Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 3–32 | Cite as

I am ... , I have ... , I suffer from ... : A Linguist Reflects on the Language of Illness and Disease

  • Suzanne Fleischman


Part personal documentary, part exercise in medical semantics, this essay brings the analytical tools of a linguist and the human perspective of a patient receiving treatment in the American health care system to bear on the language we use—for the most part unconsciously—to talk about illness and disease. Topics to be explored include linguistic ramifications of the illness/disease distinction; referring expressions for health disorders; the “linguistic construction” of disease (what's in a name?); the “translation” of biomedical information from the specialists' dialect into everyday idiom; and the metaphoric/symbolic dimension of body-parts and their afflictions.


Health Care Health Care System Analytical Tool Human Perspective Biomedical Information 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suzanne Fleischman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of FrenchUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeley, Berkeley

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