Impersonalizations as a Form of Hedging
In this paper, impersonalization or avoidance of explicit reference to persons is claimed to be a form of hedging. It is argued that, like "traditional" hedges, impersonalization allows the language user the a possibility to avoid committing him/herself fully to the content of the message expressed. It also offers a possibility for detachment from the message. A further assumption is that this form of hedging is a typical feature of written scientific discourse.
The data examined consists of spoken and written versions of scientific texts in English and Finnish. The assumption that impersonalization is a special feature of written scientific discpurse is clearly corroborated by the data. The spoken versions are much more explicitly personal than the written ones, regardless of language or text type. There are slight differences in the actual linguistic devices used for the avoidance of explicit personal reference between English and Finnish, but the norms for its use seem to be very similar. This suggests that the scientific community sets the norms rather than the speaker/writer's native language or culture.