Open Journal of Modern Linguistics
2012. Vol.2, No.4, 140-146
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
A Comparative Study of Evidentiality in RAs in Applied
Linguistics Written by NS and Chinese Writers
Linxiu Yan g
Foreign Languages School, Shanxi University, Taiyuan, China
Received August 27th, 2012; revi se d October 22nd, 2012; accepted October 30th, 2012
This paper is devoted to a comparative study of evidentiality in RAs (Research Articles) of NS (Native
speakers) and Chinese writers. It examines whether cultural factors influence the writer’s choice concern-
ing evidentiality and the interpersonal functions of evidentiality. First, it illustrates the necessity of the
comparative study. Second, it presents the findings, including the similarities and the differences. Third,
the pedagogical implications are pointed out
Keywords: Evidentiality; Comparative Study; RAs
As a pervasive linguistic phenomenon in almost all lan-
guages, evidentiality has recently been arousing the interest of
linguists and has become a hot research topic in linguistics. It
has been studied from various perspectives (e.g. Chafe, 1986;
Palmer, 1990, 2001; Mushin, 2000, 2001; Halliday & Matthi-
essen, 2004; Hu, 1994a, 1994b; Fang, 2005; Tang, 2007; Yang,
2009, 2010). Each has its own interest, purpose and research
focus and sheds light on evidentiality. To further the study of
evidentiality in RAs written by the writers from different cul-
tural background, this paper makes a comparative study of evi-
dentiality in RAs in applied linguistics written by NS and Chi-
nese speakers. The study shows that the use of evidentiality in
RAs is both universal, cultural, and language-specific.
Definition of Evidentialitiy in the Current Study
Evidentiality has become a hot research topic in linguistics.
However, there has been no consensus yet on what evidentiality
is and what kind of linguistic category it is. The disagreements
mainly occur in the following aspects. The first is whether evi-
dentiality is a grammatical category or a semantic one. The se-
cond is what the semantic scope of evidentiality is.
As to the issue of whether evidentiality is a grammatical
category or a semantic one, studies have shown that it is lan-
guage-specific. In about a quarter of the world’s languages,
every statement is required to specify the type of source on
which it is based—for example, whether the speaker sees it,
hears it, infers it from indirect evidence, or learns it from some-
one else. This linguistic category, whose primary meaning is
information source, is called “evidentiality”. In Boas’ (1938: p.
133) words, “while for us definiteness, number, and time are
obligatory aspects, we find in another language location near
the speaker or someone else, [and] source of information
whether seen, heard, or infe rredas obligatory aspects.”
From Boas’ words, it can be seen that in some languages,
evidentiality is an obligatory category. As to how to express
evidentiality, different languages demonstrate different eviden-
tial systems. Tariana, an Arawak language, spoken in the multi-
lingual area of the Vaupes in northeast Amazonia, has a com-
plex evidential system. In this language, one cannot (cannot)
simply say “Jose played football”. Instead, speakers have to
specify whether they see the event happen, hear it, or know
about it because somebody else tells them, etc. This is achieved
through a set of evidential markers fused with tense. Omitting
an evidential in Tariana will result in an ungrammatical and
highly unnatural sentence. Look at t h e foll o w i n g examples.
a) Juse ifida di-manika-ka.
“Jose has played football (we saw it)”;
b) Juse ifida di-manika-mahka.
“Jose has played football (we heard it)”;
c) Juse ifida di-manika-nihka.
“Jose has played football (we infer it from visual evidence)”;
d) Juse ifida di-manika-sika.
“Jose has played football (we assume this on the basis of
what we already know)”.
(Adapted from Aikhenvald, 2004: p. 2).
The examples above illustrate that the evidentiality is obli-
gatory in the language of Tariana. To mark the information
source, some markers are used, such as ka, mahka, nihka and
sika, which are termed as evidentials or evidential markers in
evidential studies. These instances show that in Tariana eviden-
tiality is a grammatical category and it is expressed through af-
fixes or clitics. However, this is only one of the understandings
concerning evidentiality and evidentials. If evidentiality is de-
fined from the formal perspective, it seems that evidentiality
only occurs in some languages, but is not universal. For exam-
ple, in the languages of English, Chinese, German and so on,
there are no grammaticalised evidential systems. In these lan-
guages, there are no affixes or clitics to express evidentiality.
