A comparative study on the use of interactive metadiscourse by native Spanish scholars and Chinese learners of Spanish


As one of the most prominent terms in discourse analysis and language for specific purposes, ‘metadiscourse’ is defined as writers' reflexive use of language on the current text to make references to the text itself, or to its writers and readers (Hyland, 2005; Ädel, 2006). It is a crucial element in language since it allows the writer to organize texts, express points of view, and engage with readers in a familiar and expected way and therefore it is an important skill for students of academic writing in both L1 and L2 settings.

With an increasing research interest on metadiscourse, most previous studies, however, have focused on English-medium paradigm while other foreign languages gain less attention and are under-researched. To bridge the gap, the focus of this study is to compare the use of interactive metadiscourse by Spanish scholars and Chinese students of Spanish in the setting of Spanish academic writing.

To this end, two comparable corpora were built: one corpus consisted of 36 research articles written by native Spanish speakers (around 240,000 words); the other, 22 master’s theses produced by Chinese students majoring in Spanish Language and Literature (around 460,000 words). Hyland’s (2005) interpersonal model was adopted in this study. By drawing on the previous work by Cao & Hu (2014), Mur-Dueñas (2011), and Carrió-Pastor (2016), a fine-grained taxonomy of interactive metadiscourse was used as our analytic framework, and a more comprehensive list of interactive metadiscourse items was created for later analysis. We used MAXQDA 2020 (VERBI Software, 2019) for data management and coding. Both quantitative and qualitative analyses were carried out in the present study.

The results revealed that native Spanish scholars generally used more interactive metadiscourse items than Chinese learners, although significant differences were only found in subtypes like Topicalizers, Announcers, and Evidentials. In addition, we also found that some specific metadiscourse markers (such as en fin, al final) only occur in the learner corpus, due to Chinese students' lack of register awareness or expertise. Finally, the findings highlight some discussion raised by the research and suggest directions for future work.


Ädel, A. (2006). Metadiscourse in L1 and L2 English. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Cao, F., & Hu, G. (2014). Interactive metadiscourse in research articles: A comparative study of paradigmatic and disciplinary influences. Journal of Pragmatics, 66, 15–31.

Carrió-Pastor, M. L. (2016). A contrastive study of interactive metadiscourse in academic papers written in English and in Spanish. In F. A. Almeida, L. C. García, & V. González-Ruiz (Eds.), Corpus-based studies on language varieties. Bern: Peter Lang.

Hyland, K. (2005). Metadiscourse: Exploring Interaction in Writing. London: Continuum.

Mur-Dueñas, P. (2011). An intercultural analysis of metadiscourse features in research articles written in English and in Spanish. Journal of Pragmatics, 43(12), 3068–3079.

VERBI Software. (2019). MAXQDA 2020 [computer software]. Berlin: VERBI Software. Available from www.maxqda.com.

Gang Yao
Gang Yao

My research interests include corpus linguistics, Spanish as a Foreign Language, and academic discourse.