Means Of Adaptation Of Professional Discourse


The division of discourses into professional and non-professional is of great practical importance. Among them there are discourses with educational orientation. In our research we to identified the specific pragmatic function of the subdiscourse that is to adapt professional discourse for non-experts in this field. Subdiscourse is noted as a discourse, in which the situation of communication implies a professional sphere, but the communication is carried out by non-professionals or professionals in non-professional statuses and roles. The material of the study was advertising and medical subdiscourse, and legal and advisory subdiscourse. When a non-professional becomes an addressee, the professional text needs to be changed to meet new communicative conditions (that means, to be adapted), and the descriptive communicative strategy is changed to an explanatory strategy. The changed communication strategy affects the choice of language material, and how it is presented. The specifics of discourse influence the choice of one of the mechanisms of adaptation: text extension, text compression, text creolization. Adaptation of medical discourse is made through a synthactic mechanism – a part of the text is replaced by a creolized element – and compression. The legal text is adapted by text extension. During adaptation of professional texts, communicative tactics consist of selecting units from synonymous rows and functional and semantic fields that meet the requirements of the addressee, their background knowledge in the professional field, and their everyday experience. Language material is replaced when adapted through lexemes, syntax, textures, and graphemes.

Keywords: Professional discoursecommunicative strategiescommunicative tacticsfunctional and semantics fieldpragmalinguistics


The anthropological scientific paradigm allows analyzing the text considering speech activity of participants of communication in a certain situation of communication. Thus, the speech act represents a sign system. This semiotic approach lets us analyze the text according to three positions: 1) the semantic content of language signs; 2) their paradigmatic relations; 3) the syntactic organization of language signs in the text, and their syntagmatic relations, 4) the pragmatic dependence of the addresser's choice of speech signs (Matveeva & Zyubina, 2018, 2019). This choice ensures the achievement of the intended speech effect on the recipient of the text (the addressee) and purposefully gives them some associations as a result of the implementation of associative relations.

Professional discourses

Modern studies of discourse distinguish between institutional and non-institutional types of discourse (Karasik, 2002), relying on the conditions of communication. They take into consideration the fact if communication takes place within a pre-determined structure, including participants with specified roles, or the interaction of communication participants is not regulated by clear protocols and rules. However, this is not the only possible classification of discourses. The division of discourses into professional and non-professional ones is of paramount practical importance (Johnson & Mercer, 2019; Klyoster & Galich, 2015; Moshtaghi, 2010). In the theory of discourse, there are several classifications that reflect the constitutive features of these discourses. The division into professional and non-professional discourses allows highlighting some features of communication in professional fields.

Professional discourse is distinguished by appealing to specific concepts and terms, depending on the communication format of the communicants. Such professional communication usually has an “expert-expert” format. Such communication implies that the addressee and the addresser have special presuppositions that comprise scientific or professional knowledge in a certain field. Professional discourse includes both the structure of knowledge (in the form of concepts, frames, constructs, etc.) and the methods of its usage (operating knowledge to solve professional problems). It implies operationality, i.e. the field of application of knowledge which affects both experts and non-experts in this field. Communication in many professional discourses includes another format – "expert – lay-audience". The definition of an addressee who does not have any special professional knowledge or skills as a “lay-audience” is reflected in a number of studies; “lay-audience” has already become fixed as a term (Anke, 2013; Golovanova, 2013; Moshtaghi, 2010). The dualism of the terms an “expert” and “lay-audience” implies a divergence of background knowledge, skills, and qualifications in any professional field. One and the same person can be an "expert" in one professional sphere and a "lay-audience" in another one. When describing the interaction of an expert and a layman, the following fundamental parameters are noted: the purpose and motives of communication in this professional sphere; status-role characteristics of communicants; modality or tonality of communication (official, neutral, friendly); a method of communication (oral / written, contact / distant) (Golovanova, 2013; Karasik, 2002; Yevtushenko, 2017). In some areas, the study of the characteristics of professional discourse and the perception of texts by laymen is vital. In 2001, the industry standard “State Information Standard for Medicines” was introduced in Russia; it involves the creation of two types of instructions for medicines – one for experts (doctors), and another one for lay-audience (consumers). In foreign practice, such a requirement is obligatory since there has been established a clear connection between the medicine effectiveness and understanding of the instructions for this medicine (Antonova, 2019). Beside medical discourse, we can note legal discourse where the full understanding of the text directly affects the achievement of the perlocutionary effect (Pervukhina, 2015a, 2015b). Palashevskaya (2010) points out that a number of features of the legal style of the English language affect the difficulty of its understanding by a layman reader (numerous terms, ceremonial phrases, etiquette formulas, legal clichés, symbols and realities); the same was noted by researchers of texts of Russian laws. Thus, the purpose and motives of communication in the professional field indicate the need to adapt professional texts for layman readers.


