Scholarly article on topic 'Naming “In Vitro Fertilization”: Critical Discourse Analysis of the Polish Catholic Church's Official Documents'

Naming “In Vitro Fertilization”: Critical Discourse Analysis of the Polish Catholic Church's Official Documents Academic research paper on "Languages and literature"

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Abstract of research paper on Languages and literature, author of scientific article — Victoria Kamasa

Abstract The aim of this study is to analyze the discourse about in vitro fertilization (IVF) in the official statements of the Polish Catholic Church. IVF has recently become a publicly discussed subject due to parliamentary debate beginning in April 2012 concerning different projects connected with bioethics bills. One of the important voices in this public debate was the Polish Catholic Church expressed by both individual priests and the Commission of the Polish Episcopate (CPE) along with its subordinate organizations in their official statements. These official statements form a corpus compiled especially for this study, and the contents have been subjected to close scrutiny. The analysis was conducted in the critical discourse analysis (CDA) paradigm with the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods. The main research question concerns the discursive construction of IVF through the way it is named and expressed. A combination of quantitative and qualitative corpus methods revealed the discursive construction of IVF as inhuman and associated with biological experiments conducted in a laboratory rather than with a birth of a child which is consistent with the overall negative attitude of the Polish Catholic Church against IVF expressed in Polish mass-media.

Academic research paper on topic "Naming “In Vitro Fertilization”: Critical Discourse Analysis of the Polish Catholic Church's Official Documents"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 95 (2013) 154 - 159

5th International Conference on Corpus Linguistics (CILC2013)

Naming "In Vitro Fertilization": Critical Discourse Analysis of the Polish Catholic Church's Official Documents

Victoria Kamasa*

Adam Mickiewicz University, ul. H. Wieniawskiego 1, 61-712 Poznan, Poland

Abstract

The aim of this study is to analyze the discourse about in vitro fertilization (IVF) in the official statements of the Polish Catholic Church. IVF has recently become a publicly discussed subject due to parliamentary debate beginning in April 2012 concerning different projects connected with bioethics bills. One of the important voices in this public debate was the Polish Catholic Church expressed by both individual priests and the Commission of the Polish Episcopate (CPE) along with its subordinate organizations in their official statements. These official statements form a corpus compiled especially for this study, and the contents have been subjected to close scrutiny. The analysis was conducted in the critical discourse analysis (CDA) paradigm with the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods. The main research question concerns the discursive construction of IVF through the way it is named and expressed. A combination of quantitative and qualitative corpus methods revealed the discursive construction of IVF as inhuman and associated with biological experiments conducted in a laboratory rather than with a birth of a child which is consistent with the overall negative attitude of the Polish Catholic Church against IVF expressed in Polish mass-media.

© 2013TheAuthors.PublishedbyElsevierLtd. Selectionandpeer-reviewunderresponsibilityofCILC2013.

Keywords: critical discourse analysis; Corpus Linguistics; Catholic church; IVF

1. Introduction

"No, IVF is not a form of sophisticated abortion (and no, there is no selective abortion in Poland). No, IVF children are not handicapped, nor do they have malformations due to the method of their conception. And no, they do not have any special fold on their foreheads. And no, IVF children were not conceived in a mean way. No, IVF is

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +48618293695; fax: +48618293662. E-mail address: vkamasa@amu.edu.pl

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and peer-review under responsibility of CILC2013. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.10.634

not a 'procedure for breeding plants and animals'. Children conceived through IVF are not 'producedand neither are they the 'children of Frankenstein1 (Ziolkowska, 2013). This is a part of a letter sent by the first Polish child born thanks to IVF to one of Poland's national newspapers. This letter was a reaction to the newest (April 2013) document of the Polish Episcopate concerning bioethics (including IVF). The document contains quotes from and allusions to statements of different representatives of the Polish Catholic Church. It also demonstrates the level of emotion related to the public debate concerning IVF that is currently taking place in Poland.

This article aims at analyzing one of the voices in this debate i.e., the voice of the Polish Catholic Church expressed in official statements of The Commission of the Polish Episcopate (CPE) and its subordinate organizations. We concentrate here on just one aspect of this discourse, specifically the names and expressions used to talk about IVF. The research question might be, therefore, formulated as: what discourse or discourses on IVF are constructed through the way the procedure is named in official statements of the CPE? The capacity of name analysis in describing discourses can be seen, for example, in Galasinski and Skowronek's research on discourse regarding Poland and Polish people in speeches of the Polish president, prime minister and primate (Galasinski, 2001), or Lukac's analysis of pro-eating disorder weblogs (Lukac, 2011).

