Language and Health

Prof. Dr. Kevin Tang, Winter 2023, Course catalog

Course Description

Language and Health is a seminar course that explores the intersection between language and heatlh. Through research papers, we will gain a better understanding of how language plays a pivotal role in both assessing health conditions and effectively conveying vital health information. Throughout the course, students will delve into the various dimensions of language (spoken speech, written text, sociolinguistic features of non-standard varieties) and its implications for individual and public health. They will gain comprehensive insights into the following key areas:

  1. Speech and Language as Biomarkers: Students will learn how speech patterns, linguistic features, and language use can serve as essential indicators of an individual’s physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. The course will examine research findings that demonstrate the connection between language changes and health conditions, such as neurological disorders, cognitive decline, stress, and mental health.

  2. Health Message Communication: Effective communication is vital in disseminating health-related information and promoting healthy behaviors. Participants will explore different communication strategies and how language can impact the reception and comprehension of health messages, especially the challenges and opportunities of providing health information to individuals with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. They will study the role of language in influencing attitudes, behaviors, and decision-making processes related to health.

  3. Ethics and Privacy: As language-related data is increasingly used for health assessment and communication, ethical considerations and data privacy become critical aspects. This course will foster discussions on ethical practices in language-based health research and the responsible use of data.

In the course, we will sample from existing research papers. You will be asked to read, discuss and summarize your understanding of the papers, through multiple short reflection posts (paragraph-size), a few selected longer research summaries (one page), and in-class discussions.

Audience: Language and Health is ideal for students with a passion for linguistics, healthcare, psychology, communication studies, and related fields. By the end of the course, participants will possess a well-rounded understanding of the pivotal role language plays in health and well-being, enabling them to contribute to the improvement of healthcare.