Applying systemic functional linguistics in healthcare contexts

Martin Christian Matthias I Matthiessen

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


This paper is concerned with research on healthcare communication that draws on Halliday's systemic functional linguistics (SFL). Section 1 introduces Halliday's notion of appliable linguistics, with SFL as a particular manifestation. Section 2 deals with instances of healthcare communication in the form of medical consultations, and shows how they can be illuminated through SF text analysis. Section 3 relates medical consultations to institutions of healthcare along two dimensions, stratification and instantiation; and it suggests that institutions can be analyzed as aggregates of situation types. Section 4 considers the field of activity within healthcare contexts, suggesting how texts in situation types characterized by different fields complement one another. Section 5 adds tenor considerations in the form of the institutional healthcare roles across fields. Section 6 explores patient journeys through hospitals as sequences of situation types. Section 7 asks how risks and failures inherent in patient journeys can be interpreted, and then analyzed and addressed, in terms of the orders of systems in a hospital. Section 8 continues this systemic analysis, applying them to patients, and Section 9 extends the analysis to healthcare systems, as semo-technical systems. Section 10 shows how relationship-centered healthcare can be interpreted in terms of SFL.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-447
Number of pages11
JournalText and Talk
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2013


  • appliable linguistics
  • healthcare communication
  • institutional linguistics
  • medical discourse
  • systemic functional linguistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


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