The function of mitigation in the context of a socially stigmatized disease
A case study in a public hospital in Montevideo, Uruguay
This paper studies the pragmatic function of mitigation in the context of a stigmatized disease, such as the HIV/AIDS infection. 1 The function of mitigation is analysed by applying the theoretical frameworks of Fraser (1980, 1990) and Caffi (1999). By means of the close-reading technique and quantitative procedures, it has been possible to observe that mitigation is the most common verbal behaviour used in the 34 interviews between physicians and their seropositive patients, collected in a public hospital in Uruguay. By illustrating the use of mitigation in a particular interview, it is argued that mitigation not only functions as a ‘disqualification’ strategy (Caffi 1999) but also that there is a fine line between mitigation and deception. The traditional association between politeness and mitigation (Fraser 1980) is called into question. In the context of an infectious disease that jeopardizes public health, mitigation and politeness are seen in a antagonistic rather than complementary relationship.
Keywords: altruistic mitigation, deixis, deception, de-responsabilization, disqualification, downgrades, failure to talk, HIV/AIDS infection, mitigation, pandemic, politeness, shields, stigmatization, taboo, topic negotiation strategies, unsayable
Published online: 09 September 2004
Cited by 9 other publications
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