Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, JAL Vol 4, No 2 (2007)

Where do they stand? Spatial arrangement of patient companions in geriatric out-patient interaction in Taiwan

Mei-hui Tsai
Issued Date: 14 Sep 2015

Abstract


Using 69 medical encounters collected in southern Taiwan, this research examined two issues related to spatial configurations in geriatric triads: the entering sequence of elderly patients and their companions and the spatial arrangement for companions in the consultation room. The main findings include the following. The prevalent entering sequence of patients entering the room followed by their companions (78.3%) reflects the elderly patient’s role as the legitimate party for medical service, a dependent on the companion, and a superior/senior family member to their adult child. Exceptions to this sequence also suggest a potentially marked relationship, e.g., companions with a hidden agenda, of doctor’s acquaintance, or without close rapport with the patient. As most companions’ physical locations are not arranged by doctors (87%), they tend to stand near the door (47.8%) or between doctors and patients (20.3%). These two configurations reflect a fast opening pattern observed in Taiwanese context, in which neither companions’ identities are introduced nor are their physical positions arranged. This research sheds light on cross-cultural studies by showing how socio-economic variants shape verbal and nonverbal interaction in medical encounters.

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DOI: 10.1558/japl.v4i2.239

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