Hedging in English texts written by lower secondary pupils attending Norwegian schools

James Jacob Thomson


This study analyses the use of hedges in English texts written by year nine[1] pupils attending Norwegian lower secondary schools. Hedges are quantified in a corpus of 82 pupil texts using a taxonomy consisting of five hedging categories: Adaptors, Rounders, Plausibility Shields, Explicit Markers of Author Involvement and Verbal Fillers (Prince et al., 1980; Salager-Meyer, 1994; Holmes, 1986). As the pupils are school-level second language learners of English, each device is also deemed to be either accurately or inaccurately used based on grammar, well-formedness and appropriateness (Fetzer, 2004). The analyses are compared across topic, holistic ratings and formality. Texts in the corpus are written about two topics: sports and literary analyses of the novel Holes (Sachar, 1998). Texts about sports contain significantly more hedges than texts about Holes. Comparing accurate and inaccurate categories across holistic ratings, different results were produced when considering topic. Informally written texts about sports contain higher frequencies of accurately used devices than formally written texts about sports. The results suggest that topic and formality are the most significant factors affecting hedging use in this corpus. While hedging frequency overall does not seem to correlate with holistic ratings, overuse and inaccurate use of hedges seems to affect quality. Based on the results, it is argued that pupils may benefit from exposure to a wide range of accurately used devices.

[1] “Year 9” is a term usually used in the UK, synonymous with “9th grade” used in the United States, for pupils aged 13-14.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Comments on this article