Pronominal Forms Used to Address Patients: A Comparative Study of German and Bosnian Language
Journal Title:Društvene i humanističke studije DHS (Social Sciences and Humanities Studies)
The comparative studies of pronominal forms of address in German and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (up to the 1990s
Serbo-Croatian) have so far shown the complexity of this linguistic and social phenomenon (Rathmayr 1992; Betsch/Berger
009; Schlund 2009). The focus of research in this comparative study lies on pronominal forms used to address patients
in authentic medical encounters. In this study I consider and compare the forms of address in medical consultations as
well as identify their pragmatic use by contrasting the Bosnian and German data. My research draws on interactional data
consisting of 44 audiotaped and transcribed conversations between the Bosnian and German doctors and patients. The data
was examined and compared by using a qualitative CA data analysis method. The Bosnian data showed that physicians use
different forms to address their patients such as: T-pronoun, V-pronoun, and an alternating use of both pronouns to
address the same patient within one single conversation (so-called switching). In the German doctor-patient encounters,
the use of the T-pronoun or the alternating use of both forms of address was only observed in case of one physician.
Unlike the German patients, the Bosnian patients are being addressed in a more informal way, and depending on the
context, certain forms of address go beyond expressing politeness and distance. The comparison of data, based on natural
institutional interaction, aims to highlight contemporary tendencies and interactive differences in the system of
address of these two European languages.