Metadiscourse in book reviews in English and Brazilian Portuguese: A corpus-based analysis

Luciana Junqueira, Viviana Cortes


Book reviews are an invaluable tool in helping academics select what to read given the normally short length and evaluative and descriptive nature of the genre (Carvalho, 2002). In addition, book reviews also play a major role in graduate students’ academic careers as one of the first genres they attempt to independently produce and publish (Motta-Roth, 2001). However, despite the established importance of book reviews in academia, this genre was, for a long time, neglected in applied linguistics research (Hyland, 2000). Only in the past two decades works have begun to be published on the rhetorical patterns (e.g., Motta-Roth, 1995; Carvalho, 2001, 2002; Junqueira, 2013; Suárez & Moreno, 2008) as well as linguistic features of book reviews (Gianonni, 2006; Moreno & Suárez, 2008a, 2008b, 2009; Shaw, 2009; Tse & Hyland, 2009).

Hyland (2000) used a qualitative methodology to investigate praise and criticism in book reviews. He further introduced a metadiscourse framework divided into two models: textual metadiscourse and interpersonal metadiscourse. This model has been used in the study of academic texts such as research articles (Hyland, 1999), textbooks (Hyland, 2000) and dissertations (Hyland & Tse, 2004), but to our knowledge it has not yet been applied to the comparison of book reviews across languages.

The present exploratory study used Hyland’s (2000) metadiscourse model to investigate book reviews in Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and English in order to analyze how the writers of these reviews engage with their texts as well as with their readers. Given that previous cross-linguistic research on book reviews revealed that evaluation appears to be culture-bound (e.g., Spanish book reviews have been found to be more critical than their American counterparts [Moreno & Suarez, 2008, 2009]), it was hypothesized that there would a difference in how book reviews authors engaged with their texts in BP and English.

Drawing on the aforementioned research on metadiscourse and book reviews but taking a more quantitative methodological approach, the objective of the present study was to examine how interpersonal metadiscourse is used in book reviews in Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and English across three disciplines (Applied Linguistics, History, Psychology) and to explore what corpus-based analyses of metadiscourse features can reveal about evaluation in book reviews. The corpus compiled for this study comprised 180 academic book reviews (approximately 300,000 words total) published in international academic journals from 2001 to 2010. Among other findings, the study revealed that the total number of metadiscourse features was considerably higher in the English corpus than in the BP one, especially emphatics and personal markers, suggesting that BP reviews may be less evaluative than the English counterparts as was the case with book reviews in Spanish and Italian (Moreno & Suarez 2008; Giannoni, 2006). Additionally, hedges were the most frequent features in both languages, and attitude markers were the least frequent. Finally, the metadiscourse expressions used in the study proved very useful in the investigation of evaluative language in book reviews. Possible explanations for cross-cultural and disciplinary differences are offered.


metadiscourse, genre, corpora

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