A sociolinguistic analysis of communication patterns between midwives and mothers in antenatal clinics in Great Britain and Germany
Building on the success of previous investigations, the doctoral thesis offers a contribution to the study of communication between health professionals and their clients. Since the overall aim of the investigation was to analyse both the verbal and non-verbal communication strategies used by both midwives and mothers in antenatal clinics in Great Britain and Germany, data was collected in the form of videotaped recordings of consultations during pregnancy. Socio-demographic data was retrieved through the use of questionnaires designed to investigate the participants' perceptions of the consultation. Working within a framework of speech act theory and conversation analysis, data was analysed in order to assess the varying degrees of asymmetry apparent in the communicative patterns of interactants. Typically occurring features such as use of the first person plural pronoun, references to the expected baby, interruptions, requests for information and confirmation, and unrelated responses were examined under the linguistic areas of lexis and pragmatics. The significance of non-verbal behaviour and its relation to verbal requests was investigated through the analysis of listener-oriented and other-oriented head movements. Statistical analysis of the phenomena chosen for observation revealed that the appearance and frequency of certain linguistic features (e.g. the first person plural pronoun) was significantly associated with socio-demographic variables such as age and occupational status. Analysis of request sequences also revealed significant correlation when compared with social variables such as age of participants and occupational status of mothers. Qualitative analysis of detailed transcriptual data appeared to indicate that the functions of particular utterances were positively associated with socio-demographic and cross-cultural features such as age and country of study, respectively. Confirming the hypothesis that both linguistic and sub-linguistic features are subject to influences from social and external factors, the results offer a thorough description of the communicative behaviour of both midwives and mothers in antenatal consultations in Great Britain and Germany. Furthermore, it is suggested that the findings arising from the study will enable professional midwives and members of the public alike to develop greater awareness of the importance of good communication skills in order that consultations may operate effectively and to the benefit of both parties. Linguistically, it is argued that the study contributes to our understanding of the distribution and functions of language according to its particular context.