An analysis of stance and voice in research articles across Chinese and British cultures, using the Appraisal Framework

  • Xiaoyu Xu

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Scholars from Mainland China are increasingly publishing in the medium of English, in order to gain visibility and credibility worldwide. However, the visibility of Chinese scholars in the Social Sciences is strikingly low. Due to the holistic, interpretative, reiterative nature of knowledge in the Social Sciences, writers have to work harder to establish personal credibility through claim-making negotiations, sharing sympathetic understanding and promoting tolerance in their readers (Becher, 1994; Becher & Trowler, 2001; Hyland, 2000). This thesis investigates differences in stance and voice style between scholars from Mainland China and Britain so as to derive new information which might be useful to novice researchers in the Social Sciences (particularly applied linguistics) who intend to publish internationally. A corpus of 30 research articles in applied linguistics was analysed in terms of Appraisal Theory (Martin & White 2005), theory of context (Xu & Nesi, 2017) and genre analysis (Swales 1990, 2004), using the UAM Corpus Tool (O’Donnell 2011). Findings from this analysis suggest that both the Chinese and the British authors are aware of the need to argue for their own opinions and maintain good relationships with their readers, but choose contrasting ways to realize these same purposes. Generally the Chinese authors try to maintain writer-reader relationships by avoiding explicit attitudinal evaluation of the work of others, while the British authors try to maintain writer-reader relationships by toning down or only evoking stance. The Chinese authors argue for their own positions by reinforcing their explicit attitudes, adding multiple references, sharpening the completion of tasks and construing claims as unquestioned, whereas the British authors argue for their own positions by explicitly evaluating people and phenomena. Because the statistically significant differences in stance and voice strategies revealed in this thesis indicate differences between Chinese and British scholars’ argumentative styles, they suggest the need for a new way of perceiving Chinese ethnolinguistic impact on research writing, and might also inform the teaching of academic writing in the social sciences.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorHilary Nesi (Supervisor) & Sheena Gardner (Supervisor)

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