Language use in a medical setting : reconciling explanatory models of illness in the diagnostic interview among the Giriama of Kenya.

Author: Furaha Chai, Jonathan

Awarding University: University of Essex, England

Level : PhD

Year: 2003

Holding Libraries: University Microfilms International ; Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library ;

Subject Terms: Giriama (African people) ; Linguistics ; Ethnology ; Witchcraft ; Physicians ;

Pages: 0



This thesis is based on an analysis of Giriama divination as a speech event comparable to the biomedical diagnostic interview. Its main objective is the reconciliation of the discourse strategies used in divination with those used in the biomedical clinic during the diagnostic interview. Interactional sociolinguistics, which incorporates anthropological approaches with sociolinguistics, guided this research and data analysis. In terms of data collection, ethnographic approaches involving participant observation and unstructured interviews were used. A total of 30 diviners and three medical doctors were observed attending their clients/patients in a period of six months between October 2000 and March 2001. Unstructured interviews were used to gather more ethnographic information from the diviners/doctors and their clients. Personal Communication (PC) with some of the Giriama diviners helped to fill in information on the belief system about witchcraft and divination among the Giriama-information that is presented in chapter two. The data collected consisted of digital recordings of the interactions. A total of 25 x 74 min. Minidisks were used to record the data. Data analysis involved first transcribing the recorded interactions. From the transcripts, a representative sample of fifteen diviners and two doctors was chosen and then questions and cases of repetition were identified, coded and quantified. It follows the principles of ethnographic discourse analysis, which makes use of participants' organisational strategies while using surrounding discourse as data in understanding some fragment of talk-in this case, questions and repetition. The research found that structurally divination and the biomedical diagnostic interview share some characteristic features. However in terms of the functions of questions and repetition as discourse strategies are used, there were some differences. These differences are the ones that need to be reconciled if doctor/patient interaction among the Giriama is to be improved. The results are significant, in that they contribute to an understanding of both divination and the doctor/patient relationship. These could also have a bearing on medical training and healthcare provision among the Giriama in particular, and other communities that make use of similar 'alternative therapies' that involve the 'revelatory'divination.