In this volume, medical communication is analyzed from various viewpoints: not only from a merely linguistic angle, with a focus on the description of the genres used in medical and healthcare contexts, but also from a social and cultural standpoint, with an emphasis both on the doctor-patient relationship and on the social relevance of the other types of communicative links existing between the many communities involved in this type of interaction.
The study of some of the main fields typical of medical communication has highlighted a considerable variety of themes, data and research methods which are clearly representative of the eclectic interest in this specific domain and of the wide range of approaches developed for its investigation.
As the various chapters show, linguistic analysis proves to be highly applicable to textualizations involving multiple interactions and practices, and several kinds of participants, including different healthcare professionals, trainees and patients.
1. Investigating medical communication
Medical knowledge is represented, conveyed and questioned through communicative practices. However, the relation between medicine and communication is complex. Despite the fact that knowledge is still commonly transferred and disseminated through language, medical knowledge implies the exploitation of other means of communication, such as formulae, graphs, images, etc. as well as other communicative modes, such as traditional academic and popular genres, in addition to newly-emerging procedures offered by information technology.
Medical discourse is not just a matter of communicating with patients, about patients, and for patients. Indeed, this specialised type of communication is a very complex phenomenon, mainly relying on the fact that practitioners and researchers need to communicate in different ways, for different aims, and to different targets. As rightly pointed out by Hyland (2004, 2011), the ways in which members of the various disciplines communicate encompass different viewpoints embracing both the issue under investigation as well as their standpoints on that issue. For this reason, specialists employ as many registers as possible according to the many different options available so as to target the various audiences they need to address. Furthermore, in order to reach their goals, they need to exploit a number of interdisciplinary and multimodal strategies, both in public and in private interactions.
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