Sunday, March 10, 2013

ESP : The Use of Hedging

Duddley-Evans& St. John (1998, pg 77) “Learners need to be able to appreciate the role of hedging in academic, professional, and business genres and to manipulate its actual linguistic devices.”
Hedging is mostly used in academic field in written form to reduce the strength of statements. Writers use hedges, words whose job is to make things more or less fuzzy (Lakoff, in Hyland, 1996), to anticipate possible negative consequences of being proved wrong later on. The use of hedging is a bit controversy among scholars. Some say that hedging is critical in the area of academic, however the others say that hedging is an unnecessary word. From brief illustration above, in the field of EAP/ESP, as Dudley-Evan stated, learners needs to be able to understand the role of hedging in academic, professional, and business field.
 Through this paper I would like to describe whether the use of hedging in academic field is necessary or not. Moreover, since mostly hedging is used in written discourse, particularly in research articles, this makes me wonder of the role of hedging in spoken discourse. Is there commonly used of spoken discourse of hedging in academic or professional field?
Zuck and Zuck (1986) in Hyland (1996:447) refer to hedging as the process whereby the authors reduce the strength of a statement. The writers use the hedges, such as lexical verbs (indicate, suggest), modal verbs (may, might), and probability (possibly), in their writing in case of information or the analysis reported turns out to be incorrect later. For example, the academic writers or business practitioners may use hedges in their report of analysis when limited evidence is available. It tends to be the opinion of the writer considering the evidence rather than facts.
The issue of hedging raises debate among scholars, some experts described hedges as unnecessary words and clutter words as Lindsay (1984) in Hyland (1996:482) advised that the writer should not use the expression such as “it may be possible that..” when they have no conclusive evidence, otherwise readers will assume that they do not believe their own data. Some of my lecturers in undergraduate level, for example, believe that students in writing their research should not use hedging because it will lower the research quality and they said that the students must have been through some surveys and observations before came to the conclusion.
Nevertheles, Hayland (ibid;478) argued that hedges are important to scientist because even the most assured propositions have an inherently limited period of acceptance.One theory or believe may survive in some period of times, but with development of technology that theory might be proved wrong. For instance, the famous earth’s rotationtheory that place the sun as the center of the universe, namedHeliocentric, by Copernicus was successfullyagainst the theory of Geocentric. (the theory evolution of Darwin seems no longer believed nowadays). It indicates that the use of hedging is important in presenting claims.
Apart from the use of hedging in written discourse, it is also used in spoken form. In spoken form, it functions as self-protection strategy. For example, the use of hedging in professional political discourse.Taweel (2011:178) said that for politicians, language is always a powerful tool to loose or to win. They must be convincing if they want to be selected by audiences, on the other hand they also must be careful in giving their claims over some phenomenon which is being the headlines or not yet proved. Based on the research conducted by Taweel,, they found that from the interview with Arabic politicians, strategies of hedging that characterizes political spoken discourse, namely the avoidance strategy which consists of topic-shift generalization, and ignorance, is the most commonly occured (2011:176). The politicians tend to use this strategy to be in a safe position instead of giving direct answer to the interviewer.
While in business field, it is stated in Sun (2011:212) that people in business contexts prefer clarity and directness. Since they are dealing with economic and social interaction such as commerce, investment, marketing, agreement with other companies, then business practitioners have to avoid being uncertain in order to have deal and make success of their business, particularly when the interaction takes place on the phone or in the meeting room.
To sum up, hedging is necessary to use in written form to anticipate writer from possible negative consequences on their stated claims. Similarly, in spoken discourse hedging is used as avoidance strategy to protect speaker’s self from unproved criticism. While in business spoken interaction particularly, hedges are advised not to be used since business people prefer the certainty and directness to make success.

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