FAH-DENG Guest Lecture: ‘Operationalizing Voice in Writing’


Prof. Paul Kei Matsuda


17 Apr 2018






Abstract: Voice, or identity mediated by written discourse, has become a popular topic in applied linguistics in recent years. While early conceptions of voice tended to focus on the writer’s distinct individual identity that comes through in writing (Elbow, 1968; Stewart, 1969) the notion has evolved into a more complex, multifaceted one, encompassing both individual and social aspects of identity (Ivanič & Camps, 2001; Prior, 2001). Furthermore, recent conceptions of voice have acknowledged that voice does not reside in the text itself but it is co-constructed by writers and readers and mediated by the text (Matsuda, 2001; Matsuda & Tardy, 2007; Tardy & Matsuda, 2008).

The popularity of the topic is understandable given the richness of identity issues in writing in a wide spectrum of genres—from personal to academic to professional. Yet, the complexity of issues related to voice in writing also has made it challenging to operationalize the construct (Matsuda, 2015). In fact, existing instruments (i.e., rubrics) for measuring voice tend to treat voice in terms of individual identity (Stapleton & Helms-Park, 2003; Yeh, 1998; Zhao, 2002); they also tend to focus on textual features rather than functions.

This paper presents a critique of the text-based operationalization of voice and proposes an alternative, interactive view of voice that can enhance future research efforts. After a systematic overview and synthesis of various definitions, the presenter will examines existing voice rubrics and point out their limitations. To overcome the limitations, an interactive conception of voice will be presented that accounts for the interaction of the writer’s intentions and the reader’s perceptions as well as the role of the text in mediating the negotiation process.

Position and Affiliation of the guest speaker
: Professor of English and Director of Second Language Writing at Arizona State University, also former president of the American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL), founding chair of the SSLW (Symposium on Second Language Writing).


All are welcome




FAH - Department of English
Tel: 88224063
Email: zoewong@um.edu.mo