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‘Ye whom the charms of grammar please’

Studies in English Language History in Honour of Leiv Egil Breivik

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Edited By Kari Haugland, Kevin McCafferty and Kristian A. Rusten

This collection of articles by colleagues and students of Leiv Egil Breivik presents studies within both core and peripheral areas of English historical linguistics. Core topics covered include the development of existential there and related phenomena, word order, the evolution of adverbials, null subjects from Old to Early Modern English, pragmatics and information structure and aspects of discourse. Contributors also address the emergence of new syntactic constructions in the past and present, language contact and aspects of style in Early Modern English letters and medical texts. The ideological discourses of children’s dictionaries and medieval letters of defence are also explored.
The essays are all empirical studies, based on a wide range of corpora (both historical and contemporary) and applying theoretical approaches informed by Systemic-Functional Grammar, grammaticalization theory, dependency grammar, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics and corpus linguistic methods. Issues of methodology, statistics and corpus construction and annotation are also addressed in several contributions.
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Ana Elina Martínez-Insua: Language, medicine and choice: A Systemic-Functional study of Early Modern English medical writing

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← 222 | 223 → ANA ELINA MARTÍNEZ-INSUA

Language, medicine and choice: A Systemic-Functional study of Early Modern English medical writing1

1 Introduction

Analysing medical writing over the course of the history of English may help us understand the development of the language of science, as well as its contribution to the process of construing and communicating knowledge. The underlying theoretical assumption of the present study is that the context of culture defines the potential of language as a system and at the same time ‘plays a significant role in determining the actual choices’ (Halliday 2009: 55) made by speakers. Similarly, Crombie’s claim that ‘[w]e need to ask how language conditioned scientific thinking and was in turn altered by it’ (1995: 232–3, in Pahta & Taavitsainen 2011: 1) inspires the pilot study presented here, which aims to characterize and analyse instances of early modern medical writing (1550–1650) from a Systemic-Functional perspective (Halliday & Matthiessen 2004). Thus, the focus will be on the experiential, interpersonal and textual metafunctions of texts (cf. Halliday’s 1985 multi-tiered perspective on English clauses as resulting from a number of simultaneous and interwoven choices made by speakers, mostly unconscious ones).

← 223 | 224 → This pilot study is part of a larger project on the degree of textual variation in the recent history of the English language as far as the organization of clausal constituents is concerned.

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