The use of modal verbs to express hedging in student academic writing

  • Tianshuang Ge
Keywords: hedging, modal verbs, academic writing, corpus linguistics, move analysis


This study was conducted to analyse hedging modal verbs in student assignments. Specifically, it was designed to investigate how the native English speaking (NS) students and the non-native English speaking (NNS) students express their hedging in their assignments by focusing on three hedging modal verbs: would, should, and may. The methodology used for the present research was a combined approach of methods from corpus linguistics and discourse analysis (specifically, move analysis). The results of the top-down corpus-based move analysis showed that the different patterns of these three modal verbs have different hedging functions and have a tendency to occur at different move types to fulfil different communicative purposes. The analyses also indicated the existence of both similarities and differences between the NS and NNS groups in the use of hedging modal verbs in terms of both lexico-grammatical and rhetorical features in different contexts. This study contributed to analyse the hedging modal verbs used in students’ assignments from corpus linguistics and move analysis approaches.


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Author Biography

Tianshuang Ge
University of Nottingham / United Kingdom
How to Cite
Ge, T. (2013). The use of modal verbs to express hedging in student academic writing. Research in Corpus Linguistics, 3, 37-46. Retrieved from