Engaging the Congregation: The Place of Metadiscourse in Contemporary Preaching

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Most forms of contemporary preaching elevate the role of the listeners, who are seen as co-constructors of the sermon. This article investigates how preachers may respond to a call from homiletics to 'turn-to-the-listener' through their deployment of metadiscourse, operationalized as a framework for understanding preaching not primarily as gospel proclamation, but as a form of social and communicative engagement. A quantitative analysis of 150 sermons from three well-established English Christian denominations finds that metadiscourse is a prolific feature in preaching, with almost one word in 10 performing a metadiscursive function, most prominently by recourse to interactional metadiscursive resources. A qualitative analysis shows that, across the three denominations, preachers adopt metadiscursive practices that may serve to address expectations in the turn-to-the-listener preaching paradigm. The findings will inform further applied analysis of religious discourse, and will add constructively to discussions within homiletics, not least by suggesting how empirical and applied approaches to language can be of service to homiletics and the teaching of preaching.


  • Hans Malmström
External organisations
  • Chalmers University of Technology
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-582
Number of pages22
JournalApplied Linguistics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Aug 1
Publication categoryResearch