Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, Vol 8, No 1 (2011)

‘It all fits into place’: Psychiatrists’ linguistic strategies in challenging media representations of their profession

Chris McVittie, Andy McKinlay
Issued Date: 19 Jul 2013


Applied linguistics has a long-standing interest in studying how the media present particular versions of individuals, actions and events. Less attention, however, has been given to the ways in which individuals respond to the media representations of themselves, especially where media representations are of professional categories of people. Here we examine how members of one professional category – psychiatrists – deal with representations of their profession in the cinema. Using discourse analysis, we look at the linguistic strategies used by psychiatrists to challenge and undermine such cinematic versions of their profession. Data come from 13 interviews conducted by a professional journalist with practising psychiatrists from the UK (n=4) and the USA (n=9). In challenging cinematic portrayals of psychiatry, the interviewees construct versions of psychiatry that distinguish these from, and which serve to undermine, media versions. In addition, as members of a category that has category-bound entitlements to explain human behaviour, interviewees can also provide explanations for the inaccuracies found in the versions that film-makers provide. Professional psychiatrists, unlike members of other professional categories, are thus positioned in ways that offer up diverse possibilities for undermining others’ representations of their profession in specific contexts.

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DOI: 10.1558/japl.v8i1.71


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