Hand, Linda
School of Communication Disorders
University of Sydney

Linda Hand
School of Communication Disorders
University of Sydney
P O Box 170
NSW 2141, Australia

ph (02) 9351 9286;
fax (02) 9351 9977

STRAND: Discourse - English (or, Language disorders and

Modality and power in service provider interviews: Speech pathologists and parents of different cultural backgrounds.

Speech Pathology interviews are a context in which professionals
and lay persons use language to talk about language. Children
with language disorders are very commonly clients in Speech
Pathology, and the interview that is part of the assessment of
their disorder takes place between speech pathologists and
parents or caregivers, usually mothers. It is also not unusual,
especially in Australia, for that interview to be between people
of different cultural backgrounds, and hence of different
discourse patterns. It is therefore a difficult discourse to
manage from the point of view of young professionals.

Attempts to manage the power dynamics in interactional discourse
in English are often illustrated in the modality system. This
has been demonstrated in several professional-client interview
contexts, such as doctor-patient and lawyer-client. Modal verbs,
adverbs and other modality markers are employed to operate
solidarity and deference politeness systems, which negotiate the
roles and status of the participants. Speech Pathology
interviews have characteristics of both medical and educational
interviews, and there is substantial negotiation of information
that takes place.

This paper will present the results of analysing the
interactional discourse of a number of parent-speech pathologist
interviews with emphasis on the operation of modality. The paper
will show how the use of modality differs between the
professionals and the clients, and how it contributes to the
negotiation of power.