Thus, concerning evidentiality, there exist different research
orientations. While some linguists still show great enthusiasm
for describing the grammatical evidential systems of some lan-
guages, more researchers agree that evidentiality is not a gram-
matical form, but a semantic category. It is agreed that the se-
mantics of evidentials are universal and exist in almost all the
languages in the world. The differences exist in whether it is
obligatory or optional and how the semantics are construed in
grammatical, lexical or other forms. For example, Japanese pre-
sents a quite complex system of evidential coding. It has both
grammaticalised and non-grammaticalised evidentials (Mushin,
2001). Unlike Tariana and Japanese, the evidential category in
English is not grammaticalised (Lazard, 2001). Yet, English has
a rich repertoire of evidential devices (Chafe, 1986). It has a
broad range of devices such as verbs, adverbs, adjectives, nouns
and so on. According to Chafe (1986: p. 261), the difference
between some Indian languages and English in evidentiality is
not a matter of evidential vs. number of evidentials. It is partly
a question of how evidentiality is expressed: is it by suffixes,
adverbs or something else?
Studies have also shown that some linguists still stick to the
grammaticalised evidentials and exclude other realization forms
of evidentiality. However, more researchers tend to take evi-
dentiality as a semantic one and study various forms in different
languages. In English, if evidentiality is taken as a grammatical
category, just as in some Indian languages, it appears unneces-
sary to study evidentiality, for there seems to be no grammati-
calised evidentials. In fact, many researchers have been study-
ing evidentiality in English (e.g. Chafe, 1986; Palmer, 1990,
2001; Mushin, 2000, 2001; Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004; Hu,
1994a, 1994b; Fang, 2005; Tang, 2007), which shows that the
notion of evidentiality as a semantic one has been broadly ac-
cepted. This paper also takes evidentiality as a semantic notion.
The previous discussion has shown that evidentiality has
been accepted as a semantic notion. This has been one of the
important research orientations in evidential studies. The sec-
ond issue concerning evidentiality is the semantic scope of
evidentiality. It is claimed (Aikhenvald, 2004) that evidentiality
is an obligatory grammatical category in the language of Taria-
na, having the primary function of indicating the source of in-
formation. This view is considered to be the narrower under-
standing of evidentiality in evidential studies. Bussemann (1996:
p. 157), one of the linguists who hold the narrow view on evi-
dentiality, defines evidentiality as “the structural dimension of
grammar that codifies the source of information transmitted by
a speaker with the aid of various types of constructions”. Aik-
henvald (2003: p. 19) also overtly declares the narrow view of
evidentiality. She defines the term “evidentiality” in its strict
grammatical sense. She holds that the gratuitous extension of
evidentiality to cover every way of expressing uncertainty,
probability and one’s attitude to the information is one of the
current misconceptions concerning evidentiality. She thinks
that this extension will be unhelpful and quite uninformative
and that this approach obscures the status of evidentiality dis-
tinct from modality, mood and tense. Those who hold the nar-
row definition of evidentiality mainly put their focuses on some
highly-inflectional languages and concentrate on the detailed
descriptions of the grammatical evidential systems.
However, this is only one side of the coin. There is another
understanding that with the indication of information source as
the core meaning, evidentiality may also be related to the de-
gree of the speaker’s certainty of the information. Compared
with the previous one, this is a broad view of evidentiality. First,
it does not confine evidentiality to a grammatical one. Instead,
it treats evidentiality as a semantic notion and whatever forms
of evidentials are within the scope of research. Second, eviden-
tiality, in addition to indicating the information source, may
acquire other meanings of reliability, probability, possibility,
etc. Third, the semantics of evidentiality is universal, and is
expressed in different languages. Some languages have gram-
maticalised systems to indicate evidentiality, but others do not.
In some languages, evidentiality is obligatory, but in others it is
not. Chafe (1986) is the leading figure who defines evidentiality
in its broadest sense. He defines evidentiality as “attitude to-
ward information”. Under the broader definitions, both gram-
matical evidentials and lexical ones are taken into consideration.
Therefore, evidential studies are not only confined to those lan-
guages with grammatical evidential systems, but also exten-
ded to almost all the languages in the world.
