abstracts 1
Quality written information: An international perspective
 
    * National Council on Patient Information and Education 12th National Conference, Washington DC, May 1999
    Quality information is not achieved, as commonly believed, merely by simplicity of word and structure, avoidance of ambiguity and clumsiness, and a logical and compelling statement and format. Advances in Discourse Analysis have revealed the effects of a wide range of factors: Covert messages of risk, degree of certainty etc. (the pragmatics of language), the communicative abilities of the addressee, the context of the message, the difference between such media as the leaflet and the on-line screen, the impact on patient attitudes of the choice between technical and lay or formal and informal styles (as in my recent work on side effect warnings), and much else. As with any other aspect of patient education, the task is a long and daunting one, but many of the principles are already in place. Since Belgium became the first state to require leaflets with new drugs over 30 years ago, Europe has been steadily working toward truly patient-oriented good practice, with particular contributions from the Belgium-based Center for Research and and Information for Consumers, Britain's ABPI, and advances in such methods as readability testing and cross-disciplinary analysis of texts’ Information for Consumers, Britain's ABPI, and advances in such methods as readability testing and cross-disciplinary analysis of texts.
 
 
 
Speech act indeterminacy and drug information "warnings"
 
    * PRAGMA99, Tel Aviv University, June 1999
     British prescription medicines have recently been required by law to include information leaflets,supplied by industry but intended to be comprehensible to laypeople. Close discourse analysis of the side effect warnings in a sample of leaflets revealed a complex interplay between a scientific and a lay perspective, and between an open and a 'discrete' attitude to side effects, answering to humanitarian and commercial goals. A basic rhetorical structure of warning + reassurance takes on a variety of bold forms, with side effects listed frankly yet 'packed' discretely in running text with scant graphic highlights. Linguistically, hedging of the side effect by 'may' and a range of modal and temporal adjectives, quantifiers and subtly modulated lexis and syntax creates a sense of indeterminacy, and a vagueness or ambivalence is frequently found in the warnings and instructions themselves.
    * Taking a global perspective, such studied indeterminacy lends support to criticisms of the Searle's notion of discrete categories of speech act, and is better handled within a model of illocution that allows for running negotiation and strategic indeterminacy, particularly where - as here - a message has gone through various senders, each with their own pragmatic agenda . The notion of non-communicated speech acts, developed by Sperber & Wilson and by Blakemore (1992) to attribute autonomy to the recipient in recognizing warnings or guesses, may usefully be applied to such "warnings" - but with the rider that the recipient may wish to assign an equally ambivalent illocutionary interpretation.
 
 
 
The Discourse of Food Labels: Conflicting influences on composition and design
 
    * World Congress of Applied Linguistics, Tokyo, August 1999
    * This paper addresses the authorship and authorial intent of food labels in Europe and the USA. It is essentially a meta-study of discourse about labels, which can in turn shed light on labels themselves. Product labels in general are a particularly striking case of multi-functional authorship. My findings reveal a double conflict, occasionally a triple conflict: between a candid and a less-than-candid communicative stance; between a duty to inform and an awareness of the practical limitations of the medium and the reader; and sometimes also between a scientific and a lay discourse. The first conflict is in turn driven by a complex meshing of informative and the persuasive forces, serving humanitarian and commercial objectives.
 
 
 
 
Product Safety Information and Language Policy in an Advanced Third World Economy: The Case of Israel
 
    * Journal of Consumer Policy 19: 411-438, 1996
    * This paper examines regulations and standards for safety information accompanying Israeli consumer products, in the context of broad Israeli language policy and EU safety communications policies, with special reference to pharmaceuticals and children's products (two high anxiety areas) and the needs of "weak consumers".
    * Communicative consciousness is relatively strong for pharmaceuticals, in the encoding of Hebrew and Arabic risk phrases, use of Roman script, and incipient concern for Plain Hebrew - in line with new labelling quality controls - but still patchy for children's product standards in the encoding of specified children's risk and safety phrases. The effects of harmonization with the EU have been felt, but traditional nonchalance on safety labelling for non-native speakers in this immigrant society still holds in the lack of provision for the massive influx from the USSR. The assumption that the average rational consumer is being addressed also raises issues of liability.
 