The analysis will adopt the perspective of critical discourse analysis (CDA), which is understood here in a broad sense as a "socially committed scientific paradigm that addresses social problems" (Fairclough N., 1997), and as a general paradigm with no commitment to any particular approach within CDA. In accordance with most CDA researchers we will define discourse as one of many representations of social life (Fairclough, 2001), which is both socially constituted and constitutive (Fairclough, 1992). In regard to the relationship between discourse and social life, Almeida states that "the theory that discourses construct our versions of reality is central to critical discourse analysis" (Almeida, 2011). This is the reason why we concentrate here on the constructive aspect of discourse. In this particular case we assume that the way the Polish Catholic Church is talking about IVF might influence social practices concerning this topic, such as parliamentary debate and its results, or financial decisions at the local government level. We also see as important van Dijk's advice to take the perspective of those who suffer from dominance and inequality (van Dijk, 1993). Therefore, the analysis will take the perspective of IVF children and their parents.

2. Methods

2.1. Corpus

In this study we decided to adopt a small-scale corpus approach (Bednarek, 2009) and to use a corpus encompassing the whole population i.e., all statements concerning IVF. To reconstruct the discourse of the Polish Catholic Church on IVF we investigated documents from the official site of The Commission of Polish Episcopate. All documents (published on this page on June 15th, 2012) containing the expression in vitro were found, downloaded and converted into text files forming a corpus of about 24, 000 tokens. In the following analysis, the corpus was not divided into subcorpora and the possible differences between particular parts were not taken into account.

Sinclair mentions that a corpus design should be well-documented and justified (Sinclair, 2005). There are several reasons for choosing official statements published on the website of The Commission of Polish Episcopate. The first reason is related to the official status of those documents, which is why they can be considered to reflect the opinion of the Polish Catholic Church as an institution. Moreover, Wodak underlines the importance of investigating language in institutional settings (Wodak & Meyer, 2001). Official documents form a part of institutional discourse, and as such, are a significant subject of analysis. Secondly, since there is no clear authorship, it can be concluded that they are hardly influenced by the personal opinions of a particular bishop or priest. We also consider as important the public character of those documents: many of them are made public by being read during Sunday mass in all churches. Hence, they are known to many people and consequently constitute an important part

1 Translation by the author.

of IVF discourse in Poland. Beyond public familiarity with the basic contents, many of those documents have been passionately discussed in public media and on the Internet. For example, the information about a bishop's appeal to pray for an appropriate in vitro bill on the website of one of the biggest Polish newspapers was commented on as many as 447 times (PAP, 2012), which is indicative of the potential influence of such publications on public opinion. It is hoped that the analysis of such corpora can contextualize the way the Polish Catholic Church characterizes IVF.

2.2. Methods

The analysis was conducted in four steps, which will be described in detail below:

1. Expressions used in discussions about IVF were identified in the analyzed texts.

2. Semantic prosody for every component of each phrase chosen in step 1 was established.

3. Semantic preference for every component of each phrase chosen in step 1 was established.

4. The discourses arising from previous analysis were identified and described.

During the first step two judges (Polish native speakers) were asked to read the texts included in the corpus and underline all expressions used to refer to IVF. Then the results were compared and discussed. All controversial cases were excluded from further analysis. A similar approach is used by Lukac in her research on the pro-eating-disorder discourse, although she does not specify how expressions concerning eating disorders were "isolated from the corpus word list" (Lukac, 2011). Assessment by the two independent judges is supposed to decrease possible researcher bias at this stage.

As step 1 revealed a great variety of phrases used for IVF, a more detailed analysis of those phrases was conducted. One of the stages of this analysis was the establishment of semantic prosody for each component of every phrase identified in step 1. Semantic prosody has been defined by the author of this concept as "consistent aura of meaning, with which a form is imbued by its collocates" (Louw, 1993), whereas Stubbs describes it as revealing "words [which] occur in characteristic collocations, showing the association and connotation they have and therefore the assumption which they embody" (Stubbs, 1996). Analysis of semantic prosody is used to reveal evaluations hidden in seemingly neutral words as was done, for example, by Maunter in case of the term elderly (Mautner, 2007), or by Cotterill for the expressions used by prosecutors during the O.J. Simpson trial (Cotterill, 2001). In this study semantic prosody of words used to denote IVF is considered helpful in revealing its discursive construction.

