8.1 Introduction

Contributed by Dr. Sara Champlin

As you’ve learned in previous modules, documenting languages is an important endeavor that allows us to study and preserve these languages. Researchers from numerous disciplines, as well as community members and archivists, engage in language documentation in many different contexts, typically emphasizing day-to-day events and activities. There are many social contexts and topics on which we might engage in language archiving including family relationships, the workplace or school environment, and the household.

One critical aspect of language that is pervasive across these topics is that of health and wellness. Linguists and documenters can play an essential role in supporting the overall health and wellbeing of a community by facilitating the translation and archiving of discussions on topics such as health experiences and decisions, as well as how illnesses are transmitted and common remedies. These translations can contribute to larger initiatives, such as the development of health infographics, pamphlets, and decision aids for communities.

Discussing health and wellness yields important information that can support communities. It can be engaging and rewarding. Sharing these experiences is at the discretion of the participant and some may feel discussions of these topics are not appropriate with others, or with others outside the home. Ultimately, as a linguist, it is important to consider the questions asked and topics covered in the documentation process.


1. To understand the breadth of health and wellness as linguistic concepts and the value of documenting these aspects of society and communities

2. To analyze and apply the use of open-ended qualitative interviews and storytelling to engage community members in conversations about health and wellness

3. To appraise the key ethical concerns that may arise during conversations about health and wellness topics


Broom, A., Parker, R., Raymond, S., Kirby, E., Lewis, S., Kokanović, R., ... & Lwin, Z. (2020). The (Co) Production of Difference in the Care of Patients With Cancer From Migrant Backgrounds. Qualitative Health Research, 30(11), 1619-1631.

Ojwang, B.O. (2018). Linguistic conceptualizations of disease among the Luo of Kenya. Qualitative Health Research, 28(3), 433-445.

Wood, C.I., Daley-Moore, N., & Powell, R. (2019). Using interviews in public health research: Experiences of novice researchers. The Qualitative Report, 24(10), 2441 – 2452.