LANGUAGE OF MEDICINE: LINGUISTIC ASPECTS

Research article
DOI:
https://doi.org/10.18454/RULB.2022.31.8
Issue: № 3 (31), 2022
Suggested:
02.06.2022
Accepted:
09.06.2022
Published:
11.07.2022
108
8
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Abstract

The article discusses the means by which, from the point of view of linguistics, the realization of professional communicative needs, which are included in the field of medical communication, is achieved. An analysis of the terminological apparatus that describes the phenomenon under study, as well as various interpretations of the concept under study is given. The paper substantiates the use of the term "professional language". The results of the described study allow us to conclude that the professional language of medical communication is a wide range of lexical and grammatical means of communication. At the same time, it is not possible to talk about the narrowing the volume of at least one of the language levels. A professional language includes both a set of commonly used linguistic means and special elements at the lexical and grammatical levels. Common lexical means can be combined and supplemented by professional lexical units, but universal grammar in "doctor - doctor" communication can be subject to special selection.

1. Introduction

English of Medicine (Medical English) is a variety (a variant) of English for professional purposes. This linguistic phenomenon is a special variety that serves the needs of a certain professional field. Before proceeding to the description of the phenomenon under study, it seems necessary to define the terminology. The analysis of the Russian and foreign literature suggests that there is no general opinion among researchers, not only in the terminology itself, but also in the interpretation of the concept of "professional language".

2. Research methods and principles

Numerous textbooks on Medical English, special websites in English that provide medical information for doctors and patients, and scripts of records of communication between doctors and patients served as the material for the study.

3. Main results

In Russian linguistics several equivalent terms to refer to this kind of national language are used: "professional language", "language for special purposes", "professional sublanguage", "professional dialect", "professional style of language", "special language", etc. These terms represent the conceptual apparatus of sociolinguistic research. In this field, the phenomenon of the professional language is most often understood as a social dialect, that is, a kind of language spoken by certain social groups of the population. Social dialects act as an additional means of communication for an individual social class,  a professional group and age groups, but not for the people of the whole country (unlike the literary language) and not for the entire region (as territorial dialects) [2].

In British and American literature a professional language is understood as a functional variant of language implementation in a certain area of professional activity [10, P. 185], [7], [8], [9]. In foreign linguistics other terms are used, mainly in the field of pedagogics for methodological purposes. These terms make it possible to outline the linguistic content of the analyzed concept for the purposes of teaching [5], [6].

The term "foreign language for specific purposes" appeared in the middle of the 20th century and referred mainly to the English language, which, due to various socio-cultural and historical circumstances, gradually became the language of international communication in all areas of activity. Since the early 1960s, English for Special Purposes (ESP) has grown into one of the most prominent areas of teaching English as a foreign language. English for Special Purposes (ESP) is an educationally oriented variety of English that is based on communicative competencies in a particular field of activity or profession. English for Special Purposes is divided into two main areas, namely English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and English for Professional Purposes (EPP).

English for Academic Purposes (EAP), commonly known as Academic English, is a type of language that is used in various academic purposes, e.g. writing academic papers (essays, term papers, etc., depending on the specialization of the educational institution), presenting research material, writing scientific articles. English for academic purposes can also cover a range of general communication situations related to professional activities (travelling, telephoning, business writing).

English for Professional Purposes (EPP) is based on the specific professional communicative needs of the communicants. Moreover, the specificity of EPP also takes into account the fact that communicative needs vary. Therefore, there is a number of varieties of EPP such as English for Nurses, English for Programmers, or English for Accountants. English for Professional Purposes can include a set of language tools that focus on the more general needs of a particular area, such as English for the Military, English for Banking and Finance, and English for Oil Industry.

In the European methodology of teaching foreign languages, English for Occupational Purposes (EOP) is also highlighted. This is a broader concept than English for Professional Purposes, as it does not include the use of the language in specific narrow professional situations that require special knowledge, skills and work experience.

Summing up the discussion about various terms for describing the phenomenon under study, it seems necessary to formulate (select and justify) the terminological apparatus of the study. For practical purposes, the most successful and appropriate term is the term "professional language", since it directly reflects the scope of use of the language variety, and this term should be understood as a functional variety, since it is the functioning of this language variety in a certain professional area that is its most essential feature, defining its main characteristics.

Being a variety (variant) of English for professional purposes, which is based on the specific professional communicative needs of a certain circle of communicants, Medical English (English of Medicine) is aimed at realizing the communicative needs of healthcare professionals.

As mentioned above, the specificity of EPP also takes into account the fact that communicative needs vary, therefore, the content of this type of language can be broader or more specific. With regard to Medical English, we can talk about the allocation of such language sub-varieties as Medical English for dentists, nurses, doctors, as well as a further narrowing of specialization - for cardiologists, endocrinologists and other specialists.

The purpose of this article is to consider what Medical English means from a linguistic point of view, that is, how, by what means, from the point of view of linguistics, the implementation of professional communicative needs is achieved.

4. Discussion

Professional language is a historical and national category, the result of the interaction of various factors and cultures.

