Category Archives: English 540: Seminar in Linguistics

All entries in this category are related to English 540: Seminar in Linguistics and Language Study, a class I took at Illinois State University in the Spring of 2010.

Why the Patient Protection Act Doesn’t Protect Patients

This is really an update to my Jan. 18 post in which I talked about a paper I was planning to write on the rhetoric in recent healthcare legislation. The semester is now over, the paper is written, and I’m annoyed–but not surprised–at the findings of my paper.

The paper, which I’m hoping to publish, was originally titled “Women and Health in Women’s Health: A Linguistics-based Analysis of How Online Spaces (De)Value Women.” That title will probably evolve, but what I did was run six online texts through concordance software to see where, how, and how often the keywords women and health were used. I also ended up looking at the use of some other words, too, including second-person pronouns.

The most interesting result I found was in the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The PPACA used the term woman exclusively in connection with reproduction, and the term women was most often used with reproductive terms as well. (I also looked at the CDC and NIH sites,’s women’s health page, WebMD’s women’s health page, and The Bump.) I was able to draw some (I think) interesting conclusions from the data, the foremost of which is that the government seems to value/define women in terms of their reproductive abilities instead of as human beings. I’d like to write more about this, but I think I’ll do so at some point after I’ve sent this paper out and gotten some feedback …


As a sidenote, the software I used to do this analysis was Concorder Pro. I’ve heard of a number of other discourse and/or text analysis options and resources, which I’ll list here. I’d love to hear from anyone who has more options to add to the list.


Tams Analyzer




Bringing in Linguistics

I’ve just begun Spring courses (I love this time of the semester; it’s so optimistic!) and one of my new ones is a required doctoral seminar in linguistics. Although I don’t come from the linguistics side of English, the two linguistics classes I’ve had have been really wonderful experiences. This one is shaping up the same way, and that’s the reason for this post: I’m writing a paper I need to think through and/or get feedback on.

The paper (a draft of which is due this week) is supposed to be on my area of interest with a linguistic twist (which I’ll get help adding later if I can’t do it now). My basic idea is to look at some women’s health websites and do a linguistic analysis of the rhetoric I find there.

So far, the sites I’m thinking of using are giving me some interesting perspectives on the intersection of culture and technology as they pertain to the linguistic representation of women’s health. I started by simply doing a Google search of “women’s health.” My first result was the popular magazine, which I bypassed since I want to look at web-based texts. Of the four I ended up choosing from that first page of results, two are government operated sites. (The others are WebMD and an indie-looking site run by something called the Glam Publisher Network.)

So what I’m thinking about now is this: Why does the government have such an interest in women’s health?

Some reasons are obvious. Some not so much. Some are altruistic. Others are sinister.

The government would have a vested interest in women’s health as it pertains to reproductive health because managing reproductive health is like managing the makeup of the next generation. When thinking in class- and race-based contexts, that’s kind of scary.

But the government also (presumably) has a responsibility to provide access to healthcare for less fortunate women. Because women account for higher numbers of the impoverished than men, this benevolent function could account for some of the emphasis on women’s health.

And there are a myriad of other reasons that I’m still teasing out as to why there is so much government interest in women’s health. (Feel free to comment.) But I can’t help thinking of Mary Daly’s contention that gynecology is a male construction to oppress women …

Seminar in Linguistics

I’m currently enrolled in English 540: Seminar in Linguistics and Language Study. I’ll be using this blog to keep track of some of my work for that class. I’ll use the tag “eng540″ to mark a post relating to this course.

English 540 is a required doctoral seminar in which I’ll write a paper on a subject of my choice. Given my area of specialization, it will have something to do with health and medical rhetoric.