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Communication and Medicine

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Global and local alignments in HIV/AIDS prevention trainings: A case study from Burkina Faso

Martina Drescher
Published Online: 2007-08-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/CAM.2007.002


This article presents a linguistic analysis of data from an ongoing research project exploring HIV/AIDS education in West African Burkina Faso. I argue that we can identify different, sometimes even competing, discourses about the disease in prevention interactions. Thus, communication about HIV/AIDS in Burkina Faso—and probably in most of the Sub-Saharan countries—might be characterized by what I will call, with reference to Bakhtin, discursive heteroglossia. There is clear evidence of such discursive heteroglossia, that is, the participants' alignment to local and global HIV discourses, deployed in the communication of health workers. In my analysis of peer educators training sessions, I draw on theoretical and methodological principles from discourse analysis and interactional linguistics. I focus on the linguistic devices and conversational strategies the participants use to indicate the relevance of the local or the global discourses. Three particular devices—namely, metaphors, epistemic and evidential markers, and word explanations—will be examined in a more detailed way. I will also show how the local and the global interweave at different levels of prevention discourse.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS prevention; health education; local and global discourses; West African French; metaphor; modalization

About the article

Martina Drescher

Martina Drescher is Professor of General Linguistics and Romance Languages at the University of Bayreuth (Germany). She has taught at the Université Laval (Québec, Canada) and at the University of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). Recently published books concern health communication (Kommunikation über HIV/Aids. Interdisziplinäre Beiträge zur Prävention im subsaharischen Afrika, co-edited with Sabine Klaeger, 2006), discourse markers (Les marqueurs discursifs dans les langues romanes, co-edited with Barbara Frank-Job, 2006), language and emotions (Sprachliche Affektivität, 2003), and genres (Textsorten im romanischen Sprachvergleich, editor, 2002). Her research interests include interactional linguistics and discourse analysis with a particular emphasis on Canadian and African varieties of French.

*Address for correspondence: University of Bayreuth, GW I, D-95440 Bayreuth, Germany.

Published Online: 2007-08-22

Published in Print: 2007-05-29

Citation Information: Communication, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 3–14, ISSN (Online) 1613-4087, ISSN (Print) 0341-2059, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/CAM.2007.002.

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