Linguistic Processes Used in Medical-Legal Discourse: A Single Case Study
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This case study used principles of Critical Discourse Analysis to examine two written medical-legal opinions on a plaintiff prepared by the defense expert. The litigation involved a personal injury lawsuit, in which a minor plaintiff alleged psychological injury as a result of bullying violence by a minor perpetrator and the negligent actions of the defendant. The researcher found that the defense expert used several common linguistic processes to create support for his/her opinion regarding the plaintiff injury and causation of that injury. The researcher revealed that the defense expert’s themes paralleled the discursive operations highlighted in Coates & Wade’s (2004) Interactional and Discursive View of Violence and Resistance; in both expert opinions studied, the researcher found that the expert used linguistic processes to discursively conceal violence, conceal trauma response or resistance, pathologize or blame the victim and mitigate perpetrator responsibility. Although written expert testimony is meant to represent an independent, neutral opinion, the discursive processes used by the expert represent an active process and could not be considered neutral.