How do Doctors use Language to Shape, Challenge and Form Relationships?

13 June 2017

This month we published Reflective Writing in Medical Practice by Miriam A. Locher. In this post the author explains the focus of the book and how it came about.

This book is about the linguistic analysis of written reflective writing texts that were produced in the context of medical education and medical practice. The texts were collected from medical students from the University of Basel and the University of Nottingham (in connection with courses on communication skills in doctor-patient interaction), and are supplemented by a corpus of texts written by doctors for columns published in medical journals.

The genre of reflective writing has several purposes: it invites the writer to learn from a past experience and to reflect on potential future behaviour. In its focus on a past experience it involves narrative elements and in its trajectory on learning it involves reflection and projection. As a practice, the value of reflective writing has long been established within the medical humanities and medical professionals are encouraged to make reflective writing a life-long habit.

My own expertise in online health communication and (im)politeness studies led me to ask how medical students and doctors use language to shape, challenge and form relationships (a process for which I use the term ‘relational work’), and thus to study the texts in the reflective writing corpus from an interpersonal pragmatics perspective. In addition, the texts are explored with respect to topic, composition, and genre. In the book, we explore:

  • what topics and communication skills the authors write about
  • how the narratives develop
  • how these texts are shaped
  • what genres influence their composition
  • how relational work surfaces in them
  • how the writers linguistically create their identities as experts or novices

The medical humanities have long played an important role in medical training at the University of Basel. When I joined the staff of the English department in 2008, two important scholars on the medical humanities committee, Prof. Alexander Kiss (psychosomatics) and Prof. Franziska Gygax (English literary and cultural studies) approached me and we developed a joint interdisciplinary project entitled ‘Life (Beyond) Writing’: Illness Narratives, (funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation). This project joins the study of life writing, reflective writing and medical education. During the years that the project was funded, we have learnt from each others’ different ways of developing questions and approaching data. We also organized an interdisciplinary conference, which resulted in an edited collection (Narrative Matters across Disciplines in Medical Practice, Benjamins, 2015).

The current book is the result of the linguistic branch of the project, which deals with the reflective writing corpus as outlined above. Our collaborator Victoria Tischler (Nottingham) and the linguistics project member Regula Koenig were important team members throughout the genesis of the book. While bringing the ideas together as a whole and writing it up was a single-author experience, I feel indebted to both and therefore use the authorial “we” when writing. Without their help in obtaining data, coding and feedback, the completion of this project would not have been possible.

More information on the author can be found on her website.

More information on the interdisciplinary project can be found on the project website.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Medical Discourse in Professional, Academic and Popular Settings edited by Pilar Ordóñez-López and Nuria Edo-Marzá and English in Medical Education by Peih-ying Lu and John Corbett.

 


2014 set to be an exciting year for MM’s SLA series

18 February 2014

Capitalizing on Language Learners' Individuality2014 has begun in force for our Second Language Acquisition series. Already this year we have seen the publication of Capitalizing on Language Learners’ Individuality by Tammy Gregersen and Peter D. MacIntyre: an exciting book which offers not only an up-to-date, accessible introduction to the theories of learner characteristics but is also jam-packed full of practical classroom activities. Tammy and Peter told us about how the project came about in their blog post last year. If you missed it, you can catch up here.

Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLAAlso on our blog you may have seen Sarah Mercer and Marion Williams’ introduction (here if you missed it) to their edited collection Multiple Perspectives on the Self which was published at the start of February. This collection of papers brings together a diverse range of conceptualisations of the self in the domain of second language acquisition and foreign language learning. The volume attempts to unite a fragmented field and provides a thorough overview of the ways in which the self can be conceptualised in SLA contexts.

Sociocultural Theory and L2 Instructional Pragmatics

The third addition to our SLA series so far this year is Sociocultural Theory and L2 Instructional Pragmatics by Rémi A. van Compernolle. This book outlines a framework for teaching second language pragmatics grounded in Vygotskian sociocultural psychology. Using multiple sources of metalinguistic and performance data, the volume explores both theoretical and practical issues relevant to teaching second language pragmatics from a Vygotskian perspective. Van Compernolle’s book is the 74th to be published in our SLA series and we are hoping to make it to 80 titles by the end of 2014.

The Acquisition of Sociolinguistic Competence in a Lingua Franca ContextBooks already on their way to publication include The Acquisition of Sociolinguistic Competence in a Lingua Franca Context by Mercedes Durham, Jian-E Peng’s monograph Willingness to Communicate in the Chinese EFL University Classroom, ZhaoHong Han’s edited volume Studies in Second Language Acquisition of Chinese and Measuring L2 Proficiency edited by Pascale Leclercq et al. Other highlights for the SLA series in 2014 include the International Conference on Motivational Dynamics and Second Language Acquisition at The University of Nottingham which we are very excited to be supporting and our annual attendance of EUROSLA which is to be hosted by the University of York this year.

The academic series editor for our SLA series is David Singleton, University of Pannonia, Hungary and Fellow Emeritus, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland and our in-house Acquisitions Editor is Laura Longworth. Should you be interested in submitting a proposal or discussing any book ideas with us, please do not hesitate to get in touch. More information can be found on our website here.


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