In sum, in this paper we take evidentiality as a semantic no-
tion to indicate the information source and, at the same time,
the speaker’s degree of commitment to the factual status of the
Literature Review and the Necessity of a
Comparative Study
Studies of evidentiality began in the early part of the 20th
century, and the leading figures are Boas (1911), Sapir (1921),
and Jakobson (1957), to name just a few. The initial stage of
evidential studies focused on some highly inflectional lan-
guages and more efforts were made to describe the grammati-
calised evidential systems. Since then, there has been a surge of
interest in the topic of evidentiality. The publishing of a collec-
tion of papers on evidentiality under the title Evidentiality: The
linguistic coding of epistemology (Chafe & Nichols, 1986) has
become a milestone. Thereafter, evidentiality has been ap-
proached from different perspectives by various scholars.
Chafe (1986) studies evidentiality in a broad way and defines
“evidentiality” in “the broadest sense”. His definition of evi-
dentiality concerns the speaker’s attitude toward knowledge
with sources of information embodied in it. He notes the reli-
ability of evidentials, but the defect is that he does not pay
enough attention to context. In his study, Chafe also shows that
evidential use is one of the differences between spoken and
written languages by comparing evidentiality in academic writ-
ings and conversations.
Palmer (1990, 2001) takes evidentiality as a type of modality,
a sub-category of propositional modality. He treats evidential
modality as a different term from epistemic modality, but he
also admits the overlap between the two. He also talks about the
reliability of evidence in some languages and frames the hier-
archy of evidentials.
Mushin’s study (2000, 2001) focuses more on the epistemo-
logical considerations of the evidence in presenting information.
The most important point in Mushin’s study is that the adoption
of a particular epistemological stance in presenting information
depends not only upon the source of information, but also upon
the overall communicative goals, which proves that the infor-
mation source sometimes does not coincide with the actual
evidential choice. There are many factors which will influence
the speaker’s adoption of evidentials.
Aikhenvald & Dixon (2003) and Aikhenvald (2004) treat
evidentiality in its narrowest sense and pay much attention to
evidential systems in different languages, especially in some
less-known languages in the world. They only focus on the
grammatical evidentials, and lexical ones are outside the scope
of their research. In their research, they point out the relation-
ship between evidentiality and genre convention. They also
mention the pragmatic implications and effects of evidentials
and point out that the irregular evidential use will bring about
unexpected stylistic effects, which sheds light on the evidential
study at the genre and discourse level.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 141
Nuyts (2001) also touches upon evidentiality in his study of
epistemic modality from the cognitive-pragmatic perspective.
In his study, he admits that evidentiality and epistemic modality
are sometimes conflated, yet he still treats epistemic modality
as a different category from evidentiality. He holds that eviden-
tiality concerns the speaker’s indication of the nature (the type
and quality) of the evidence invoked for (assuming the exis-
tence of) the state of affairs expressed in the utterance, but it
does not involve any explicit evaluation in terms of the truth of
the state of affairs. According to his study, evidentiality can be
taken as one of the qualification categories differentiating the
divergent expressions of epistemic modality.
In Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), evidentiality is not
studied as an independent category. In fact, Halliday & Matthi-
essen (2004: p. 605) mention for the first time “evidentiality” in
the third edition of “Introduction to Systemic Functional Lin-
guistics”. In their opinion, when “a proposition is assessed as
being projected by somebody other than the speaker”, “this
kind of assessment is known as evidentiality”. Halliday’s un-
derstanding of evidentiality only concerns certain types of evi-
dentiality, but not all the types. Although SFL does not conduct
a detailed study of evidentiality, the theoretical framework can
be adopted to interpret evidentiality from a functional and so-
cial perspective just as Fang (2005) and Tang (2007) have
In China, some scholars have studied evidentiality from dif-
ferent perspectives. The first type is the introduction of the
linguistic phenomenon of evidentiality. The second is the ap-
plication of the theories of evidentiality to analyse certain texts,
such as Hu (1994a) and Tang (2007). Fang (2005, 2006) talks
about the nature of evidentiality from the perspective of SFL
and points out that the study of evidentiality in SFL can elevate
the evidential studies up to a metatheoretical level. Zhu (2006)
devotes much to the Chinese evidentials and shows the unique
expressions of the semantics of evidentiality in Chinese. Tang
(2007) discusses the discoursal features of evidentiality in Eng-
lish news reports of an epidemic situation update. These re-
searches have been of great help for people to better understand
the linguistic phenomenon of evidentiality from wide perspec-
In spite of the achievements made in the previous studies on
evidentiality, research in this area is still in its infancy and
much work still needs to be done for improvement and supple-
ment. For instance, the study of the evidential use in academic
discourse is far from enough. More comparative study between
different cultures is needed. In particular, the necessity of the
comparative study lies in the following two points:
First, the comparative study is theoretically significant.
