‘The McGill Pain Questionnaire: A Linguist’s View’ and ‘Language and Art of Trigeminal Neuralgia’

On 29th June, I was invited to speak at the 2013 Conference of the UK Trigeminal Neuralgia Association, as part of an ongoing collaboration with Professor Joanna Zakrzewska, Facial Pain lead consultant at Eastman Dental Hospital in London. I gave two talks: ‘The McGill Pain Questionnaire: A Linguist’s View’ and ‘Language and Art of Trigeminal Neuralgia’ – the latter jointly with Professor Zakrzewska.

The first talk was aimed at health professionals and involved a corpus-based analysis of the descriptors for pain that are included in the McGill Pain Questionnaire, a widely used tool for the diagnosis of chronic pain. The findings of the work that has been carried out so far (in collaboration with Stuart Sharples, Applied Statistics) suggest that the linguistic behaviour of the descriptors in the English language generally may interfere with patients’ choices in ways that partly undermine the usefulness of the questionnaire. Further research may ultimately feed into the creation of a new version of the questionnaire. The second talk was aimed at both health professionals and sufferers, and involved a corpus-based analysis of patients’ and family carers’ accounts of their experiences of living with Trigeminal Neuralgia. The bulk of the data was drawn from the online forum of the Trigeminal Neuralgia Association. This work is particularly relevant to the goals of the Association, as it helps to achieve a greater acknowledgment and understanding of the views, challenges and needs of both sufferers and carers.

Elena Semino, Veronika Koller, and Zsófia Demjén investigating ‘good’ and ‘bad’ deaths in interviews with hospice managers

What is a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ death from the point of view of health professionals who work in hospices? As part of the CASS affiliated project ‘Metaphor in End of Life Care’ at Lancaster University  (funded by the Economic & Social Research Council), we tried to find out. We conducted interviews with 15 hospice managers based in the UK. Amongst other things, each interviewee was asked: ‘How would you describe a good and a bad death?’

Almost all interviewees stressed that different people will have different ideas about what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in the experience of death. As a consequence, their own job involves finding out and fulfilling the wishes of patients and their families. The difference between good and bad deaths is partly expressed via contrasting metaphors.

To find out what they said, read the full post on the European Association for Palliative Care website. For more information on the project, visit the MELC website, http://ucrel.lancs.ac.uk/melc/.