Face Threats in Conversational Interactions in Orthodox and Traditional Medicines among the Yoruba in Southwestern Nigeria

Adegbite, Wale ; Odebunmi, Akin (2010)

Book chapter

This study describes face-threatening acts (FTA) in conversational interactions between medical practitioners and patients in orthodox and traditional medical practice among the Yoruba in Southwestern Nigeria. It utilizes as data base tape recorded conversations collected from doctors and patients in selected hospitals in the area, on the one hand, and conversations between practitioners (herbalists and divination priests) and patients in their consulting places, on the other hand. The findings reveal that language use in interactions between practitioners and clients in both Yoruba traditional medicine (YTM) and orthodox medicine (OM) features instances of FTA with redress (positive politeness) and FTA without redress (bald-on-record). YTM has more of the former features while OM has more of the latter features. Also, while the data do not show any instances of FTA with redress (negative politeness) and non-performance of FTA, there are however 'off record' strategies utilized in divination as an indirect means of diagnosing illnesses in YTM, while instances of non performance of FTA are observed in situations where doctors take notes, without making verbal responses to clients, while the latter are making complaints. It is further observed that expectations of indirectness in communication and social familiarity are carried into the consultative context of YTM and that clients are sometimes disappointed by the social distance and scary bluntness of communication in orthodox medicine.