Writer identity while learning discipline-specific academic literacy in an additional language

  • Jennifer Stacey


Constructing an effective identity in academic writing is considered crucial in establishing a favourable reader-writer relationship; in eliciting a positive reader response to the text and even in developing a convincing argument (Hyland, 2004). But different expectations of authorial presence in academic writing between disciplines, and even changing notions within disciplines, present student learners of academic literacy with difficulties. These difficulties are increased for students writing in English as an additional language (EAL), especially when they are exposed simultaneously to more than one discipline-specific literacy. This paper looks at the writing of an EAL learner of academic literacy in a foundation course in literature in the English Department at the University of the Witwatersrand. Clark and Ivanic’s (1997) model of the aspects of writer identity (autobiographical self, self as author and discoursal self) is used to analyse the student’s writing and to understand her sense of her writer identity. I argue that, despite this student’s lack of awareness of the effects of her linguistic choices on writer identity, her heightened sense of self as flexible and changing while she straddles more than one culture and language, could provide ways for helping students to understand better the construction of identity in academic writing.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2009, 27(3): 345–356

Author Biography

Jennifer Stacey
Department of English, School of Literature and Language Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614