Telling pain: a study of the linguistic encoding of the experiences of chronic pain and illness through the lexicogrammar of Italian
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Since the publication of Halliday (1988) a number of studies on the linguistic encoding of pain have appeared. These include Lascaratou (2003; 2007) on Greek, Hori (2006) on Japanese, Overlach (2008) on German. Using Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG), this thesis adds another language to the existing body of work on how physical pain gets encoded crosslinguistically. The empirical work undertaken comprises the analysis of an original corpus of interviews with seven Italian speakers living with one of three chronic conditions: Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), and Spinal Disc Herniation (SDH). This thesis shows the multiple ways in which the lexicogrammar of Italian encodes bodily pain as THING, (nominally), HAPPENING (through verbs), and as QUALITY of something (adjectivally). The analysis shows that speakers in the corpus favour the first type of encoding and suggests why this might be the case. From pain itself, the scope of the analysis broadens to include the lived experience of physical pain related to chronic illness by looking at the informants’ use of evaluative language. This is analysed by means of Appraisal Theory (Martin and Rose, 2003; Martin, 2005; Martin and White, 2005), which identifies three attitudes encoded through the system of appraisal. These are: affect (the speaker’s feelings and emotive responses, appreciation (the evaluation of things and events), and judgement (evaluations of people’s behaviour). The analysis shows the most frequently encoded attitude is affect, with a tendency to favour indirect over direct encodings. It is suggested that this is because of a desire to avoid coming across as over emotional and therefore unreliable, a sentiment rooted in the informants’ experiences of having their symptoms and conditions doubted in the past, even in medical encounters. A broad narrative analysis approach is then used to explore the types of identities that are constructed and presented by the informants. The notion of agency is used to critique the commonly-held view of chronic illness and pain as completely disempowering. The analysis shows that – within the same individual – feelings of powerlessness coexist, in a fluid state, with notions of heightened agency. My informants work towards preserving a pre-illness identity where contradictions and paradoxes are harmonised through language.
AuthorsBacchini, Simone Curzio
- Theses