CE36 - Santé publique, santé et sociétés

"Words Fail Me": Naming the Unnamable – PERINAT

Submission summary

The suffering that a family struck by perinatal grief has to endure is exacerbated by the silence and ensuing isolation from peers that surrounds this event, widely associated to stigma and taboo in Western societies, so much so that perinatal death is also referred to as the “silent” or “invisible” loss. Investigating the discourse on perinatal death, this project seeks to improve bereaved parents’ communication experience by means of the promotion of a set of open, correct and respectful discursive practices that can contribute to the parents’ grieving process and their post-traumatic re-integration in society. To pursue this aim, the study is carried out in two steps: (i) the observation and identification of a number of linguistic aspects in the narrative of bereaved parents, with specific reference to metaphorical constructions and lexical innovation (neologisms); and (ii) the promotion of a set of ethical discursive practices that can contribute to the parents’ grieving process and their post-traumatic re-integration in society and into the workplace. The innovative aspects of this research are: the inclusion of the father’s account; the social role or utility of neologisms; and the focus on these parents’ ‘return to work’ stage, which seems to be particularly problematic as their expectations regarding communication often clash against widespread discursive malpractices. In addition to fundamental scientific insights, this project intends to raise awareness on the consequences of perinatal death from a discursive perspective, and break the silence that surrounds it in private, public and media communication. As such, it remedies what Fricker (2007) has termed “epistemic injustice”, the idea that the absence of appropriate words and concepts to express one’s experience interferes with the ability to understand this experience and make it intelligible to others.

Project coordination

Giuditta Caliendo (Savoirs, Textes, Langages)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


University of Naples 'Federico II'
STL Savoirs, Textes, Langages
University of Birmingham

Help of the ANR 356,609 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 48 Months

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