Discussing semantic prosody, Morley and Partingtion offer a distinction between individual textual semantic prosody and general statistical prosody (Morley & Partington, 2009). The first one is seen as "the evaluative intent of the speaker (...) in any individual text fragment" (Morley & Partington, 2009), whereas the second one makes it

possible to see which semantic prosody for a given word occurs more frequently in the utterances of many authors. Textual prosody can be revealed by collocates of any particular word in one text, while statistical prosody is established through an analysis of collocation in the general corpus. In this study the overall statistical semantic prosody will be used to reveal the individual textual one. This approach was chosen for two reasons: the size of the main corpus did not allow a reasonable analysis of collocates within the corpus as the strongest collocates for words in question had frequencies of 3 or 4. Such a small number of occurrences was considered as unacceptable for any generalization. Secondly, many of the phrases used for IVF turned out to be discourse-specific, so the overall statistical semantic prosody of components used to create those phrases was of interest for the discursive construction of IVF. Therefore, the ten strongest collocates from Polish National Corpus (PNC) of every component of each phrase identified in step 1 were judged for their evaluative power. Each collocate was classified as positive, negative or neutral. The collocates belonging to each category were counted and the category with the most elements was taken as the semantic prosody of the word in question.

In the next stage of analysis semantic preference of the components (of the phrases used to talk about IVF) was established. Following Stubbs, semantic preference is here defined as "relation between a lemma and a set of semantically related words" (Stubbs, 2001). Similarly, as in the case of semantic prosody, semantic preference can

be considered on either a local or global level. The first was done, for example, by Baker and Gabrielatos (Gabrielatos & Baker, 2008) in their research on the way the British press talks about immigrants, as they took into consideration only collocates from the corpus of British press, which was the subject of their investigation. The second approach was adopted, for instance, by Hamilton et al. in their attempt to define the word risk on the basis of search in two general corpora of English: Collins Wordbanks Online and CANCODE, the Cambridge and Nottingham Corpus of Discourse in English (Hamilton et al., 2007). A comparable method was used by Mautner in her work on the meaning of the term elderly (Mautner, 2007). For reasons mentioned in the case of semantic prosody, the global approach will be combined with the local approach also in case of semantic preference. For every examined word the ten strongest collocates in the PNC will be analyzed to establish the semantic preference of a given word. The results on the other hand will be interpreted on the local level in comparison to other words from the discourse in question.

3. Results

IVF is mentioned 96 times in the analyzed texts. The first thing to be observed is the great variety of expressions used to talk about it: 18 different ways of designating IVF were found. The majority of them consists of more than one word and they are combinations of:

• an activity name (method, procedure, technique or practice),

• a describing word (artificial, extra-systemic or in vitro),

• the term fertilization.

Exceptions are: sztuczne przeka^wanie zycia [artificial life transfer] (also used with method), reprodukcja zastqpcza [substitutive reproduction], procedury wspomaganago sztucznie rozrodu [procedures of artificially supported propagation], and sztuczny sposob pocz§cia [artificial way of conception]. The creativity in the naming process is also confirmed by the investigation of the PNC. Only five of the expressions have frequencies higher than 50: in vitro (673), in vitro fertilization (161), fertilization2 (770), artificial fertilization (75), and extra-systemic fertilization (79). Furthermore, seven terms used in the texts to describe IVF do not occur in the PNC at all: technique of in vitro fertilization, practice of in vitro fertilization, and the five mentioned above as exceptions to the overall naming pattern.

The collocation analysis of those terms in the PNC reveals some interesting patterns concerning semantic preference and semantic prosody. Between the action names used for IVF, praktyka [practice] has negative semantic prosody with three negative adjectives (nieuczciwa [dishonest], monopolistyczna [monopolistic] and dyskryminacyjna [discriminative]) between its 10 strongest collocates. Moreover, procedura [procedure] demonstrates semantic preference for actions consisting of some official and highly formalized steps that need to be followed to achieve some particular aim, such as procedura reklamacyjna [complaint procedure], procedura przetargowa [tender procedure], and procedura odwolawcza [appeal procedure]. Among describing words, in vitro has strong semantic preference for notions connected with human procreation (8 of the 10 strongest collocates such as: zapladniac [fertilize] or bezplodnosc [infertility]). On the other hand, sztuczny [artificial] shows semantic preference for inanimate objects such as tworzywo sztuczne [plastic; literally: artificial material], nawoz sztuczny [artificial fertilizer], szczgka [dentures; literally: artificial jaw] or sztuczne lodowisko [ice ring]; literally: artificial ice ring]. None of the describing words has a clear semantic prosody. Moving to the last main element of terms for IFV, fertilization, it can be observed that there is strong semantic preference for biomedical notions, none of which is reserved for humans or human procreation. Examples are: jajowy [ovum], probowka [test tube], ustroj [system], nasienie [semen],plemnik [sperm cell], komorka [cell], and zabieg [procedure].

