The agency in language and the professionals’ intercultural competences: A case study on the educators’“pivot move” in medical visits of unaccompanied minors

Letizia Caronia, Vittoria Colla, Federica Ranzani


The presence of unaccompanied minors (UAM) in the Italian health care system represents a recent phenomenon, not fully investigated from a pedagogical perspective. The article reports findings from an exploratory study on medical visits involving UAMs with low communicative competence in the language of interaction, and their accompanying educators. Adopting a Conversation Analysis-informed approach to a corpus of video-recorded visits, we analyze the “problem presentation” and “history taking” phases. We singled out two resources (the ‘pivot move’ and the ‘oscillating addressivity’) respectively used by the educator and the physician to 1) pursue the “incompatible goals” of their agendas and 2) manage the UAM’s participation in the interaction by attributing him agency (or not). Focusing on the (inter)professional challenges of this triadic medical encounter, in the conclusion we advance that the awareness of the communicative details through which agency can be allocated or revoked is part of the intercultural competences of professionals working for UAM’s inclusion in the host society.


triadic medical visit; interprofessional care; doctor-patient interaction; ethnography in health care settings; conversation analysis.


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