Authority in Early English medical writing (1375-1700): a corpus linguistic study

Ollikainen, Iiris Karoliina (2020) Authority in Early English medical writing (1375-1700): a corpus linguistic study. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


The aim of this corpus linguistic study is to examine what early English medical texts consider to be authoritative. This research builds on the findings of previous studies which have established that between c.1375-1700 English scientific writing shifted from a scholastic style of argumentation, which relies on references to important authoritative sources, to a more empirical approach, which emphasises observation and experimental methods. As a result, what medical writers considered to be reliable information also changed. In order to gain a more detailed picture of how early medical texts view authority, this thesis adds to these previous findings by comparatively analysing different features of scholastic and empirical argumentation.

The material for this study comes from the first two parts of the Corpus of Early English Medical Writing (CEEM): Middle English Medical Texts (c.1375-1500) and Early Modern English Medical Texts (1500-1700). The study has been carried out by performing corpus searches on a set of communication verbs (ADVISE, AFFIRM, COUNSEL, REPORT, SAY, SPEAK, TEACH, TELL, and WRITE) and mental verbs (BELIEVE, KNOW, OBSERVE, PERCEIVE, and THINK). In addition to analysing the collocates of these verbs (chapters 3 and 4) and how their use changes over time (chapter 5), this thesis also examines what kind of external sources the texts refer to (chapter 6), as well as how medical writers use self-mentions to talk about their own expertise (chapter 8). Furthermore, these quantitatively oriented chapters are accompanied by two qualitative case studies. One of them examines authoritative medical knowledge derived from Biblical sources (chapter 7), and the other focuses on how medical writers express their own authority through 1st person narratives (chapter 9).

Overall, the findings of this study demonstrate that there are significant differences between different time periods and genres of medical writing when it comes to the use of communication and mental verbs, references to external sources, and self-mentions, and this thesis establishes that examining these three areas provides a useful analytical framework for studying authority in early scientific texts. The results reaffirm the findings of previous studies in that over the course of the early modern period, the scholastic style of argumentation becomes gradually less prominent, and furthermore, this thesis demonstrates that the changes in scientific argumentation styles also affect the ways in which medical writers justify their own authority.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Keywords: Corpus linguistics, medical writing, Middle English, Early Modern English, medical humanities.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Alexander, Professor Marc and Wiggins, Dr. Alison
Date of Award: 2020
Embargo Date: 6 March 2023
Depositing User: Ms Karoliina Ollikainen
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-80248
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2020 08:37
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2020 08:37

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