One can distinguish types of discourse with a popularization purpose among professional discourses. They can be called sub-discourses. A sub-discourse is thought to be a discourse in which the communication situation involves the professional sphere, but communication is carried out by lay-audience and experts. Sub-discourses of this kind are carried out as adaptation of professional discourses for lay-audience in a professional field.

There are certain strategies useful for representing professional knowledge and knowledge structures in a form appropriate for lay-audience. These strategies will be discussed further in this article.

Problem Statement

The object of the study is a situation requiring adaptation of professional sub-discourses for their use by lay-audience. The subject of the study is adaptation of professional discourses into non-professional sub-discourses for their understanding and use by lay-audience.

We have investigated the ways how the language material is used in order to communicate professional knowledge to lay-audience. An expert exploits special text mechanisms and communicative strategies. Text mechanisms are used in case of secondary texts. Secondary texts are formed on the basis of preliminary texts in a new situation of communication with different communicative conditions. Communicative strategies are used to transmit knowledge in an adapted form. As a result of such text transformations and communicative strategies, a popularization text is formed.

In general, communication strategies can be divided into image strategies and conatively targeted ones. The image strategies are related to the self-characteristics of the sender of the text; the conatively targeted strategies ensure that the addresser realizes the intended impact on the recipient. From the point of view of the interaction of the addresser and the addressee, we can distinguish two types of communication strategies. A discursive communicative strategy involves interacting professionals. An adaptive communication strategy considers communication between a professional and a layman. The adaptation of a professional discourse to an unprofessional sub-discourse refers to the second strategy, an adaptive communicative strategy, or a communicative strategy for adapting discourses.

Research Questions

Popularization texts in advertising medical sub-discourse

Advertising medical discourse is studied as a kind of popularization discourse where experts are people with medical education, and lay-audience are people without such education. Popularization texts are written to simplify special medical texts or to adapt specialized medical knowledge necessary to improve or preserve people’s health.

Popularization texts in legal consultation sub-discourse

Experts in legal consultation sub-discourse are people with legal training, and lay-audience are people without special legal training. Popularization texts are written in order to give legal advice to people without special knowledge in the legal sphere. Some of them are secondary texts for they are based on the legal texts; some of them are primary texts, and they describe legal system of knowledge with everyday language material.

Purpose of the Study

In this research we described such a specific pragmatic function as adaptation of professional texts for non-experts (lay-audience) in this field. Adaptation is understood as a transformation of the text, in which the personal and professional features of the addressee of the text and their incentive for reading this text are taken into account. For the first time a sub-discourse has been considered as an adaptation mechanism which consists in the choice of communicative strategies and tactics that are aimed at increasing the comprehensibility of the text and understanding of the secondary simplified text by a non-professional addressee (a layman).

Research Methods

The research material included texts of advertising medical sub-discourse and legal advisory sub-discourse. Medical discourse comprises advertising medical sub-discourse that has the function of advertising discourse, but the communication situation of medical discourse. Legal advisory sub-discourse contains the function of legal advice. The methodology for the analysis of sub-discourses is based on the identification and analysis of communicative strategies adopted in pragmalinguistic studies. Communicative strategy is understood as a part of communicative behaviour of the addresser, which is aimed at achieving a specific goal of influencing the addressee.


Genres of advertising medical sub-discourse with popularizing orientation

Different registers of professional communication are characterized by different genres (Dementjev & Sedov, 2018; Yevtushenko, 2017). Among the genres of advertising and medical sub-discourse that have an adaptive communicative orientation, one can note the following: 1) instructions for medicine for patients; 2) an advertisement; 3) expert consultation (including an interview with an expert in a certain field); 4) a post of a professional blogger. Let us consider the choice of tactics for implementing a communicative adaptation strategy in a specific empirical material. Advertisements are often placed in popularization medical magazines and newspapers that carry out the advertising function. Advertising is also published on leaflets that are distributed to doctors, pharmacists, and patients. Communicative strategies and tactics of advertising are aimed at attracting readers to this text, giving the most useful information in a minimal text space.

