How to support a one-handed economist: the role of modalisation in economic forecasting

Donohue, James P. (2006). How to support a one-handed economist: the role of modalisation in economic forecasting. English for Specific Purposes, 25(2) pp. 200–216.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esp.2005.02.009

Abstract

Economic forecasting in the world of international finance confronts economists with challenging cross-cultural writing tasks. Producing forecasts in English which convey confidence and credibility entails an understanding of linguistic conventions which typify the genre. A typical linguistic feature of commercial economic forecasts produced by British or US banks is a wide range of modal forms. These can be seen as ‘hedging’ devices, expressing the forecaster’s degree of certainty about predictions in the forecast. This article draws on recent accounts of modalisation which elaborate on the notion of ‘hedging’. The article is based on a study of English language forecasts carried out by the author, motivated by the resistance of a group of Dutch economists to using a wide range of modals in their English language forecasts. The study suggested that modalisation in English language forecasts contributes to the performance of three major functions: Conversation, Discrimination and Organisation. ‘Conversation’ refers to the dialogue – or the appearance of it – constructed by forecasters with their readership and the wider economics community. ‘Discrimination’ refers to the way interpretations of the economy are woven into a plausible construct of the future by foregrounding and backgrounding predictions. ‘Organisation’ refers to the means whereby forecasters construct a text in order to realise the Conversation and Discrimination effectively.

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