LINGUIST List 13.1721

Tue Jun 18 2002

Diss: Pragmatics: Roxana "Doctor/patient..."

Editor for this issue: Karolina Owczarzak <>


  1. radst35+, Pragmatics: Roxana "Doctor/patient interaction..."

Message 1: Pragmatics: Roxana "Doctor/patient interaction..."

Date: Mon, 17 Jun 2002 15:03:35 +0000
From: radst35+ <>
Subject: Pragmatics: Roxana "Doctor/patient interaction..."

New Dissertation Abstract

Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Program: Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2002

Author: Delbene Roxana 

Dissertation Title: 
Doctor/patient interaction in the context of a socially stigmatized
disease: the interplay of gender and sexual orientation in medical
interviews involving HIV/AIDS-infected patients

Linguistic Field: Pragmatics

Subject Language: Spanish 

Dissertation Director 1: Barbara Jonhstone 
Dissertation Director 2: Susan Berk Seligson 

Dissertation Abstract: 

This dissertation has its roots in the fields of sociolinguistics and
medical anthropology. The investigation, conducted in a public
hospital of Uruguay, examines the "ways of speaking" (Hymes, 1972) of
physicians and their HIV/AIDS-infected patients. The data comprise
the speech of male and female patients and doctors;
heterosexually-oriented male and female patients; and homosexually and
bisexually-oriented male patients. The investigation looks at: (1)
linguistic patterns that characterize medical interviews involving
this stigmatized disease; (2) linguistic patterns that characterize
the interaction between seropositive patients and their physicians;
(3) linguistic patterns correlated with gender and sexual orientation.
Finally, these linguistic patterns are accounted for by the Uruguayan
cultural belief system. This investigation combines ethnographic
research methods, discourse analysis methodology and quantitative
procedures for weighting the linguistic strategies used by the

The major findings are: (a) the predominant use, by physicians, of
indirect strategies involving mitigation, (b) more frequent use of
mitigating devices by male physicians -- especially when interacting
with female patients; (c) among patients, the most frequent use of
intensifiers by homosexual men (such as the use of slang to complain
about the increase of the viral load). Mitigation as an expression of
indirectness, interpreted in this study as a silencing discourse
rather than as a politeness practice, and the use of intensifiers as
expressions of directness indicating resistance to medical treatment,
have both been shown to be associated with Uruguayan
culturally-constructed notions of gender and sexual orientation.
Finally, in the context of AIDS, mitigation is interpreted as a way of
marginalizing HIV/AIDS patients who already suffer from other
stigmatizations related to social class, gender and sexual
preferences. This verbal style might lead patients to confusion about
the seriousness of their prognosis and it is also claimed that this
verbal behavior could have epidemiological consequences for Uruguayan
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