The Function of Hedging Devices Used in "Room for Debate" Posted In New York Times Online Website
Rahmawati, Risti Yani
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According to Hyland (1998), hedging is the mean by which writers can present a proposition as an opinion rather than a fact: items are only hedges in their epistemic sense, and only when they mark uncertainty. Hedges can be either lexical (e.g.: assume, may, possible) or structural (e.g. passive form) devices through which writers can show their uncertainty towards the proposition. This study attempts to examine the types and frequencies of hedging devices used in “Room for Debate” posted in New York Times online website. Further, this study was conducted to investigate the possible functions of hedging devices in “Room for Debate”. This research was conducted by using qualitative method. The data consists of 150 opinion articles posted in the New York Times, particularly in “Room for Debate” representing six disciplines including business, economy, politic, environment, health, and technology. The total numbers of words of the six sections were 55,015. The data were obtained by using documentation by collecting and selecting articles posted in the New York Times, especially in “Room for Debate” during the recent five years (2012-2015). Afterward, the data were analyzed in accordance with surface features taxonomy and poly-pragmatic model from Hyland (1998). According to this model, analysis of hedging in writing involves coding, identifying, classifying, analyzing, describing and concluding. The result shows that the total number of hedges found in the news articles of “Room for Debate” posted on New York Times is 978. The writers of this column were inclined to use modal auxiliary as one form of hedges with the frequency of 413 (42.2%). The next considerable type of hedges found in this column is the category of epistemic adverbs with the total of 186 (19%) followed by epistemic lexical verbs 140 (14.3%) and hedging numerical data 83 (8.5%). Epistemic adjectives, passive constructions and hypothetical condition have quite similar number in the column, that is 43 (4.4%), 55 (5.5%) and 48 (5%). On the other hand, the writers of “Room for Debate” seem to reluctantly use epistemic noun, direct questions, and reference to limited knowledge for each of them appears less than 1%. The study also revealed that hedging used in “Room for Debate” performs three pragmatic functions. These are accuracy-oriented hedge that help the writer to present the proposition or statement with greater precision. Meanwhile, the use of writer-oriented hedge is for reducing the writer’s commitment to statement and avoiding personal responsibility for propositional truth. The reader-oriented hedge allows the writer to invite the reader’s involvement and personalize the information in the proposition.