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The pragmatics of knowledge and meaning: Corpus linguistic approaches to changing thought-styles in early modern medical discourse

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Chapter Summary

Pilot studies on the new specialized corpora with comprehensive materials, Middle English Medical Texts 1375-1500 and Early Modern English Medical Texts 1500-1700, have already shown that the lines of development in the medical register are diversified, and a dynamic picture emerges. This study relates to the dissemination of knowledge and the negotiation of meaning across a wide selection of early modern medical texts. References to authorities with specific details are typical of the top genres of teaching and research in scholasticism and continue in the early modern period, but become adapted to new functions in more popular texts. In contrast, general references marking vagueness in medieval texts and occurring more frequently in texts for heterogeneous audiences acquire special meanings connected with the rising importance of discourse communities in the top genres of the seventeenth century. My approach is connected with historical pragmatics and historical discourse analysis. Corpus linguistic methods are applied to detect the overall trends and to locate relevant passages for qualitative analysis. For a more detailed microstudy, a keyword analysis is employed, with the frequencies of proper names as the prime point of interest.



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