Advertising medical leaflets

Advertising medical leaflets give the most concise information about the purpose of the medicine. There is a compression of information and a replacement of verbal information with visual information. The visual image replaces words (instead of the phrase two pills every hour , there can be a visual with two pills). Such a replacement is based on the semiotic properties of the sign: since syntactics studies the relationship between signs, a similar transformation of the text can be called syntactic. Such an advertisement is called a creolized text that is a text with verbal and non-verbal information that is interconnected and communicates one message (Platonova, Tarasova, & Golubinskaya, 2015). A non-verbal element is efficient in communicating the message of the advertisement. It performs two major functions, such as attracting the attention of the reader, and applying to the first signal system to transmit the information about the world.

In addition, a popularized medical text exploits the mechanism of explication of presuppositions and a conatively oriented communicative strategy of using everyday vocabulary and visual-sensory (everyday) experience instead of terminology. A text for lay-audience sets indications for usage of this drug in a medical advertising leaflet, while the information for doctors in the primary source includes terminology. The manual for doctors gives a diagnosis and its symptoms that appear as a consequence of the diagnosis. The description for experts reflects a professional worldview. The simplified (adapted) text, that is understandable for a lay-audience, includes only the symptoms that a patient can feel, which relate to the naïve worldview. Thus, adaptive communication strategies in this case consist in the choice of linguistic units that reflect the concepts of naïve worldview, text compression, and text creolization (syntactically replacing verbal information with a visual, i.e. non-verbal information).

Despite the introduction of the State Information Standard for Medicines in Russia, pharmacists rarely attach two instructions to the drug, or two versions of the instructions (for experts and lay-audience). Here is such an example of a medical instruction for laymen (patients): “ Beta-carotene helps strengthen the body defenses. It strengthens the immune system. ... It contains beta-carotene in a water-soluble form. Beta-carotene is a fat-soluble substance. Substances that are soluble in fats are absorbed in the body with much more difficulty than water-soluble ones. ...” ( This instruction contains everyday vocabulary; the terms are given only when it is absolutely necessary (it explains the main substance – Beta-carotene), the paragraph reflects the syntax of colloquial speech. The instruction for experts is rich in terminology; it denotes the concepts of a professional medical field and contains longer sentences with a complicated syntax. Here is an example of a medical instruction for doctors: “ Betacarotene is a natural retinol-like substance from the group of carotenoids. Thanks to its evident antioxidant effect, it protects cells from damage by active oxygen and prevents the damaging effects of free radicals. ...” ( The instructions for experts are always rich in terminology; they denote the concepts of a professional medical field and contain longer sentences with a complicated syntax. The instructions for experts have specific language features. They contain specific terminology and rather complicated syntactic constructions reflecting the complexity of the processes in a human body. Obviously, in case of an adapted text, the effect on the recipient is carried out by stating the effectiveness of the medicine, and in the second case, by describing the mechanisms of the medicine, which is important for understanding its effect. In the simplified (adapted) version of the text for patients, the compression of the text is obvious. The information that is not relevant for the non-expert is reduced there (the instruction does not render such facts as biochemical reactions of the body to the drug, processes in the body that occur, etc.).

Interviews with a physician

Interviews with a physician on pages of a newspaper or a magazine are conducted by a journalist, but the general direction of communication is designed for the interest of the reader – a possible patient. When journalists prepare material for the issue, they simplify the material for a lay-audience. The journalists set the tone for the conversation, prepare suitable questions for the expert, ask to explain difficult points, as in the following example: “ Now that we have come to the topic of swallowing a probe or gastroscopy, in medical terms. Did they come up with something in the modern world to make the last procedure not so "nasty"? ... What is Helicobacter pylori bacterium, why is it dangerous?” ( The journalist provides two ways to describe reality – naïve and terminological (“ swallow a probe ” – gastroscopy). The journalist also asks a question with a request to explain the term Helicobacter pylori that might be unclear for readers without necessary background knowledge (or a medical education).

The expert consultation genre exists in oral and written medical discourse. The constitutional features of the genre of expert consultation in oral form are as follows: personal orientation, interactivity (answers to patient questions, collecting information about the anamnesis, examination, etc.), persuasiveness (some recommendations about lifestyle changes may not please the patient, the doctor needs to be convincing enough). Consultations of an expert in writing are often deprived of sufficient interactivity (even during consultations on-line, doctors note the need for face-to-face consultation), but personal orientation and persuasiveness remain. Since the consultation genre is carried out in the "expert – lay-audience" mode, the following communication strategies for adapting the text are observed. They are manifested in the use of linguistic means and the choice of orientation of the topic:

(1) using everyday vocabulary instead of terminology;

(2) a description of medical processes that are obvious to the patient (symptoms and methods of eliminating the disease / symptoms), and not biochemical reactions and other processes that are implicit to the patient, but important to the attending physician;

(3) focus on the desired actions and attitudes of the patient.

