Heidi E. Hamilton PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Linguistics
Georgetown University 455 ICC, Box 571051
3900 Reservoir Road, NW
Washington, DC 20057 
Phone: 202 687-6098
Fax: 202 687-5712

Research Interests 

Language and Alzheimer’s disease, language and aging, physician-patient communication, discourse of genetic counseling and second language acquisition

Research Summary 

I have spent my life in linguistics exploring the interrelationships between language and a variety of health care issues and contexts, including Alzheimer’s Disease. More women than men are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and that recent studies have indicated a link between the loss of estrogen associated with menopause and onset of the disease, with some studies further stating that estrogen treatments may improve symptoms or slow decline in women with AD. 
My early work on Alzheimer’s disease, as most fully represented in my first book Conversations with an Alzheimer’s Patient: An Interactional Sociolinguistic Study (Cambridge University Press, 1994), is generally recognized as the first work in the area of language and Alzheimer’s disease to depart from the clinical paradigm with its experimentally-elicited data. By basing my analyses on the language of open-ended, naturally-occurring conversations, it was my aim to understand language disability as a human problem within multiple linguistic and social contexts. Glimmers, a general interest book on these issues, will be published by RiverWood Books in May 2003.
My passion for understanding the mutual effects between language and human health—how language use affects health as well as how health affects language—has encouraged me to reach across disciplines, both to scholarly literature and to practitioners. Such collaborations have included work with speech and language pathologists in the Defense Head Injury Project at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; with physicians, nurses, and hospital administrators in an investigation of professional communication issues within Georgetown University Medical Center (the “Hospitalk” project); and with Georgetown Medical Center’s genetic counselors in an examination of the discourse of such counseling. In addition to these projects, I also teach discourse analysis and sociolinguistics at medical and nursing conferences and am a consultant with CommonHealth LP, a health care communications company, focusing on the relationship between physician-patient communication and health.

Representative Publications

  • Hamilton, Heidi E. in press. Glimmers: A Journey Through Alzheimer’s Disease. Ashland, OR: RiverWood Books.
  • Hamilton, Heidi E., Crane, Corinne, and Bartoshesky, Abigail. to appear. Doing Foreign Language: Applying the Best Practices of Concordia Language Villages to the Foreign Language Classroom. Prentice-Hall.
  • Hamilton, Heidi E. 2003. Patient voices in the medical world: An exploration of accounts of noncompliance. In: Deborah Tannen and James E. Alatis (Eds.), Discourse and Beyond (GURT 2001). Washington,D.C.: Georgetown University Press.
  • Schiffrin, Deborah, Tannen, Deborah, and Hamilton, Heidi E. (Eds.). 2001. Handbook of Discourse Analysis. Basil Blackwell.
  • Hamilton, Heidi. 1996. Intratextuality, intertextuality and the construction of identity as patient in Alzheimer’s Disease. Text 16/1: 61-90.
  • Hamilton, Heidi E. 1994. Conversations with an Alzheimer’s Patient: An Interactional Sociolinguistic Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.