Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Language, Education, Humanities, and Innovation 2017

Writer Accountability and Discourse Voice in Academic English: A Study of the Verb ‘Emerge’

Brian Poole

Majan University College, Sultanate of Oman


Most research around the world today is reported in English, and when academics put on record their findings and describe how they reached them there is an obligation for them to do so in ways that allow their readers to understand unambiguously. In other words, academic authors should always endeavour to make claims and to report results in an explicit manner, and to avoid, as far as possible, concealment of their own biases and subjectivity. This paper examines instances of the lexeme EMERGE in a small corpus of articles extracted randomly from three journals in the fields of education and applied linguistics. Analysis of the data collected in this way leads to three main findings. Firstly, the grammatical subject of the verb ‘emerge’ is almost always an inanimate noun denoting an abstract concept, such as ‘pattern’, ‘attribute’ or ‘picture’. Secondly, statements involving an abstract subject plus ‘emerge’ often occur when academic writers are either putting forward interpretations of data or reporting results. Thirdly, statements involving an abstract subject plus ‘emerge’ are almost never hedged. While it is accepted that the limitations associated with this small-scale study of a single verb are very considerable, these findings ha ve implications for academic writers who want to abide by their obligations to make clear statements and to take responsibility for them. It is argued that greater use of ‘personal style’ (making appropriate use of first-person pronouns), is one way to do this – while using the verb ‘emerge’ in the ways described above, on the other hand, is indicative of low authorial discourse presence and the concealment of the writer’s responsibility for claims and interpretations made.


academic English, writer accountability, discourse voice, lexis

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