1. Practices of referring to persons in oncological medical interactions

Susanne Günthner/Wolfgang Imo (Münster/Hamburg), Dominic Hendricks (Münster)

The project is part of the Research Unit “Practices of referring to persons: personal, indefinite and demonstrative pronouns in use”. The aim of this project is to analyze the situative use of personal, indefinite and demonstrative pronouns, based on a corpus of oncological medical interactions where cancer patients are told their diagnosis and proposed therapy.

Applying methods and concepts of Conversation Analysis and Interactional Linguistics, the project plans to show how pronouns are used to constitute participant roles, how self- and other-repair is managed, how strategies of agentivation and de-agentivation are employed and how stances are marked. At the same time, the role of these pronouns in the context of typical actions within these oncological interactions will be reconstructed. Hereby, prototypical and as well as deviant uses of pronouns will be detected. To achieve this aim, the corpus will be annotated in terms of verbal strategies of clarifying and masking of reference and agentivity (this concerns personal pronouns, indefinite pronouns, infinitive constructions, existential constructions, passive constructions, formulaic expressions such as let’s say and many more). sagen wir mal…, wenn ich ehrlich bin… etc.).

This broad annotation provides the background for further analyzes of referential practices to persons with pronouns. The following questions will be addressed:

(1) At which sequential positions do ambiguities and vaguenesses concerning reference to persons occur and how do they relate to degrees of agentivity? Which interactional functions and consequences do these ambiguities have? When and how, for example, do they lead to repair sequences, active thematizations of understanding and demand of taking a clear stance?

(2) How do doctors and patients’ relatives talk about present patients in triadic constellations? Which forms of lateral address are used?

(3) In what ways and in which sequential positions do personal, indefinite and demonstrative correlate with the activities carried out?

(4) Which interactional functions do the different pronouns have? When do interactants use personal pronouns, when indefinite pronouns and when demonstrative pronouns to refer to present and absent persons?

(5) How do pronouns contribute to the local constitution of the situative participant constellation, to the indication of social team building between the interactants, to the display of collaborative coping, to the inclusion or exclusion of the common situation or the marking of deontic or epistemic authorities?

(6) Which sedimented patterns containing pronouns are used as communicative resources for which actions?