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"It is certain that it can be argued a million times over" - expressions of epistemic modality in L1 and L2 writing
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2008 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This corpus-based study analyzes different types of epistemic markers used in argumentative essays by University students. More specifically it compares Swedish L2 writers and English L1 writers. The scope of the analysis covers epistemic modal verbs, lexical verbs and adverbs. A number of markers are counted to see which expressions are preferred by L1 and L2 writers respectively and if the frequency rates differ between the two groups. Further, it discusses whether the non-native writers use epistemic markers appropriate to an academic register, and an attempt is made to see whether the L1 and L2 writers show similar patterns of ‘committing’ to and ‘distancing’ themselves to their arguments. The results reveal a few notable differences between the Swedish and English writers. A tendency is seen among the L2 writers to ‘overuse’ certain expressions, particularly in the category of lexical verbs. Compared to the native writers, the L2 writers display higher frequency rates when it comes to markers that are most commonly found in spoken conversation. Further the L2 writers seem to display more ‘writer visibility’ than the L1 writers do, which could perhaps be due to differences in writing culture. The findings also suggest that Swedish L2 writers, even on a relatively advanced level, may have difficulties in mastering modal expressions in English.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. , 27 p.
Keyword [en]
epistemic, modality, L2 writing
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8323OAI: diva2:200082
Available from: 2008-11-07 Created: 2008-11-07Bibliographically approved

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