Skip to main content
Passa alla visualizzazione normale.


Linguistic Aspects in Web Counselling


The global net system has provided new and expanded means of communication incorporating all forms of discourse, including medical interaction. However, due to the tentative nature of medical discourse, online relations between professionals and their patients still encounter limitations. Standard procedures between the doctor and patient allowed the doctor to assume an authoritative role as his position provided personal remedy or advice to the patient at hand. Consequently, he was relied upon to solve the initial complaint, and this capacity rendered the patient as the dependent party. The responsibility of this exchange was to counsel, and the doctor was therefore required to use accessible language. This has been termed by Crawford (2006) as Brief-Ordinary-Effective. Nowadays it is possible to obtain medical advice online. Websites providing this service offer brief responses to patient questions but the nature of the consultation may no longer be classed as simulated dialogue and has to be considered as a separate genre. It is centred on the health inquiries, dealt with by an online medical counsellor whose role is to offer solutions and advice. The interaction is a written one yet it often reflects the conversational traits of oral discourse. The asynchronic written dimension inevitably has no hold on the response of the patient. The sites have participants, which fall into three groups, each of which has a different role. The web counsellors are required to be medical professionals qualified to provide advice. The readers make up the second and third groups respectively, as potential non-specialists who actively contribute to the dialogue, and passive readers who don't respond to the discussion but read the medical content for the purposes of their own self-diagnosis. Usually, doctor-patient consultation takes place in person in a medical environment. Such interactions are typically comprised of a sequence of linguistic and prosodic events and behaviours. In online forums, on the other hand, there is no room for such responses; most pages give a number of words or type-spaces in which users must summarize their question. Therefore most comment entries contain systematic and well-defined accounts in which the emotive burden is restricted to a few sentences. It can be said that such exchanges are ‘controlled’: sometimes the patient’s personal history is substituted by the detailed exposition of clinical analyses or even the clinical chart, or it comes with extra information. The user must adequately explain their query to receive the most relevant response. For both personal and online consultation, the patient's first stage is the explanation of their illness, followed by an inquiry as to its cause, and finally requesting the necessary treatment.