Through the comparative study of evidentiality in RAs in ap-
plied linguistics produced by NS and Chinese writers, the study
seeks to show that evidentials chosen by the RA writer will be
influenced and bounded by cultural characteristics. The study
reveals that while the semantics of evidentiality is universal,
evidentials the speaker/writer chooses in the same genre or
context may be different. The differences may be attributed to
cultural differences, to some degree, if not all. Therefore, this
study, in theory, will show that evidential uses in the genre of
RAs are culturally bounded.
Second, the comparative study is pedagogically significant.
RAs are perhaps one of the academic genres that have attracted
the greatest attention, not only because of the vast number of
articles published annually, but also because of the need to help
the researchers and postgraduate students to succeed in the
construction of texts appropriate for submission of scientific
journals. Much of the success involves academic socialization,
that is, an understanding of the rules and strategies of the aca-
demic community (Belcher & Braine, 1995; Swales, 1990),
which is materialized in the linguistic choices made in the texts.
Unfortunately, these linguistic choices do not appear to be clear
to the non-native and novice writers of RAs in English. Par-
ticularly in the foreign language contexts, the researchers often
suffer from the reiterated frustration of having their papers
returned for language reasons. For non-native writers, they need
to know not only the cultural and rhetorical aspects of writing
an article but also the use of grammar and lexis to construct
sentences appropriate for the RA.
The current research holds that evidentiality is a strong dis-
course strategy to fulfill the various interpersonal functions.
However, it does not stop at the semantic level. Instead, it goes
further to examine the grammar and lexis to realize the seman-
tics of different evidential strategies. The latter one is more
pedagogically significant. The functional grammar (Halliday,
1994, 2004), which relates form to meaning and context, is the
basis of this research to relate the semantics and functions of
evidentiality with linguistic forms. From the detailed quantita-
tive analysis of the corpora, the study finds the specific differ-
ences of evidentiality used by NS and Chinese RA writers.
Therefore, the help for non-native writers is more practical. In
this regard, this comparative study is mainly pedagogically
significant and it will help the Chinese writer to step toward
success in publication in English.
In sum, the comparative study aims to examine whether the
cultural factors will influence evidential adoptions in RAs. It
tries to raise the RA writer’s awareness of how evidentiality can
help the writer in the construction and attainment of persuasion.
Data and Methodology
English RAs of applied linguistics are chosen as the data. In
spite of disciplinary differences as an influencing factor, the
exploration of evidential use in different disciplines is beyond
the scope of the current study. The corpus consists of 100 RAs
in applied linguistics amounting to about 670,000 words. For
the comparative study, 50 RAs published by NS writers and 50
produced by Chinese writers are selected. The articles come
from the Internet ( and the journals in the
libraries of Xiamen University. The English journals selected
for this study are: Journal of English for Academic Purposes
(2004-2008), Journal of English for Specific Purposes (2004-
2008), and Journal of Pragmatics (2004-2008) (see Appendix
1). The data of RAs are confined to the same period because of
the fact that genres are quite stable in a certain period of time.
On the ot her hand, they are also in a state of constant evolution,
as Fairclough (1992) notes, “a genre implies not only a par-
ticular text type, but also particular processes of producing,
distributing and consuming textChanges in social practice
are both manifested on the plane of language in changes in the
system of genre, and in part brought about by such changes”.
The genre of RAs also may change over time. Therefore, in
order to examine the linguistic features of RAs, the study
chooses RAs published during the same time for the validity of
the research results. The 50 RAs produced by Chinese writers
in applied linguistics come from the journal Teaching English
in China from 2004 to 2007.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
The data-coding of this research is done manually at the pre-
liminary stage to identify and count all the potential lexical and
discourse-based items that indicate different evidential types.
