Introduction: Developing discourse stance in different text types and languages

Ruth A. Berman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article introduces the theme of 'discourse stance', the unifying focal point for this special issue, and delineates the three dimensions involved in this notion, as described in the position paper [Berman, Ruth A., Ragnarsdóttir, Hrafnhildur, Strömqvist, Sven, 2002. Discourse stance.Written Language and Literacy 5, 255-290] that forms the source study to the articles in this volume: orientation, attitude, and generality. It then summarizes predictions proposed there for how discourse stance will be realized in relation to the variables of development (four levels of age and schooling), genre (personal-experience narrative versus expository discussion), modality (written versus spoken texts), and target language (Dutch, English, French, Hebrew, Icelandic, Spanish, and Swedish). The article concludes by comparing common themes with language-particular findings that emerge from the analyses presented here. These analyses, conducted on directly comparable data-sets for the different languages, reveal certain shared trends across the sample. A range of lexico-syntactic features of linguistic structure and thematic content interact to express discourse stance; these differ markedly as a function of text type; and more mature speaker-writers express a less monolithic stance than younger schoolchildren. On the other hand, devices for agent downgrading or distancing of the speaker-writer from the contents of the text (such as impersonal use of 2nd person pronouns; generic pronouns like English we, French on, or Dutch men; and middle and passive voice compared with active voice) change in both amount and range both as a function of text type and of age and literacy level, and also cross-linguistically, reflecting different rhetorical options favored by speaker-writers of different languages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-124
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2005


  • Cross-linguistic
  • Form-function relations
  • Genre
  • Lexical and thematic content
  • Modality
  • Pronouns
  • Rhetorical options


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