Call for papers for the 1st “Multilinguality and Multimodality in healthcare” Conference, 9-10 July, 2022

Keynote Speaker: Christian Matthiessen

Abstract Due Date: 10 June 2022


This conference brings together academics and practitioners from a wide variety of fields, for a collaborative, multidisciplinary exploration of multilinguality in healthcare contexts.  Abstracts are peer-reviewed. Themes and issues for the conference include, but are not limited to:


Stream A            Language description in healthcare

Medical consultations, the provision for and of healthcare, and the processes of healing and of maintaining health and well-being use copious amounts of communication. In all of these contexts, people use language. But the contexts are very varied, and call for different ways of using language — different functional varieties or registers, like the registers of medical consultations, of surgery and of public health campaigns. And in these registers, doctors, nurses, and other practitioners, as well as patients, family members, friends, administrators, and others take different roles, roles that complement one another in any one given register; for example, doctors and patients have different “lines” in medical consultations.

Registers are different ways of meaning in the first instance – adaptations of the meaning resources of a language to the contexts of communication. But variation in meaning (semantics) are also reflected in wording (grammar and lexis) and even in sounding (phonology) or writing (graphology). So we can ask what contextual factors correlate with register variation: the roles of the interactants, the activities they are engaged in and the topics they deal with, the channel of communication?

Once we have characterized register variation, we can try to diagnose potential problems in particular registers: are healthcare professionals able to obtain the information they need from patients, do patients have the opportunity to “tell their stories”, do ambiguities and other forms of indeterminacy arise, are healthcare providers able to establish rapport with patients to facilitate accurate diagnosis and treatment and to enhance their patients’ experience, can we identify semantic strategies that further patient-centred care or relationship-centred care, can we identify patterns, and make generalizations, for specific kinds of therapeutic interactions? Such questions are relevant to registers of medical consultations, and there are of course other questions for different ranges of registers, like public health announcements and campaigns, where questions about the complementarity of linguistic and pictorial strategies are fundamental since public health messages are often “multimodal” in nature.


Stream B            Multilinguality in healthcare

Patients, practitioners, administrators, insurers and others involved in the provision of healthcare speak different languages. English has become a common language used in medicine, but practitioners and patients can experience communication issues that mirror differences of culture, ethnicity, age and education. They may have to cope on their own, or have a “mediator” — a multilingual family member of a professional community interpreter.

What are the issues with training and using translators and interpreters? Where these services are not available, how is multilinguality handled, in practice? How can hospitals and clinics evaluate their actual handling of multilingual situations, and identify risks and limitations? How should we handle multilinguality in critical and emergency care? To what degree do issues in multilingual interactions reflect cultural differences in the expression of emotion, discussion of topics such as sexualities, morbidity, social status, family roles, and gender? How does multilinguality impact the treatment of migrants and refugees? In low-resource settings, how are phones used? What are the benefits and drawbacks of this approach? To what degree does effective multilingual healthcare rely on family as translators? What happens to access and outcomes, when health records are stored in a language that patients and their families do not know? What are the cultural, visual, multimodal and linguistic elements of effective multilingual health brochures, posters and e-flyers?


Stream C            Multimodality in healthcare contexts

Healthcare uses visual communication more than most fields of work or interaction. Multiple literacies communicate more to viewers, underwriting better health outcomes. Multimodal communication has been foregrounded by the Covid-19 pandemic. We welcome papers on multimodal communication in all areas, including medical education, medical documents, specific disorders, patient-clinician communication, and more.


Stream D            Data analytics and multilinguality

In order to explore multilinguality in healthcare situations, we are soliciting research cooperation from healthcare practitioners of all kinds, as well as lecturers and professor, and others. These papers use data from recorded structured interviews, and patient-practitioner interactions, and evaluate the data with sentiment analysis software. Conference participants interested in cooperating with this effort will publish papers in a journal special issue with HEDRA advisory board members.  If you are interested in this, please click here.


The conference welcomes abstracts from academics and researchers working in linguistics, medicine and healthcare, the social sciences, and others. We also welcome experience narratives, case studies, and situation reports from members of the public, people working in any related field, and specialists. You can find more information on this here. Participants will be able to watch a plenary session, and participate in a live-stream roundtable, and a conference roundtable discussions.


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