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Anna-Malin Karlsson

About me

My research concerns literacy practices and communication in institutional settings. An earlier project dealt with elder care, where documentation plays an increasing role. Currently, me and by colleagues are wrapping up a project which investigates information and knowledge formation related to prenatal heart faliure diagnosis. Link to project web site at Uppsala University.

My main areas of interest are discourse analysis, social semiotics, multimodality and linguistic ethnography.

For six years as a professor of Sociolingustics at Uppsala University (2012-2018) and  before that I was a professor of Swedish at Södertörn University (2018-2012).


I am the supervisor the doctoral students Linda Pfister. (Uppsala University) and Lisa Rudebeck.



Health literacy and knowledge formation in the information society (2015-2017) Link to project homepage.

Care work as language work: Affordances and restrictions for speakers of Swedish as a second language (2010-2012)

Grammatical Metaphors in Swedish (2007-2008)

CELiNE, Content Embedded Literacy Education for the 'New Economy' (2008-2009)

Text and Work in the New Economy (2005-2009)

Literacy Practices in Working Life (2002-2004)


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Meanings and functions of different types of heart images in the communication of doctors and patients

    2023. Anna-Malin Karlsson, Theres Bellander. Journal of Visual Communication in Medicine


    Images in medical communication are appreciated by both professionals and patients, but we know little about how they are actually used in clinical practice and in the learning processes of patients. This qualitative study investigates the use and the meaning potential of two different types of heart images: the hand-drawn doctor’s sketch and the digital illustration from the web. The analysis starts with how these are recontextualised in social media, tracks them back to their original contexts and finally explores their material resources. The analytical perspective is that of social semiotics and multimodal discourse and interaction analysis. While the hand-drawn sketch is recontextualised as a witness of the specific consultation, the digital illustration is used to focus on the heart defect as such. It is also shown how the act of drawing works as a means for framing and structuring the consultation, slowing down the pace and reducing context and detail and thus focussing on what is uniquely relevant. While the digital and more realistic illustration is technically neutral and objective and is free from unique context, the drawing on paper is physically tied to its context of origin, which is also its main resource.

    Read more about Meanings and functions of different types of heart images in the communication of doctors and patients
  • SFL och socialsemiotik: Verktyg eller holistisk teoriram?

    2020. Anna-Malin Karlsson. Globe: A Journal of Language, Culture and Communication 10, 10-29


    Systemic-Functional Linguistics often appears as a complete and altogether exhaustive theory of language. If widened with a multimodal perspective, social semiotics seems to contain all you need – but does it? The research project Health literacy and knowledge-formation in the information society has investigated complex communication practices related to the pre-natal diagnosis of heart failure in children, pursuing linguistic purposes as well as educational and applied goals. Oral consultations, digital discussions, written texts and visual representations were studied across different contexts and epistemic cultures, from the medical consultation room to the private blog, using tools from SFL and social semiotics (e.g. genre analysis, systemic conversation analysis and Legitimation Code Theory) – but also tools from other traditions and disciplines (e.g. New Literacy Studies, Activity Theory and rhetoric). Based on examples from these studies, this paper discusses the strengths and limitations of SFL and social semiotics, both with respect to their potential to provide adequate analytical tools for complex and context-overarching meaning-making practices, and with respect to their compatibility with other relevant perspectives and disciplinary traditions, e.g. those of medical professionals.

    Read more about SFL och socialsemiotik: Verktyg eller holistisk teoriram?
  • Patient participation and learning in medical consultations about congenital heart defects

    2019. Theres Bellander, Anna-Malin Karlsson. PLoS ONE 14 (6)


    In this article, patient activity in 8 audio recorded specialist consultations on fetal cardiology is investigated in order to explore how, why and when patients tend to participate in encounters in which the doctor dominates the interaction. The overall question is: How can the participation of patients in the consultations be connected to the development of higher levels of health literacy, i.e. to interactive literacy and to critical literacy? Patient participation is here understood as interactive action and is analyzed in terms of different interactive moves, which are related to different recurring topics. Despite the highly standardized format of the consultations, there is a large variation between the patients’ participation: between 0.7 and 2.8 moves per minute. The patients participate most during the topics ‘Prevalence’ and ‘Consultations’ and least during the topic ‘The normal heart’. Although most of the patients' moves are responses to what the doctor says, they remarkably often pose questions and use so called rejoinders. By posing questions, they take control of the information flow and sometimes even change the topics. By using rejoinders, they analyze the problems involved in the discussion e.g. by asking for clarifications or confirmation. Patients with a low over-all participation rate also use fewer moves that indicate higher literacy levels. The qualitative analysis problematizes the idea of a simple scale from basic literacy to critical literacy. Moves that indicate basic literacy skills are interactively important for the learning activity, led by the doctor. However, patients who mainly support the doctor’s initiatives don’t take the opportunity to influence the flow of information in ways that might favor their health literacy development.

    Read more about Patient participation and learning in medical consultations about congenital heart defects

Show all publications by Anna-Malin Karlsson at Stockholm University