ern their remit and conduct, such hospitals or prisons, while others have more implicit rules, which we perceive as conventions or habits, such as theatre going or sports fandom. Most of the time people unconsciously abide by the rules set in these institutions, or willingly submit to the rules that they can clearly see, and this compliance is regarded by the majority as “normal” behaviour, while those who do not display compliance are labelled in some way “sick”, “abnormal”, “deviant” or even “criminal”. Throughout the twentieth century scholars in different disciplines began to unpick this dynamic and look for ways to explore what is going on here, why it is happening, and how these patterns are created and maintained.
It was recognised by linguists that many of these issues are expressed in the way that people and organisations communicate with each other. A method called “discourse analysis” was developed in the field of linguistics which allows close examination of individual pieces of communication between people, whether in daily speech, in writing or in television programmes, instruction leaflets or any other context. This method provides “rather powerful, while subtle and precise, insights” and allows us to “witness the realization of the macrosociological patterns that characterize our society” (Van Dijk, 185, 7).
In this paper we shall use a discourse analysis approach to investigate a portion of communications from the field of healthcare : the “Smoke Free” website from the UK National Health Service. In particular we shall look at how participants are recruited into this programme, how the programme sets behaviour codes, monitors the individuals, and keeps records on them. Close analysis of the actual communications will only take us so far, however, and as Van Dijk realised, there are also “macrosocial” factors to consider. One of the most influential scholars in this, as in other fields, has been Michael