Linguistics and English Language

Linguistic Circle

Speaker: Elena Semino (Lancaster University)

Title: Applying Corpus Linguistics to health(care) communication

Abstract: Language is central to the practice and provision of healthcare. It mediates how illness is understood, diagnosed and experienced. Effective and sensitive communication improves information-provision, diagnosis, support, self-management and self-esteem; poor or insensitive communication can cause misunderstandings, misdiagnoses, frustration, anxiety, stigma, and even death. In this talk I provide two examples of how corpus-assisted linguistic analysis can produce findings that are directly relevant to challenges in communication about illness. The first study concerns language in the diagnosis of chronic pain. I show how a corpus linguistic analysis can be used to assess existing diagnostic tools for pain, and, potentially, to inform the creation of new ones. The second study concerns metaphor in communication about cancer. Drawing from a corpus-based study of online writing by people with cancer, I show how a variety of metaphors are used creatively by patients as framing devices to express their lived experience of illness, and particularly to present themselves as more or less (dis)empowered within that experience. I then introduce a resource based on the findings of the research – the ‘Metaphor menu for people with cancer’. I conclude with some reflections on opportunities and challenges in conducting (corpus) linguistic research on communication about illness.

Contact details

Dr Chris Cummins

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Further information:

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Dec 13 2018 -

Linguistic Circle

2018-12-13: Applying Corpus Linguistics to health(care) communication

Lecture Theatre F21, Psychology Building, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