Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice

ISSN: 2630-5984

Stylistic Differences between Closely Related Disciplines: Metadiscourse in German Linguistics and Literary Studies

Melanie Andresen
Universität Hamburg, Institut für Germanistik, Grindelallee 46, 20146 Hamburg Germany
Heike Zinsmeister
Institut für Germanistik, Universität Hamburg, Überseering 35, Postfach #15, 22297 Hamburg.


The disciplines of linguistics and literary studies are often considered similar, as they are for instance part of one common study program. However, there are many differences between the two disciplines that concern not only the object of study, but also research methods and writing styles. Consequently, students of, for example, German Studies need to adapt to two academic languages at once. Therefore, we aim to describe the stylistic differences between the languages of the two disciplines. Our study is based on a data-driven n-gram analysis of German PhD theses that reveals a more intense use of metadiscourse in linguistics when compared to literary studies. In the light of these results, we carry out a more in-depth study of metadiscourse in the two disciplines, focusing on the expressions im Folgenden (“in the following”) and zusammenfassend (“summarizing”). We find that literary scholars use both of the above expressions less frequently than linguists. We suggest that this might be due to different aesthetic demands and more influence of English academic language on German linguistics. Also, a higher proportion of the instances found in literary studies turned out to be intertextual rather than metatextual. We therefore argue that it is important to inspect the data behind quantitative results in detail.

Metadiscourse, Academic writing, German, Linguistics, Data-driven analysis.