Within the less frequent IVF terms, the usage of words rozrod [propagation] and reprodukcja [reproduction] deserves some attention. The first one has semantic preference for animals and inanimate objects. Its two strongest

2 It should be noted that not all of the occurrences of word fertilization are related to IVF.

collocates in the NCP are gospodarski [farm (adj)] and hodowla [breeding]. The first term is essentially used to talk about animals or buildings, while the second is used in relationship to animals and species. Other collocates indicating this semantic preference are: zwierzg [animal], niekontrolowany [uncontrolled] or samica [female3]. The word reprodukcja [reproduction] is polisemic in Polish (like in English) and can be applied either to a copy of something, usually a work of art or to the process of procreation. Despite this ambiguity, the 10 strongest collocates are all related to the first mentioned meaning (copy of an art work) with two exceptions: reprodukcja elit [reproduction of elites] and reprodukcja rozszerzonaA [extended reproduction]. This tendency continues in next sets of collocates with first one associated with human procreation in the 26th position: reprodukcja prosta [simple reproduction] - a phrase referring to demography. Also the word przekazywanie [transfer] has no semantic preference for human procreation; its collocates are related to formal processes like przekazywanie informacji [transfer of information], przekazywanie skladek [premium transfer], and przekazywanie danych [data transfer].

The semantic preference for human life is visible in only two elements of IVF terms. The first one is an adjective zastgpczy [substitutive] with its strongest collocates from the semantic field of family: rodzina [family], rodzicielstwo [parenthood], adopcyjny [adoptive], and niespokrewniony [unrelated5]. A second interesting case is poczgcie [conception], a word which demonstrates religious semantic preference, as four of its 10 strongest collocates refer to religious matters: niepokalany [immaculate], NMP [an abbreviation from one of the names used to refer to the Virgin Mary], najswiqtszy [the holiest], and Maryja [Mary6]. Concordance analysis in the PNC of five other words (naturalny [natural], moment [moment], przyrodzony [in born], chwila [moment], and upragniony [longed for]) demonstrate that they are related to human beings.

4. Conclusions

The discourse emerging from those terminologies shows a preference for lexical usage that is not directly related to human procreation. Words such as procedura [procedure] or technika [technique] mainly occur in formal and technical contexts. Rozrod [propagation] and reprodukcja [reproduction] are used in Polush, as the presented data suggests, to talk about animals rather than humans and the adjective sztuczny [artificial] refers more frequently to objects than to animate beings. Consequently, it can be concluded that the terms used to describe IVF in the investigated texts discursively construct this procedure as inhuman, associated with biological experiments conducted in a laboratory rather than with the birth of a child.

Such discursive construction of IVF is also confirmed by the analyzed texts. Conception through IVF is contrasted with conception through sexual activity of parents, which is seen as a basic right of every human being:

• Po pierwsze - przy kazdej probie w tej metodzie [zaplodnienie in vitro] ginq liczne embriony — jest to rodzaj wyrafinowanej aborcji. Po drugie - kazde dziecko ma prawo zrodzic si§ z milosnego aktu malzenskiego jego rodzicow. [First of all, with every attempt of this method [IVF] numerous embryos die - it is a kind of sophisticated abortion. Secondly - every child has the right to be born from an act of love of its parents].

• Akceptowanie bez zastrzezen faktu, ze stosowanie technik zaplodnienia in vitro pociqga za sobq wysoki procent poronien, pokazuje wyraznie, ze zastqpienie aktu malzenskiego procedurq technicznq (...) przyczynia si$ do ostabienia swiadomosci szacunku naleznego kazdej istocie ludzkiej. [Accepting without doubt the fact that using the IVF procedure is related to a high percentage of miscarriages shows clearly that replacing the matrimonial act by a technical procedure (...) contributes to the weakening of awareness about respect for every human being].

• Ta technika jest moralnie niegodziwq: powoduje ona calkowite oddzielenie prokreacji od aktu malzenskiego. [This technique is morally wicked as it results in the total separation of procreation from the matrimonial act].

3 The Polish word is used only to talk about animals.

4 A term used to talk about a specific procedure in plant breeding.

5 In Polish this word is used almost exclusively to talk about family relations between humans.

6 The Polish name is used only to refer to Lady Mary.

The contrast visible in these portions of text supports the construction of IVF as something unnatural, a thing which violates universal laws.

Such a construction is consistent with the overall attitude of the Polish Catholic Church towards IVF. Although it does not express this attitude directly, it forms a firm basis for such an attitude. A procedure associated with scientists and their workplaces is easier to reject than a method of helping couples who desperately desire a child. This construction can also be seen as a way of influencing the emotions of the audience: if a place or procedure is cold and clinical, children should not have any contact with it, not to mention being conceived in such an environment; or, if this method is associated with the breeding of animals and plants, it should not be used for human beings. Finally, constructing IVF as inhuman might also be aimed at counterbalancing the arguments of pro-IVF community consisting of those who emphasize the emotions of infertile couples and who point to the love parents offer their children born thanks to IVF.

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