Writing with an Attitude : Appraisal and student texts in the school subject of Swedish

Abstract: Learning in school is in many respects done through language. However, it has been shown that the language of school assignments is seldom explicitly discussed in school. Writing tasks are furthermore assigned without clear guidelines for how certain lexical choices make one text more powerful than another. The present study is a contribution to a linguistic and pedagogical discussion of student writing. More specifically the focus is on the use of evaluative language in texts written by students in the school subject of Swedish in grades 5, 8 and 11. The major investigations of the study have been accommodated within the theoretical framework of Appraisal. An overview is given of the language resources in the student texts for constructing emotion, judging behavior in ethical terms and valuing objects aesthetically. Another question addressed is that of how attitudinal meaning is intensified, thus creating greater or lesser degrees of positivity or negativity associated with the feelings. The results show that manifestations of attitude are found in practically all texts in the study. However, variations are noted in relation to different genres, age, proficiency level, language background and gender. A contribution of the study in relation to the theoretical framework upon which it draws is an extension of the system of Attitude as well as an identification of different patterns in the use of attitudinal resources. These patterns are furthermore discussed in relation to how students talk about their own written production in terms of text movability. Results indicate that students with a high degree of text movability also use attitudinal resources to a large extent. It is argued that applying the linguistic tool of Appraisal can facilitate a discussion of how to make one aspect of the hidden curriculum more visible, namely, how to write with an Attitude.