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Procedures from corpus linguistics are increasingly being applied in the context of clinical research, as part of interdisciplinary efforts towards improving understanding and delivery of health interventions.

In this seminar, Dr Luke Collins reflects on collaborative work with the Wellcome-funded Hearing the Voice project, which set out to capture lived experiences of psychosis and the phenomenon of hearing voices that others cannot hear. Forty interviews were conducted with individuals who had engaged with Early Intervention in Psychosis services in the northeast of England, with the aim of documenting how voices are described by those who live with them. The collaboration between the Hearing the Voice team and representatives from the ESRC research centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science, including Dr Collins, involved the investigation of clinically relevant aspects of psychosis and the application of corpus methods to provide linguistic evidence from the data.

Having recognised that voice-hearers often use personification strategies to describe the voices they hear, the team established a conceptual framework that operationalised the clinical psychology approach to personification through the realisation of particular linguistic features denoting agency and characterisation. Once these features were established, corpus approaches contributed to the mapping out of personification to various degrees of complexity. Recognising the function of these linguistic features, (corpus) linguists can contribute to the knowledge behind therapeutic interventions that support voice-hearers in finding ways to manage their interactions with the voices, drawing on communicative and interpersonal strategies.

Dr Collins reflects on the procedures of preparing and querying a corpus of semi-structured interviews, as well as the conceptual mapping of principles from clinical psychology onto linguistic features. This work is presented as a demonstration of the ways in which corpus linguistics can be applied in the investigation of lived experiences of health and illness.

Related publications:

Collins, L. C., Brezina, V., Demjén, Z., Semino, E. and Woods, A. (2023). Corpus linguistics and clinical psychology. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 28(1), 28-59.

Semino, E., Demjén, Z. and Collins, L. C. (2021). Person-ness of voices in lived experience accounts of psychosis: combining literary linguistics and clinical psychology. Medical Humanities, 47(3), 354-364.

Speaker: Dr Luke Collins

Dr Luke Collins is a Senior Research Associate with the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches at Lancaster University. His primary research interests are in the development of corpus procedures and their application in the study of healthcare and digital discourses.