Dialogue on ‘1 Malaysia’: The uses of metadiscourse in ethnopolitical accounting

Richard Buttny, Azirah Hashim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


A small group of ethnically and religiously diverse Malaysians were assembled to discuss the recent call for ‘1 Malaysia’. Dialogue is widely recognized as a worthwhile communication activity to deal with the differences and issues between peoples. But how does dialogue actually work in practice? In this study, metadiscourse – talk about talk – is used as a resource to get at how participants understand their own discussion, for example, ‘we should have dialogues like this’ or ‘as long as we continue talking and trying to find solutions we have a hope of finding a solution if we don’t talk there won’t be any chance for a solution’. However, there are few instances of such metadiscourse in the over 2-hour discussion. More common are uses of metadiscourse to characterize prior problematic situations or what is needed in the future. Participants use metadiscourse as part of a narrative to give voice to self or other in making an argument about the situation in Malaysia. Participants’ narratives show how ethnicity and religion have become politicized into an ethnopolitical conflict. Most of all of the narratives are of problematic ethnopolitical relations between the Malays and non-Malays. Yet giving voice to these sensitive issues in a mixed group also points to possible solutions and a way forward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-164
Number of pages18
JournalDiscourse and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 24 2015


  • 1 Malaysia
  • Accounting
  • Malaysia
  • accounts
  • dialogue
  • ethnopolitical conflict
  • intercultural dialogue
  • metadiscourse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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