 
 
Side Effect Warnings in British Medical Package Inserts: A Discourse Analytical Approach
 
        * International Journal of Cognitive Ergonomics 2(1-2), 61-74, 1998
    British prescription medicines have recently been required by law to include information leaflets, supplied by industry, based on datasheets but intended to be comprehensible to laypeople, whom surveys have shown to be largely ignorant of side effects. Close discourse analysis of the side effect warnings in a sample of 25 leaflets revealed a complex interplay between a scientific and a lay perspective and between an "open" and a "discreet" attitude to side effects, answering to humanitarian and commercial goals. A basic rhetorical structure of warning + reassurance takes on a variety of bold forms, with side effects listed frankly yet "packed" discreetly in running text with scant graphic highlights. Linguistically, hedging of the side effect by "may" and a range of modal and temporal adjectives, quantifiers, and subtly modulated lexis and syntax creates a sense of indeterminacy, and a vagueness or ambivalence is sometimes found in the warnings and instructions themselves. The intense public interest in reading side effect labels heightens the cotextuality and intertextuality by which terms are presumably understood. Words such as "you" and "this" create a "personal" ethos, but formal tones and nominalized academic style are not uncommon.
 
 
 
Occupational Safety Communication for Hazardous Goods: The Development of a Policy in Israel
 
    * International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics 8 (1), 99. 3-22, 2002
     Israeli policy governing written occupational safety information for carriage and supply of hazardous goods, and procedures for implementation, are described and evaluated for their potential communicative effectiveness, in view of users' linguistic abilities and the language employed. We also consider whether the addressee should include the end-user and the reading-impaired. The evaluation is set in the context of broader Israeli language policy, and comparison is made with communication policies for hazardous goods adopted by the European Union, the UK and the USA.
 
 
 
Guarding the Tongue: A thematic analysis of gossip control strategies among Orthodox Jewish women in London
 
    * Lewis H. Glinert, Kate Miriam Loewenthal, and Vivienne Goldblatt
    * Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 24 (3), pp. 513-524, 2004
 This article describes the views and experiences of Strictly-Orthodox Jewish women with respect to the metapragmatic ethos of Shmiras HaLoshon (monitoring one's talk, literally 'guarding the tongue').  Eight extended interviews were conducted with Strictly-Orthodox women and teenagers in London, and salient themes were identified, namely:
        A.  Loshon Hora ('evil talk') is the prime exemplar of bad talk.
        B.  Loshon Hora is the hardest (one of the hardest) things to avoid, because it is so easy to do.
        C.  The perceived consequences of Loshon Hora are very serious.
        D.  Great caution/various strategies are employed in order to no speak Loshon Hora.
        E.  Perceived gender differences exist in proneness to speak Loshon Hora.
        F.  One is responsible for monitoring others.
        G.  Young children can be(come) aware of the issues.
      Subjects appeared to take this aspect of religious observance very seriously, and were taking active steps to promote observance.  Social desirability bias may be an inappropriate concept for explaining our participants' behaviour.  It is also suggested that the perceived importance of Shmiras HaLoshon may be important in helping to maintain community cohesion and preventing conflicts, by improving respect for privacy and reputation in a community where gossip is attractive but divisive.
 
 
 
 
The Hasidic Tale and the Sociolinguistic Modernization of the Jews of Eastern Europe' in Rella Kushelevsky & Avidov Lipsker  (eds.) Ma'aseh Sippur, Bar Ilan University Press, 2006, pp. 7-36
 
The Hasidic tale embodied a nascent modernity that contributed significantly to the sociolinguistic modernization of Eastern European Jewry -- modernization in the sense of a breaking down of traditional solid social structures. Linguistically, this was part of a pan-European trend towards multi-functional, multi-user languages, facilitating mass access to higher culture and mobilization of masses by elites. The Hasidic tale yielded an unprecedented simple, folksy written Hebrew, for the purpose of 'everyday' narrative and transaction, which sent a first signal to Hebrew readers that Hebrew could act not only as a channel of scholars and poets but also as a mass workaday language. And written or spoken in Yiddish, the tales embodied the prestige of charismatics and their esoteric Hebrew knowledge, indicating that Yiddish, though not 'aesthetic' or expressive of individual consciousness, had found a new permanence. By narrowing considerably the social and functional gap between Hebrew and Yiddish, this contributed, psychologically, linguistically and socially, to the creation of a durable Hebrew-speaking society and the rise of a prestige Yiddish culture.
 
 
 
'Golem: The making of a modern myth.' Symposium 55(2), pp. 78-94, Summer 2001
 
This essay explores the origins and significance, cultural and political, philosophical and scientific, of the Golem as a modern Western myth --  set loose, Golem-like (a fine irony this), from its ancient Jewish roots and in turn sparking an array of Golemic creations, crossing and cross-fertilizing other, quite non-Jewish myths.  But what predominates is not a Frankenstein's monster but a rather noble creature, undone by tragic circumstance, yet picking itself up with renewed vigour, as if to affirm a Jewish world-view in which to struggle with reality and with oneself is to fulfil one's life's purpose.