A Study on Modal Expressions in Argumentative Texts of University Students

Submitted by: Minae Yu
Abstract: The objective of a university writing class is to cultivate the writing skills required of a student as a member of an academic discourse community. From the perspective of university academic writing, argumentative writing that provides a logical basis to persuade the reader has to be at the core of the education. Argumentative text employs a variety of strategies to convince the reader by verifying the validity and objectivity of the argument. These characteristics are expressed through a linguistic device. A representative linguistic device is modality. Modality is a method of expressing basic human emotions (Bybee, 1985), and is used to express an opinion or attitude towards a situation detailed by a proposition, or a proposition expressed in a sentence (Lyons, 1977). In the Korean language, hedging expressions at the end of a sentence are one of the ways to indicate modality, and they play a key role in academic writing (Hyland, 1996). In this study, the use of hedging expressions at the end of a sentence used in argumentative texts of university students was analyzed using quantitative methods.
We analyzed 49 argumentative texts written by S university’s undergraduate students taking the “Basics of Writing” course to show that the use of hedging expressions such as ‘-(u)l swu issta’ and ‘-(u)l geosida’ in Korean is an effective strategy to convince potential readers. The collected argumentative texts were holistically graded by three people who majored in Korean language education. Also, this study hypothesized that the frequency of hedging expressions used in the collected texts will have a positive correlation with the grades of the students. In order to investigate this hypothesis, the frequencies of sentence endings with Korean hedging expressions were investigated and a regression analysis was conducted. The result showed that the use of hedging expressions was slightly more in the upper group than the lower group. Therefore, this study concluded that the upper group preferred to use hedging expressions to control the strength of their claims. In addition, the study emphasized the importance of hedging expressions in university writing for inexperienced writers.
Key words: Korean modal expressions; argumentative texts; hedging expressions; Korean language education
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