Developing a common language - DRAW

By Marion Hart,2014-01-29 00:40
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Developing a common language - DRAWa,A,draw,DRAW

    English 250: Language of Science 1

    Developing a common language

Discourse communities

    To engage in any type of communication is to “participate in a community; to write well is to understand the conditions of one’s own participationthe concepts, values, traditions, and style

    which permit identification with that community and determine the success or failure of communication” (Miller 22).

    Miller, Caroly. 2004. “A Humanistic Rationale for Technical Writing” 15-23. Teaching Technical

    Communication. Critical Issues for the Classroom. Ed. James M. Dubinsky. Boston:

    Bedford/St. Martin’s.

    Before the development of a common medical language, every country, region, city, and doctor would have different terms for body parts and diseases. Observation was a primary method of

    gathering evidence; however, the scientific community had much difficulty sharing knowledge. “No wonder that the concept of contagion was so often misunderstood, and the word itself used in connotations that added to the uncertainties. And no wonder also that in reviewing the events of these times, a modern reader is so easily thrown into a quandary in trying to interpret small shadings that differentiate one usage from another. Specificity of meaning would come to this and other areas of medical theory only when science itself became more specific and a consistent vocabulary could be developed” (61).

    Medical language timeline

    Until relatively recently, disease was seen in whole body term and was diagnosed in whole body terms.

    Ancient Greks and Egyptians believed disease was caused by an imbalance of the four humors:

    blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. Cures and therapies were intended to re-

    balance the humors and included such things as bleeding, induced vomiting and sweating. Disease was believed by many to be a punishment from G-d.

    1674 Theophilus Bonetus believed that to understand a disease, one must identify where the

    disease started. He published a collection of

    autopsies, but the text was so disorganized that it

    wasn’t possible to see patterns. In addition, every

    autopsy report used different terminology, so it

    wasn’t possible to compare autopsies.

    1761 Giovanni Battista Morgagni publishes De Sedibus et

    Causis morborum per Anatomen Indagatis (On the

    Seats and Causes of Disease, Investigated by Anatomy). Morgnani spent decades

    conducting autopsies and comparing his findings to doctors’ clinical findings (patients’

    symptoms) while they were still alive. He organized his findings by symptoms and the

    location of disease using consistent terminology. Using his book, doctors were, for the

    and these diagnoses first time, able to look up patients’ symptoms to diagnosis disease—

    would be similar across city, region, state, and country.

    Doctors started to pay more attention to symptoms and inspect their patients more closely. Their

    reported findings continued to increase medical knowledge.

    The diagnostic tools of palpation (feel), percussion (tapping), auscultation (listenting) were

    developed to locate the seat of disease; all findings were reported and shared in the

    evolving common language of medicine.

    1816 René Lænnec invented the stethoscope, which allowed doctors to hear and diagnosis even

    more effectively.

    1844 Karl Rokitansky publishes a multivolume book, Handbook of Pathological Anatomy. This

    academic textbook not only further current doctors’ abilities, but it allowed medical

    schools to teach the same concepts with the same terminology no matter what language

    their students spoke. Rokitansky conducted 30,000 autopsies during his career; he

    compared symptoms with findings on autopsy to further identify the origin of disease.; he

    was able to categorize diseases.

    Different discourse communities have different language and genre guidelines that influence not only the way the communication is delivered, but actually influence meaning. We are going to do an exercise that will test your ability to communicate to a specific community, in a specific context, for a specific purpose. (Refer back to the quote at the top of this handout.)

    ; What would the implications be of a lack of shared language in a given field?

    ; In what way do you think that communicating scientific knowledge makes you a

    participant in that community?

    ; How would you define the concepts, values, traditions and style of the scientific


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