Metadiscourse, Writer Identity and Reader Construction among Novice Arabic-Speaking ESL Writers




metadiscourse, systemic functional linguistics, content analysis, transitivity analysis, English for Academic Purposes, writer concepts, reader concepts


This study used qualitative analyses to explore novice ESL writers’ concepts of writers, readers and texts. Metadiscourse studies tabulate frequencies of discourse markers in order to characterise the different ways novices and experts, native-speakers and non-native speakers, construct themselves as writers, engage with their readers, and guide readers through their text. But the picture created by these descriptive statistics lacks many content areas voiced by student writers, including their reliance on visual content, and their emotions. Student writers’ experiences in a world saturated by visual media and marketing views are also factors shaping how they construct their identities as writers, the identities of their projected readers, and how they understand what they are doing when writing text. This study used content and transitivity analyses to assess how Arabic native-speaker novices understand themselves as writers, how they project their readers’ identities, and how they try to engage them. Results show that visuals are indistinct from text, and verbs of seeing are used for reader understanding, in novice writers’ sense of their texts, and how they understand engaging the reader. These novices have a demographically granular assessment of audiences, but aim to please readers with expected content rather than challenge them with academic content, and they downplay important elements of teacher talk, syllabus and second-language (L2) composition instruction, particularly data, research, structure and language.

Author Biography

Christina A DeCoursey, Silk Road International University, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Professor DeCoursey received her PhD from the University of Toronto. She founded and ran the MA in English Language Arts at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She was Chair of the American University in Science and Technology’s Department of Language, Literature and Translation in Beirut, the TESOL ESP rep for the Middle East, and Division Head of Humanities at Innopolis University in Kazan, Russia. Her research interests include Appraisal analysis and healthcare communication.




How to Cite

DeCoursey, C. A. (2019). Metadiscourse, Writer Identity and Reader Construction among Novice Arabic-Speaking ESL Writers. English Studies at NBU, 5(2), 284–307.