Hedging and boosting in abstracts of applied linguistics articles: A comparative study of English- and Chinese-medium journals

Guangwei Hu, Feng Cao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

139 Citations (Scopus)


Hedges and boosters are important metadiscursive resources for writers to mark their epistemic stance and position writer-reader relations. Building on previous research that suggests notable cross-cultural and cross-linguistic differences in the use of hedges and boosters in academic discourse, this comparative study investigates the use of such discourse markers in academic article abstracts. Based on a corpus of 649 abstracts collected from 8 journals of applied linguistics, this study examines if hedging and boosting strategies differ (a) between applied linguists publishing in Chinese- and English-medium journals and (b) between authors of empirical and non-empirical academic articles. Quantitative analyses indicated that abstracts published in English-medium journals featured markedly more hedges than those published in Chinese-medium journals and that abstracts of empirical research articles used significantly more boosters than those of non-empirical academic articles. Textual analyses further revealed that the distinct patterning of hedges and boosters in Chinese and English abstracts had a joint, interactive effect on the authorial certainty and confidence conveyed therein. These results are discussed in terms of culturally preferred rhetorical strategies, epistemological beliefs, lack of facility in English as a second/foreign language, and the nature of supporting evidence drawn on for knowledge claims in different types of academic writing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2795-2809
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Academic writing
  • Article abstract
  • Booster
  • Epistemological belief
  • Hedge
  • Metadiscourse
  • Rhetorical convention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

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