A socio-cognitive investigation of English medical terminology: dynamic varieties of meaning

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Patients and doctors can differ in their ideas about what constitutes ‘a medical term’ and what a particular term might mean. Differences in the understanding of medical terminology in doctor–patient communication can impact patient health outcomes. The field of terminology has moved away from the notion of univocity (one term permanently assigned by scholars to describe one concept). Novel, more applied approaches to terminology study have provided evidence for the dynamic variety of meanings associated with specialist terms. One of these, the socio-cognitive approach to terminology aims to explore how the understanding of terms is influenced by the interplay between different cultural, linguistics and knowledge backgrounds. However, most studies in doctor–patient communication have previously neglected to include non-native English speaking doctors or patient in studies focused on the impact of medical terminology in medical encounters. This mixed methods study aims to contribute the new era of descriptive and applied terminology studies by exploring the perception, and understanding of medical terminology among native and non-native English speaking patients and doctors in Australia. In this way, this study adds to the growing evidence base that challenges the ideal of univocity in a global world where monolingual and multilingual individuals from different cultural and knowledge backgrounds commonly use (medical) terminology in specific (medical) contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-103
Number of pages23
Issue number1
Early online date26 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Medical terminology
  • Socio-cognitive
  • Non-native English
  • Doctor–patient communication
  • Specialised language
  • Dynamic


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