A post of a professional blogger

The post of a professional blogger is alleged to be an interesting modern genre that is conducted by experts (doctors, lawyers, human resources personnel, builders, etc.) for lay-audience (Blomberg, 2016; Zhao & Arenas, 2019). Such experts have an educational goal, and at the same time they often promote their services via their blogs. In such professional blogs there are image-driven and conative driven communication strategies. Image strategies include the following:

  • frequent self-praise. In this case, an educational orientation is not observed either; the author aims at influencing the addressee in order to promote their own services;

  • an increased content of terms in the blog, up to a complete misunderstanding by lay-audience. In such blogs the educational orientation is completely lost, but the author tries to produce a "scientific" and "professional" impression on their readers.

There are the following conative driven communication strategies:

  • a description of a situation requiring professional knowledge through the linguistic means of the naïve worldview as it is shown in the following example: “Melatonin regulates brain activity, which allows us to fall into the realm of Morpheus. Not only that, with age, its quantity is already physiologically reduced, but you also artificially reduce it by your irresponsible attitude to sleep. There is a sleep disorder.” (@doctor_zubareva); (the author avoids the terms insomnia, agripnia; she applies to a naïve description of conditions known and understandable to every reader);

  • criticism of other bloggers. The author emphasizes their own uniqueness. The author implies that this is not typical for her, distinguishes herself from this group;

  • creating a blog style which is manifested in the creolized (non-verbal) elements of the post. The blogger strives to make them unified (stylized), vibrant, attracting attention. These can be drawings in one style, frames and background of one style, etc.;

  • the dialogical nature of the posts which is manifested in the usage of interrogative sentences, appeal to the reader (using the 2nd person), appeal to their experience as in the following example: “Let us talk today about how to properly feed the heart! ... Every day I am asked "how to nourish the heart? (@blog_kardiologa). The question-answer form of the post imitates a dialogue with the reader;

  • usage of humour. Humour or is used to create interest in this post and the blog as a whole, especially when the joke is about the medical field.

Genres of legal advisory sub-discourse with popularization purpose

Both in the medical and in the legal discourses, some communication situations suggest the inequality of communicants in terms of their knowledge and skills in the professional – legal – sphere. Communication in legal discourse can be imagined as the interaction of two conceptual systems, such as the legislative system and the everyday situation. The legislative system is described by regulatory legal acts, it contains legal concepts, a range of regulated actions that enforce the law, a set of conditions that make any actions legal or illegal within the framework of this legislative system. Facing the situations that are regulated by law, a person without special legal knowledge needs the help of an expert. Explaining a possible solution to the problem, the expert relies on the everyday situation and general knowledge about the world that the addressee may have, and a special worldview – the legislative system. Thus, the adaptation of professional discourse is carried out through a series of communication strategies and tactics.

There are genres of legal discourse, suggesting a popularization orientation, among which the following are noted: 1) legal advice, 2) an editorial, 3) a lawyer's blog. Adaptation mechanisms in legal discourse are implemented through simplification of the language, clarification of concepts (amplification), and interpretation of the situation (explication of presuppositions).

Genre of legal advice

Let us consider in more detail the genre of legal advice . As in medical discourse, there are face-to-face (oral) consultations and on-line consultations taking place in the format of a question-answer. Speech acts in this genre can be divided into descriptive ones (the everyday situation is described or explained from the point of view of legislation) and persuasive ones (based on this answer, the addressee can act in their own interests).

The expert helps to find the best solution to the problem by adapting legislation for a layman client. There are several communication tactics that are used in the genre of online legal advice. They are as follows:

  • citation of a legislative act (law);

  • reference to the legislative act;

  • interpretation through everyday concepts to describe subsequent actions.

A communicative strategy consists of various combinations of the above tactics. Tactics 1 and 2 appear in descriptive speech acts; they provide an exact link to the article of the law to obtain a perlocutionary effect (the addressee can use this information to get what they want). Tactic 3 is present in persuasion speech acts. Only the text of the law has legal force, but not its adaptation for a lay-audience. However, for the execution of the text of the law, a non-expert addressee must fully understand and be able to use this law, and for this purpose it needs to be adapted. It occurs through the mechanisms of compression (the text becomes shorter), simplification (the text becomes simpler in terms of syntax and vocabulary), amplification (the text becomes longer), and explication of presuppositions (some notions are explained). Let us illustrate these provisions with an example: “ If the quartz watch does not work, it means goods of inadequate quality. That is, there is a significant defect, the consumer has the right to terminate the contract of sale within 14 days if any defect is detected, after 14 days only if there is a significant defect. The information is taken from the law on consumer protection ” ( In this example, there is an interpretation through the naïve concept of “inadequate quality”, which is a quote from the law of consumer protection, and the phrase “significant disadvantage” is a naïve concept. At the same time, a compression mechanism is used (the text of the law is much longer and contains more details of the situation) and simplification (hypernyms are used in the adapted secondary text, specific terminology is avoided, and simpler syntax is used).

