I study the language of sociocultural health issues through the combination of prosodic, corpus, and discourse-analytic approaches. Growing up around caregivers and nurses, I have always had countless questions about health communication. As an undergraduate at UCLA, I was empowered to begin answering these questions, and I learned that college is not just about studying existing information; it is also an opportunity to create new knowledge.

My honors thesis examined the complex participation frameworks between the elderly with dementia and their caregivers. Often, the elderly with dementia co-construct their utterances with their caregivers to convey messages, a communicative practice that makes linguistic exploration even more relevant. 

For my master’s thesis at UC Davis, I studied the voice quality that patients employ when describing their chronic pain, narrating symptoms, and requesting opioids. Unlike bruises or cuts, the symptoms of chronic pain are not always visible, so patients have to rely on speech to describe their suffering to physicians. Similarly, physicians must rely on patients’ verbal descriptions of pain and suffering to make important pain management decisions. This study expands the breadth of phonetic analysis within the domain of discourse analysis, informing discussions surrounding the illocutionary role of the lower vocal tract in expressing emotions.  

My dissertation brings my body of work full circle, as it employs both qualitative and quantitative approaches to dissect the linguistic representation of the opioid epidemic in the three most prominent areas in which this cultural issue is discussed: in governing policies, the media, and local doctor-patient interactions. 

My other research interests include my work on projects involving language variation, language and gender, language socialization, language documentation, and Filipino. 

Publications

Torres P.J., (Forthcoming). Modality and interpretive spaces in policies. In B.A. Diaz & R.W. Schrauf (Eds). Applying linguistics in health research, education, and policy: Bench to bedside and back again. De Gruyter Mouton. 

Torres P.J., (2021). The role of modals in policies: The US opioid crisis as a case study. Applied Corpus Linguistics. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acorp.2021.100008 Links: Elsevier | Kudos

Torres, P. J., Henry, S. G., & Ramanathan, V. (2020). Let’s talk about pain and opioids: Low pitch and creak in medical consultations. Discourse Studies 22(2). 174–204. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445619893796 Links: Sage Publication | Kudos | PubMed

Henry S.G., White A.E., Magnan E.M., Hood-Medland E.A., Gosdin M., Kravitz R.L., Torres P.J., & Gerwing J. (2020) Making the most of video recorded clinical encounters: Optimizing impact and productivity through interdisciplinary teamwork. Patient Education and Counseling. 103(10). 2178-2184. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pec.2020.06.005 Links: ScienceDirect 

Torres, P. J., (2015) “Iráhü táu ában funátu kápa” (“The Boy with a Red Cape”), The International Journal of Garifuna Creative Writing 3(1)..