Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, Vol 8, No 2 (2011)

The category ‘natural’ in the discourse of couples who used medically assisted procreation

Caroline Léchot, Michèle Grossen, Dominique Laufer, François Ansermet, Marc Germond
Issued Date: 23 Sep 2013


As a constantly evolving set of complex biotechnologies, medically assisted procreation (MAP) challenges a category that seems to be taken for granted: that of ‘natural’. What is ‘natural’ or not when MAP is used to procreate? What are the boundaries between a ‘natural’ and a ‘non-natural’ fertilisation? Drawing upon a dialogical approach to language and cognition, our study examined the semantic field of the category ‘natural’ as expressed in interviews between a psychiatrist and seven couples who resorted to MAP and had to decide whether to keep their frozen pre-embryonic cells (zygotes) for further procreation or to allow them be destroyed. We examined how these couples evoked the category ‘natural’ and showed that in their argumentation, the category ‘natural’ encompassed a wide variety of phenomena, which shifted the boundaries between the ‘natural’ and ‘non-natural’. In so doing, the couples ‘renaturalised’ MAP, normalised it, moved the boundaries between what is legitimate or not, and showed their accountability. Hence, reference to the category ‘natural’ seemed to act both as an argumentative and a psychological resource in the elaboration of the person’s experience in resorting to MAP.

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DOI: 10.1558/japl.v8i2.187


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