Hedging in Language Revisers' Hands
Appropriate hedging is a delicate matter in academic discourse, and for those writing in a foreign language, an additional challenge is presented by cultural and linguistic differences. This paper explores hedging in three non-native writers' research papers, and the ways in which native English language revisers approach the problem of revising it. The basic roles found for hedges in the texts were (a) conveying epistemic openness, and (b) providing interpersonal protection or showing tact. These roles also came out in interviews with revisers who offered justifications for authors' hedges by referring both to the nature of knowledge and to a desire to appear modest or polite. Yet the transparency of the motivation to appear polite suggests an additional macrolevel motive of group affiliation and social ritual. Moreover, different writers used different hedging strategies, which may imply disciplinary differences.
Revisers made few changes in hedges, since the original authors were assumed to be best able to judge appropriateness in view of their intentions. Corrections were made only in cases felt to be incorrect or not natural according to native-speaker intuition.