Social construction of the elderly in Libya : perception, communication and discourse
The thesis investigates the social status of the elderly in Libya and how it is coconstructed in the way elderly fathers interact and communicate with younger sons, elderly peers, and healthcare providers. In the Libyan society in Sebha (a city in the Southern part of Libya, Arab, Muslim and Bedouin) the elderly occupies significant familial and societal roles and posts. The research sample consists of 13 elderly fathers and 16 younger sons who were employed in structured interviews. Another group of 6 elderly fathers and their 6 younger sons participated in semi-structured interviews. Naturally occurring conversations were tape-recorded between each elderly father and his younger son. The third group contains 3 groups of elderly peers whose conversations were taperecorded. Moreover, a group of 3 elderly patients and 3 younger physicians was interviewed and tape-recorded conversing separately with each other. The Conversation Analysis method (CA) supplemented by the social constructionist approach was adopted as a method of data analysis in this study. The findings reveal that elderly fathers are perceived by their younger sons as the family backbone, leader, advisor and decision maker. In contrast, elderly fathers perceive their younger sons as always independent, regardless of their (fathers and sons) health, wealth, and literacy. The findings also show that the large size of Libyan families provides a better chance for elderly fathers to live in extended families, and hence have more familial integration, interaction, and activation. The analyses of the elderly father/younger son conversations unveiled that elderly fathers talk more (timespan) than their younger sons. They also use considerable overlap and interruption to I seize their turns. Elderly fathers address their younger sons with the least preferable repair strategy (other-initiated other-repair), and adopt bald and unmitigated utterances when producing their refusals. They prefer to produce their requests to their younger sons in `order' and/or `order then explain' styles. In comparison, younger sons very rarely overlap, interrupt, or raise their voices when conversing with their elderly fathers. Furthermore, they do not produce verbal rejections to their elderly fathers' demands. Interestingly, sexual and romantic issues could not be raised between elderly fathers and their younger sons. In contrast, elderly - elderly conversations may include romantic issues and poetry. Elderly interactants freely perform overlap, interruption, quarrels, and raising voices when interacting with each other. Finally, elderly patients as well as their younger physicians tend to socialise their institutional settings by avoiding producing medical or colloquial terms that may relate to sex, i. e. sexual organs. Moreover, they summon each other with social labels (hajji/son) rather than institutional labels (sir/doctor). The thesis concludes that the elderly in Libya interact and communicate in accordance to their social status and perception. Elderly fathers, younger sons, elderly peers and healthcare providers coconstruct the elderly status in their everyday talk-in-interaction settings. This research throws new light on the language and discourse of the elderly when they are perceptually and interactionally integrated in their families and societies. This research can be regarded as a pioneer in exploring interaction and discourse of the elderly in society. The research contributes to a variety of different disciplines. Sociolinguists and psycholinguists can be interested in this research as it provides data and analysis purely relevant to their area of study. Sociologists and policy makers can also benefit from this research and see what they should do with the elderly mistreatment and disintegration phenomena prevalent in many societies.