metadiscourse. Functionally, the respective genders displayed greater difference. Consistent differences across the three communities occurred in the use of phoric markers; attitude markers; and self mentions. Female senders frequently used phoric markers to refer to earlier messages in the email. They also displayed a greater tendency to mark the contribution of others in such constructions. Male senders predominantly used the markers to refer to their own emails, and frequently marked their own contribution. In terms of attitude markers, male senders predominantly expressed gratitude. Female senders used the devices to express a wider range of affective sentiment. Such use frequently involved evaluative commentary. In terms of self mentions, female senders indexed themselves as senders/constructors of the current message as part of a politeness strategy. Males did not engage in such behaviour.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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