Garrafa V, Diniz D., Guilhem D. Bioethical language, its dialectics and idiolectics. [El lenguaje bioético, su dialecto e idiolecto.] Cadernos de Saúde Pública [Public Health Notebooks, Brazil] 1999; 15(Supl 1):35-42.

Objective : To analyze the process of transculturation in the field of bioethics.

Methodology: Critical bibliographic review, through the use of a linguistic metaphor as a heuristic device.

Results: The authors employ a linguistic analysis to distinguish among: language (the official language of a nation), dialect (a regional variant of the language), and idiolect (an individual variant of a dialect). These concepts derive from the work of Diego Gracia. Gracia has undertaken a critical analysis of the importation of ideas from the bioethical movement in the United States into its counterpart movement in the countries of the periphery. Gracia’s proposal is not simply to “import” or “translate” but to “recreate” and “refashion” the discipline of bioethics according to the ethical and cultural traditions of the peripheral countries.

The authors describe the potentialities of Gracia’s work, noting that his search for and understanding of the differences between cultural traits and traditions serves as a pathway for recognizing ethical identity and a specific ethical dialect. Gracia posits that, in the field of science, only technical, not human or social, elements may be translated. The latter involve ethical dimensions that cannot be simply translated but rather must be recreated.

Conclusions: The proposal to recreate has its own limitations. It is not sufficient to speak of “ethical traditions” or “philosophic heritage.” Rather, to formulate a distinct dialect requires an understanding of local cultural beliefs.

Copyright 2007 University of New Mexico