Hewings, Martin and Hewings, Ann
'It is interesting to note that …': a comparative study of anticipatory ‘it’ in student and published writing.
English for Specific Purposes, 21(4) pp. 367–383.
The study of metadiscoursal components of academic texts, through which writers organise, interpret and evaluate content matter, provides one means of examining the relationship between writer and reader. This paper explores one grammatical feature of metadiscourse, clauses with an anticipatory it and extraposed subject (as in ‘It is interesting to note that no solution is offered’). This feature is compared in two computerised corpora of text, one consisting of published journal articles from the field of Business Studies and the second of MBA student dissertations written by non-native speakers of English. It-clauses are found to have four main interpersonal roles in hedging, marking the writer's attitude, emphasis, and attribution. The main differences between the two corpora are in the use of it-clauses to persuade readers of the validity of claims, with student writers making an apparently greater and more overt persuasive effort, and stating propositions more forcefully. Proposals are made on why this might be the case, taking into account the different writer-reader relationships in journal articles and dissertations. Implications of the findings for the teaching of academic writing are presented.
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