Call for Papers – SPECIAL ISSUE – Uses of semiotics in medicine and law: a comparative perspective

The relationships between semiotics and medical reasoning, their shared history – semiotics was historically conceived as a medical diagnosis device- remains often unexamined in linguistics and medical literature. Although Medicine and Semiotics are now largely independent bodies of knowledge, the use of semiotics in medical reasoning remains prevalent in clinical settings. Recent research reveals that the use of semiotics results in an increase in empathy of physicians towards patients, by the implied value thus granted to the patient’s perspective and symptoms. Although the symptomatology and subjective reports are initially assessed by the patient herself, the operation of translating these “markers” or “signs” in medically cognizable indicators or semeion (marks) is entrusted to physicians.

The contemporary role of semiotics in medical reasoning, in this epistemological context, remains widely unexamined. While the advent of biosemiotics offers a renewed view on problems of medical nature, the (descriptive) type of knowledge hence produced is of limited use as guidance for medical practice and clinical contexts. In medicine, the rise of a probabilistic approach known as the evidence-based medicine (EBM) movement may appear to the casual observer to preclude the use of semiotics in clinical reasoning. This assumption is to be examined to further understand the continued role of interpretative processes and semiotics in key moments of clinical reasoning, although now relegated to a secondary “source” of medical knowledge under the EBM perspective. This changing position of semiotics and interpretation of signs and symptoms in what is expected of clinical reasoning further muddles the role of statistics found in biomedical literature and its translation to the situation of a given patient.

This process of “translation” operated through medical reasoning devices, such as the diagnosis, cannot be understood without considering the “final” arbitrator of what constitutes acceptable clinical practice: the judiciary. The “semiotic continuum” in medical reasoning is thus threefold, as the courts and judges steer a (re)interpretative operation on the marks reported by the patient. What is lost, added, or transformed in this process is of critical importance, as it reveals a serendipitous process understood by the Latourian concept of traduction, itself the result of a wider scientific and cultural context. This special issue of the Comparative Legilinguistics. International Journal for Legal Communication will offer scholars of various disciplines the occasion to address some important questions in the field of semiotics, medicine and law. Amongst others, the following subjects will be considered for this special issue:

- The relationship between semiotics and medicine;
- The contemporary role of semiotics in legal and medical and clinical reasoning;
- The use and role of interpretative practices and semiotics in regards to the rise of Evidence Based Practices in medicine (and law);
- A comparison of “reasoning styles” in medicine and law, and the relevance of semiotics;
- The virtues and benefits, or challenges to, the use of semiotics in clinical and legal settings;
- The patient’s, physican’s and judge’s perspective on medical matters as an object-matter of semiotics;
- The uses (and misuses) of biosemiotics and its relevance to contemporary medicine;

Submissions following these themes as well as other possible ways of analysis related to the above topics will be welcomed.
The deadline for full papers is: September 1st, 2023.