Patienters sprogbrug i e-konsultationer med deres praktiserende læge: Hvordan kommunikerer patienter relationel og emotionel information?
In Denmark, the e-mail consultation has been an important part of general practice for more than a decade. This consultation format has several advantages, but general practitioners have been concerned that they cannot, for example, interpret patients’ emotional state through the written medium. In this article, we examine what characterizes those parts of patients’ language use in e-mail consultations that deviate from standard written language. The background is the importance of understanding how digital patients communicate in writing, and what possibilities they have of expressing themselves. Based on 646 e-mail consultations from 38 patients from four Danish general practitioners’ offices, we have analyzed the linguistic devices which deviate from standard written language. Our purpose is to characterize the patients’ use of language, including deviations, alternative sign use, context keywords, and orthographic variation. We argue that patients’ use of these forms makes it possible to communicate relational and emotional information which in a face-to-face meeting would typically be communicated non-verbally. In addition, this language use creates an informal tone with their general practitioner. Our analyses reflect how the e-mail consultation format places new demands on patients, who must be able to express themselves in writing, but who also have to be creative with their keyboard use if they want to express something that is not normally communicated in writing.
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