The material for data-coding includes the body of the articles,
i.e. the complete text of the articles, excluding abstracts, notes,
linguistic examples, tables, and figures. Then, Microsoft Office
Excel is adopted to deal with the data and draw the figures ac-
cordingly. In addition, in order to take the context of evidentials
into consideration to find the concordance patterns, a concor-
dance software is also adopted. This quantitative approach is
meant to identify the frequency of occurrences and to produce
comparable data. The statistical results are the basis for later
illustration of evidentiality as a discourse strategy to fulfill the
various interpersonal functions. The frequency of occurrence of
each group of items is calculated in permillage (This passage
should use the past tense).
Findings of the Comparative Study
The quantitative results reveal some similarities and differ-
ences between the two (specify what two things explicitly here).
In this part, the similarities and differences are elaborated, from
which the common characteristics and different academic con-
ventions concern ing evidentiality can be clearly shown.
Similarities Found in the C om p arative Stud y
After the close examination in the comparative study, the
similarities are summarized as follows.
First, the semantics of evidentiality is universal in both of the
two corpora. Look at the Figure 1.
As is shown in Figure 1, the writers in both corpora use a
significant number of evidentials (f = 11.83 for NS and f =
10.54 for Chinese), which shows that evidentiality is a perva-
sive linguistic phenomenon in RAs, with no significance be-
tween the two groups of writers. It also shows the universality
of the semantics of evidentiality in RAs across languages. In
both the corpora, the writer adopts various evidential types and
also respective linguistic forms to show how he or she acquires
the information and in what degrees he or she makes commit-
ment to the factual status of the information. All the evidential
types in our classifications occur in both of the corpora. One
more common characteristic is that in both corpora, there is an
unbalanced adoption among different evidential types. The
most frequently used evidentials are reporting evidentials and
Evidential types
frequency per 10 00 words
Figure 1.
Frequencies of evidential typ es in NS and Chinese corpora.
ependent relationship between the generic
iagrammed as follows.
Table 1. types and generic structures of RAs in the two corpora (with
Other-reportingSelf-reporting Belief Sensory Inferring
nferring evidentials. Belief evidentials and sensory ev
are less common in both corpora. This unbalanced adoption
tendency reveals the typical way in which the RA writer con-
structs knowledge.
Second, the interd
ructures and evidential types exist in both of the corpora.
Consider the Tables 1-3 and Figure 2.
For a clearer picture , Table 1 can be d
Table 1 and Figure 2 show that in different generic struc-
res evidential types occur with different frequencies. For
instance, Introduction adopts the most evidentials and Data and
Method the least, with Findings and Discussion part and Con-
clusion part in the middle. It is also found that certain generic
structures demand certain types of evidential types and certain
types of evidentials prefer certain generic structures. For exam-
ple, other-reporting evidentials are mainly adopted in the intro-
duction, while the inferring evidential strategy is adopted in the
frequency per 1000 words).
Introduction9.658.502.161.08 0.32 0 0 03.093.45
Data and
ndings an
1.871.800.540.44 0.07 0 0 01.951.87
Fid 3.082.982.071.98 0.344 0.01 0.27 0.344.444.64
1.871.903.573.45 1.33 0.02 0 07.676.86
Table 2. ns of evidential types in NS and Chinese corpora.
Evidential types Evidentials NS NNS
Sensory See 0.17 0.15
Belief I/we suggese, think; it 0.27 0.24
2.06 2.12
Verbal 2.18 2.13
Non-verbal 0.38 0.29
Modal verbs 4.18 3.98
Relational pr ocess 1.07 0.97
Adjectives 0.33 0.37
Modal adjunct 0.08 0.97
t, argu
can be suggested, argued,
assumed, etc.
Author + date
able 3. erbs used in NS and Chinese corpora.
Frequently a dopted other-reporting ve rbs
Reporting v
NS Find, argu think, e, point out, suggest, clai m, show, assume,
hold, note, reveal, observe, indicate
ChineseClaim, find, note, indicate, argue
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 143
Introduction Data and method
s and discussio
Figure 2.