The same tactics are found in the other genres when adapting professional discourse. Let us consider them in more detail.

Editorial genre

The editorial genre implies a detailed compositionally structured message describing a fragment of a professional worldview explaining the basic terms and their interconnections. In an editorial article, a professional question or problem is described through the concepts of a naïve worldview, using a newspaper and journalistic style. These constitutive parameters allow making this text understandable to a wider readership that does not need to have education in this professional field.

In the theory of speech acts, an editorial is a descriptive speech act. Accordingly, it may contain communicative tactics of referencing legislation and interpreting the situation. The editor in the above quote explains in what source you can clarify this issue in more detail and provides a link to this source. Often a link to the source appears with the text compression mechanism, when the primary source – the legislative document – gives all the details of the situations of the law, and the secondary simplified text renders the most generalized situation described in everyday terms. The interpretation of the situation involves the mechanism of explication of presuppositions. This example explicates a presupposition reporting changes in the law from a specific date. Also, an editorial can use the mechanism of simplification in order to explain the law for presenting information in a journalistic style, which would be more comprehensible to a lay-audience. In legal advisory sub-discourse, the communicative strategy consists in reduction of sentences, simplification of syntactic constructions, and replacement of terminology with everyday vocabulary.

A blog of a lawyer

Educational genres include a blog of a lawyer (a post of a professional blogger). Let us consider its constitutive traits and communicative strategies and tactics. Such speech genre as a blog has appeared with the development of social networks. This genre has special structural, semantic, discursive, and pragmatic characteristics. The pragmatics of a professional blog is to transmit or exchange information on a specific (professional) topic. The text of the blog is a speech act of an informative type. The author emphasizes the importance of the issue that will be discussed. The problem that interests potential readers is described through everyday concepts, but when answering a question, a link to the corresponding law is given. The law itself is commented on through everyday concepts, using compression of information – the text of the law is much longer, and the author mentions the most important things in its simplified version.

Since blog promotion is associated with its popularity, which is determined by likes or comments, the author of the blog tries to put the information in the format and form that could be the most interesting and convenient for their readers. A blog necessarily contains information about the author that would confirm their professionalism in this field, so the text of the blog contains image communication strategies as well.


There are a number of adaptation mechanisms that, in the framework of the analysis of pragmalinguistic communicative strategies, can be called tactics for the implementation of communicative strategies. In our case, these include the following: text amplification (text increase after explication of presuppositions), text compression (elimination of details irrelevant in a given speech act which makes the text shorter), text creolization (replacing verbal information with an image). The mechanism of explication of presuppositions leads to an increase in the informative details due to the provision of the facts and ideas that are new to the addressee who is a lay-audience, while the mechanism of simplification leads to compression of the text. In both cases, communication strategies in educational genres emphasize important and relevant information for the recipient. The degree of importance and relevance of information is determined by the objectives of communication and the amount of professional knowledge of the recipient. The study of educational genres of the medical advertising sub-discourse and the legal advisory sub-discourse has theoretical significance, which consists in the study of communicative adaptive strategies and tactics, as well as practical value, which consists in identifying the most effective communication strategies between experts and non-experts (laymen). As it can be seen, the communication strategy changes when the addressee has been changed. A new communication strategy affects the purposeful choice of language means (from the set of its equivalent language representation), and the way it is presented. In addition, the professional specifics and the specifics of the genre also affect the implementation of the choice of adaptation mechanisms. The listed above genres shape an educational sub-discourse within the framework of professional (medical) discourse. It is done with specific communicative strategies and tactics aimed at adapting professional knowledge to laymen who need them.


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03 August 2020

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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, translation, interpretation

Cite this article as:

Pervukhina, S. V., & Matveeva, G. G. (2020). Means Of Adaptation Of Professional Discourse. In N. L. Amiryanovna (Ed.), Word, Utterance, Text: Cognitive, Pragmatic and Cultural Aspects, vol 86. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1064-1074). European Publisher.