Analyzing Modality Expressions as Hedges in English Discourse: A Corpus-based Approach

  • Tran Phuc Huu University of Foreign Language Studies, The University of Danang,
Keywords: corpus-based approach, corpora, modality expressions, hedges, discourse analysis


This paper aims at investigating the communicative purpose of different forms of hedges in English discourse under the umbrella of corpus-based analysis. Hedges are expressions showing the speaker’s tentativeness, indirectness and modality in speech communication. The two research corpora of British and American ambassadorial speeches are compiled to provide the data source and the software package of Wordsmith 5.0 is used to achieve statistical data for a comparative analysis of hedges in the research corpora. The results of this research show that most hedges occurring in ambassadorial speeches are in patterns with modal lexical verbs, modal adjectives and modal adverbs as intensifiers and downtoners. Hedges in patterns with modal lexical verbs and modal adjectives occur with higher frequency in the American ambassadorial corpus while more hedges with modal adverbs as intensifiers and downtoners are found in the British ambassadorial corpus. As such, it can be claimed from the data analysis in this research that American ambassadors appear to be more personal and subjective, whereas British ambassadors seem to be more tentative and objective in the use of modality expressions as hedges in their speech delivery.