Evidential types in generic structures of RAs by NS and Chinese
Conclusion parts. The infrequently used evi-
the Comparative Study
b choice. Compared with the Chinese writer, the NS writer
ing the information source, differ-
improvement in computer lit-
terms of increased motivation, interest and autho-
ource to formulate a generation from the relative
n source exist in the two corpora. As mentioned above,
Discussion and
dential strategies only occur in certain generic structures. For
example, the sensory evidentials are only used in the Findings
and Discussion parts. This close relationship between the ge-
neric structures and evidential types reveals that the sub-pur-
poses and nature of different generic structures will affect the
writer’s adoption of evidential types.
Third, the linguistic realizations of evidentiality bear the si-
milar characteristics in both of the corpora, as shown in the fol-
lowing table.
As seen from Table 2, verbal forms are the most frequent re-
alization of evidentiality in both corpora except the author +
date convention. As for the inferring evidential type, the fre-
quently used form is the modal verb and as for the reporting
evidential type, reporting verbs are most often used.
Fourth, in both of the corpora, evidentiality can be taken as a
discourse strategy to realize the interpersonal functions dis-
cussed in the current research. This means that evidentiality is
not just a means to denote the information, but more impor-
tantly, it is a rhetorical device. It has more functions than indi-
cating information source. The writer’s evidential choice will
have interpersonal and discourse implications, and in turn, the
negotiation of the interpersonal relationship is one of the im-
portant motivations for evidential choice. This is the common
characteristic of evidentiality in RAs with no difference across
In sum, the similarities in evidential use in RAs of NS and
Chinese writers show the universality of semantics of eviden-
tiality in RAs. The writer adopts different evidentials to denote
the construction of knowledge in different generic structures of
RAs. Evidentiality can help the writer do more than indicating
the information sou rce .
Differences Found in
In addition to the similarities, differences concerning ev
ity as a discourse strategy to fulfill the interpersonal func-
tions are summarized as follows.
First, differences exist in the use of reporting evidential type.
Figure 1 has shown that reporting evidential type is the most
important evidential type in both of the corpora. However, the
difference lies in the degree of the writer’s awareness of adopt-
ing this evidential type to fulfill the interpersonal functions dis-
cussed in the previous sections. As has been mentioned, when
reporting the prior work and other researchers’ work, the writer
will at the same time show his evaluation of and stance toward
the reported sources and the reported information. The choice
of reporting verbs reveals the writer’s stance. Reporting verbs
can be used to represent the reported information as true or as
false. The verbs also allow the writer to ascribe a view to the
reported authors as positive, neutral, tentative or critical. How-
ever, the study has found the differences in the two corpora
concerning the reporting of evidential type. Look at the Table
3. As seen in Table 3, there are some differences in reporting
s more choices in reporting verbs. They can choose from
more different reporting verbs to select the most appropriate
one. It is unclear whether the language proficiency may cause
the NS writer to choose within a broader range, but it seems to
be certain that the Chinese writer may not have clear awareness
of the discursive implications and the interpersonal functions of
the reporting verbs. Sometimes, what they need is just to find a
verb and they seem not to consider whether this verb will help
them to get a certain discourse or interpersonal purposes. It is
also found that the Chinese writer more frequently chooses
reporting verbs such as claim, which is one of the important
means for distancing from a dialogic perspective as discussed
above. By using this type of reporting verb, the writer will
leave limited room for the reader to join in the dialogue and
admit little dialogistic space for alternative viewpoints. There-
fore, it can be concluded that, although the NS and Chinese
writer both admit the importance of the prior literature and
show significant respect for previous research, the Chinese
writer seems to have less power in choosing appropriate re-
porting verbs to help him or her to fulfill the interpersonal func-
tions. He is much more inclined to impose attitudes towards the
previous work upon his reader. The writer’s authorial identity is
unreasonably exaggerat ed.
In addition to the differences in the choice of reporting verbs,
it is also found that in choos
ces also exist. As stated above, to report others’ work, the
writer can choose between human and inhuman sources, or
between specific and unspecific. In this regard, it is found that
the specific human source, such as Hyland argues that… is
common in both the corpora. Compared with the NS writers,
the Chinese writer adopts more unspecific sources for the other-
reporting type. For example:
1) Some suggest that CALL aids language teaching and
learning, at least in terms of the
acy, or that students feel good merely because they are using
2) Many believed that CALL aids language teaching and
learning in
ony; some even suggest that the adoption of CALL has some
positive effects on the improvement of students overall per-
The two examples above show that the writers choose an
unnamed s
erature reading. This unnamed source is occasionally used by
the RA writer for generalization, but, too often, adoption is
similar to the bald statement of a generalization (Barton, 1993).