An analysis of the literature has shown that in most studies professional language is considered as a system of special lexical and phraseological units, that is, as a terminological system [1], [3], [4]. Professional language is usually described as a historically established, relatively stable for a given period, autonomous existential form of the national language with its own system of interacting sociolinguistic norms. This form is a combination of some phonetic, grammatical and predominantly specific lexical means of the national language, serving the communicative needs of a certain society, characterized by the unity of professional activity of their individuals [2, P. 12].

However, the functional varieties of the language are parts of the national literary language, which differ from each other in the functional sphere of use and the set of linguistic means used. As you know, any language, like any of its functional varieties, is a unity of vocabulary and grammar.

Vocabulary (lexis of the language) is certain elements that, for the purpose of communication, are combined by communicants according to certain rules (grammar). Vocabulary and grammar are two complementary subsystems of the language system.

Grammar rules (grammar of a language) are certain patterns of combining lexical units (lexis). These patterns are universal and constant for any variety of the language.

The set of lexical units is always specific (unique) for each language variety. Vocabulary of Medical English is a limited (albeit rather wide) range of lexical units necessary for professional communication in the medical field. In some cases, as noted above, the concept of “Medical English” is entirely reduced to professional vocabulary: “Medical English is the specialized vocabulary used by healthcare professionals and clinical researchers” [11].

Thus, all of the above leads us to the conclusion that the grammar of medical English is fully consistent with the grammar of common English, but the vocabulary is significantly narrowed or limited.

However, this statement is not correct. The main function of any language variety is communicative. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the lexical content of each language variant, taking into account the communicative areas that it serves.

The main communicative sphere of Medical English is the professional communication of healthcare providers. Any communicative sphere includes a set of communicative situations, that can be characterized by such components as communicants, relations between them and the associated tone of communication (official, neutral, friendly), purpose, methods of communication (oral / written, contact / distant) and place of communication.

Within the medical field, communication takes place in a professional setting (medical institution) between doctors and their colleagues and between a doctor and a patient. At the same time, the tone and methods of communication can be different.

Based on this, the statement that the vocabulary of the medical language tends to be limited is unjustified, since in some communicative situations the vocabulary of the common language (e.g. in oral communication with the patient) will come to the fore, and in other situations only professional vocabulary is used (Table 1).

Table 1 - The use of lexical units in different communicative situations

Doctor - Patient

Doctor - Doctor

- Common vocabulary (lay words)

What’s brought you here? Is anything that makes your pain better?

- Absence of terminology

Present at birth (instead of congenital)

- Absence of abbreviations

yellowish skin (instead of jaundice)

- Medical terminology

Right ventricular hypertrophy

- Latin terms

Ostium secundum

- Abbreviations and contractions

EGD req to def make dx

Therefore, we can say that the vocabulary of Medical English is not narrowed in volume compared to the common language. In fact, it is integrated into the national language. The commonly used lexical units used in the communicative situation "doctor - patient" are supplemented in Medical English with the terminological apparatus used in communication between doctors.

The grammar of the professional language does not fall into the field of view of linguistic research, based on the interpretation of the professional language entirely as a terminological system. The core of this system is usually considered to be officially accepted terminology, non-codified lexico-phraseological units belonging to the periphery.

However, according to our study, the grammar of the professional language of medicine is also closely related to the field of communication. As long-term experience of working with this language sphere has shown, English grammar is significantly reduced in medical communication in the “doctor-doctor” communicative sphere, being limited to certain structures and constructions, some of which are not so common in everyday English, which is used in communication of a patient with a doctor (Table 2).

Table 2 - The use of grammar in different communicative situations

Doctor - Patient

Doctor - Doctor

- A variety of tenses

How long have they been bothering you?

- Indirect questions

Would you strip to the waist, please?

- Introductory constructions or use of  questions in requests and orders

I’m afraid you have to cut out alcohol.

Could I have a chat with you about your blood pressure management before you go home?

- Infinitival or participial clauses

You seem to be doing quite well.

Let me see you standing.

- A limited number of tenses used  (Simple Present, Simple Past)

Cardiac auscultation reveals a systolic ejection murmur

- Modal verbs

Electrocardiography may show right ventricular hypertrophy

- Passive voice (often with modals)

Medications can be prescribed to help treat symptoms.

Thus, the professional language of medical communication cannot be described  only as a limited system of lexical units. This is a wide range of lexical and grammatical means of communication. At the same time, it is not possible to talk about narrowing the volume of at least one language level. Professional language includes both a set of commonly used language tools and special elements at the lexical and grammatical levels. The professional language of medical communication is a means of achieving mutual understanding between doctors and patients. To perform this function, commonly used lexical means can be combined and supplemented with professional lexical units, and universal grammatical means in situations of communication "doctor - doctor" can be subject to special selection.

5. Conclusion

The English language of medicine is a professional language that ensures effective communication of all participants in the communicative sphere "medicine". Taking in account communicative needs makes it possible to clearly outline the linguistic content of a given functional variety of language at all levels of the language hierarchy.

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