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Advances in Medical Discourse Analysis: Oral and Written Contexts

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Maurizio Gotti and Françoise Salager-Meyer

The focus of this volume is on medical discourse, a domain of language which deserves closer scrutiny by academics as well as practitioners, due to its increasing relevance and pervasiveness in modern society. Despite the wealth of publications dealing with specialized or academic discourse and its rhetoric, few of these are devoted specifically to medical discourse. This book seeks to redress the balance by bringing together a number of studies that bear witness to the widespread interest in medical texts shown by linguists and professional communities around the world. The volume is divided into two main parts: the first targets medical discourse in its spoken dimension, while the second contains various analyses of written texts. The theoretical perspectives and individual case studies presented here reflect the wide range of methodological approaches and theoretical issues that characterise current research in the field.

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MAURIZIO GOTTI / FRANÇOISE SALAGER-MEYER - Introduction 9

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MAURIZIO GOTTI / FRANÇOISE SALAGER-MEYER Introduction 1. Medical discourse analysis Medicine is both an area of knowledge (of body systems, their diseases and treatments) and the applied practice of that knowledge to medical praxis. This is why medicine is said to be both a science and an art, the science (and technology) being the evidential basis for solving clinical problems, and the art being the application of this medical knowledge combined with intuition and clinical judgment to determine the best diagnosis and treatment plan for each patient. Human societies have developed different systems of healthcare practice since at least the beginning of recorded history. The earliest type of medicine in most cultures was the use of plants (herbalism) and animal parts. This was usually employed along with ‘magic’ of various kinds in which animism (the notion of inanimate objects having spirits), shamanism (the vesting of an individual with mystic powers), and divination (the attainment of truth through magic) played a major role. The practice of medicine developed gradually, and separately, in ancient Egypt, China, India, Greece, Persia and elsewhere. The main shift in medical thinking was the gradual rejection in the early 15th century of what could be called ‘the traditional authority approach’ to science and medicine according to which the claims of prominent personalities were not to be discussed; they were, on the contrary, adopted as absolute truth (cf. Taatvitsainen / Pahta 2004). Before the 17th century the doctrines of the ancient world dominated the theory and practice...

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