The ideas become less academic because they are not attributed
to a scholarly and specific source They are too general because
they are attributed t o a generalized source. The NS writer, how-
ever, does not reward this strategy of generalizing source mate-
Second, differences in the use of self-mention as the infor-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
modality to show
Through the examinaity used in RAs by NS
and Chinese writers, thet, in RAs by the writers
n Eng-
ay enable the writer to con-
study. There are more
This work wasucational Bureau
[grant number: 11cience Grant by
Aikhenvald, A. (2004). ford University.
Aikhenvald, A., & Dix evidentiality. Amster-
e writer sometimes adopts self-mention such as I, we, our
study, and so on as the information sources. Self-mention is a
common rhetorical strategy for the construction of academic
persona. This authoritative persona can be maintained by the
adoption of belief evidentials and self-reporting evidentials,
which have been discussed in the previous sections. However,
some differences are found between the NS and Chinese writer
in this regard. According to our data survey, the Chinese writer,
compared with his NS counterpart, is more likely to adopt ex-
clusive we rather than I for self-mention, although their papers
are not co-authored. This strategy is a means to lessen the au-
thorial visibility and functions as a self-protecting way to pre-
sent the writers’ belief and opinions which makes the writer
more distanced from the information. This tendency for the
Chinese writer to prefer we to I has the negative effect of less-
ening the authoritative persona of the writer.
Third, as mentioned above, in the use of inferring evidential
type, the writer tends to choose low value of
wer degrees of certainty. This hedging strategy has rhetorical
functions. For instance, it can lessen the writer’s responsibility
for the truth and factual condition of the information or it can
broaden the dialogic space to allow for alternative positions
from the reader, or it is a politeness strategy to avoid the
face-threatening acts to both the writer and to the reader, and so
on. For whatever reasons, choosing a low degree of certainty to
present information is more often used by the writer than to
choosing a higher degree of certainty by using the modal must.
However, our examination has shown that the Chinese writer
tends to use a high degree of certainty more often than the NS
writer. This has the negative effect because the information will
sound too imposing for the reader to accept.
tion of evidential
study shows tha
om different cultural backgrounds, the evidential use patterns
share both similarities and differences. The similarities show
the universality of the semantics of evidentiality in RAs. The
differences show that in expressing evidentiality, the writers
from different cultural backgrounds and with different language
proficiencies have distinct tendencies and prefe rences.
It is hoped that this study will be helpful for EAP courses
and academic writing. The researchers’ need to publish i
h has generated a growing demand for academic writing
courses. To satisfy this need, it is necessary to develop aware-
ness of the different linguistic resources used by the writers
who succeed in publishing. While experienced writers may
understand that writing is a context-rich, situational and con-
structive act, many learners see reading and writing as merely
an information-exchange process. Thus, to help students to
move beyond this simple, ideational view to a more complex,
interpersonal model should be a teaching priority. Unfortu-
nately, the teaching practices of RAs seemed to be based on
traditional normative principles rather than on solid empirical
evidence from analysis of actual language use. In this sense, the
current research provides some solid empirical evidence on the
writer’s adoption of evidentiality and the findings may have
implications for the teaching of academic writing as well as
deepening and broadening the writer’s understanding of evi-
dentiality in academic discourse.
In sum, writing with awareness of the relationship between
evidentiality and its functions m
ruct the appropriate text in terms of evidentiality, and eventu-
ally lead to the ultimate goal of successful publication. It is
suggested that in future EAP teaching and writing, raising
awareness of the functions of evidential choice is the most im-
portant. The writer needs to be aware that each of his choices of
evidentiality will have different discursive implications and will
help them to achieve their ultimate goal more easily. The genre-
based pedagogy concerni ng evidentiality is also necessary. Learn-
ing from the published writings will be very helpful for the
students to improve their own writings.
This comparative study lays a foundation for future research
and provides an orientation for further
eas to be further studied. First, the functions of evidentiality
can be studied; Second, because of the genre convention, evi-
dential use in other genres, even evidential use across genres, is
worthy of more research; Third, evidential use in different lan-
guages may vary, which is believed to be an interesting topic in
evidential study.
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YJC740128] and Social S
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