Chapter 6. Pronominal choice and self-positioning strategies in second language academic writing
Academic writing involves an understanding of how authors position themselves into their texts, what type of textual presence they adopt, and what kind of relationship they establish with their readers. One way in which self-positioning is accomplished is by the use of personal pronouns, which can be strategically employed to enact pragmatic functions, such as expressing solidarity with readers, taking a position or stand, stating opinions or knowledge claims, or creating distance between author and text. In this paper, I examine a sample of 383 essays generated by two cohorts of second language learners in the context of a university ESL/EAP program. Corpus-based techniques are used to conduct a frequency analysis of first and second person subject pronouns in different types of essays, as well as to determine changes in the use of these pronouns as learners progress through sequential writing courses. In addition, representative essays generated by eight individual learners are examined in order to explore their self-positioning strategies across time and writing tasks. The analyses reveal important shifts in pronominal choice as learners move from one course to the next, and as they attempt to establish a textual presence appropriate to the rhetorical goals of their essays.