Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice

ISSN: 2630-5984

Variation in Metadiscursive “You” Across Genres: From Research Articles to Teacher Feedback

Annelie Ädel
Department of English, School of Humanities and Media Studies, Dalarna University, 791 88 Falun, Sweden.


This article takes the theme of metadiscourse across genres as a point of departure. To illustrate variation in the use of metadiscourse, reflexive uses of second person “you” are examined in different genres and discourse types, all of which represent academic discourse. The material includes university lectures, research articles, advanced university student essays and teacher feedback on student writing. The data is analysed both quantitatively, taking frequency into consideration, and qualitatively, taking discourse function into consideration. The extended units in which “you” occurs are compared across genres and discourse types to highlight the considerable variability of metadiscursive uses. One of the implications of the variation found— which was brought to the fore especially through the study of teacher feedback—is that our conceptualisations of metadiscourse are overly influenced by the type of data that have been in focus in research to date: highly visible written genres at the highly monologic end of the continuum. The metadiscourse in teacher feedback was found to be primarily about solving communication problems rather than organising the discourse and telling the reader how to respond to it. In fact, the feedback material is congruous with Roman Jakobson’s original conceptualisation of the metalinguistic function as solving communication problems.

Metadiscourse, Genre, Academic discourse, Reflexivity, Variation.