Early Modern English Medical Texts (EMEMT)

EMEMT is the second component of the three-part Corpus of Early English Medical Writing 1375–1800. Like its predecessor MEMT, the corpus aims to provide a comprehensive view of the the field of contemporary English medical writing, ranging from theoretically-oriented texts rooted in the academic traditions of medicine to popularized and utilitarian texts verging on household literature.

EMEMT was released on CD by John Benjamins Publishing Company with a proprietory corpus tool, EMEMT Presenter, developed by Raymond Hickey in close collaboration with the Scientific thought-styles project. The corpus is sold with a book, Early Modern English Medical Texts: Corpus description and studies, specially written by the team members to provide extensive background information on Early Modern period medical writing, the composition of the corpus, and the software. The book includes contributions by all active members of the corpus team.

Basic information

Time of compilation: 2000–2010
Status: Available from December 2010
Size: 2 million words
Language: Early Modern English
Number of texts/samples: c. 450
Period: 1500–1700


Compilers: Irma Taavitsainen (University of Helsinki), Päivi Pahta (University of Tampere), Martti Mäkinen (Svenska handelshögskolan), Turo Hiltunen, Ville Marttila, Maura Ratia, Carla Suhr, Jukka Tyrkkö (University of Helsinki)

Other team members: Anu Lehto, Alpo Honkapohja, Raisa Oinonen

Student assistants: Johanna Lahti, Jukka Tuominen, Petteri Valkonen

Basic information

The corpus provides material for a wide variety of research tasks connected with the diachronic developments of domain-specific English in science and medicine. In combination with MEMT, it provides an opportunity to examine the shifts, continuities and patterns of variation in medical writing over several hundred years from the first emergence of the register.

As the borderlines between medicine and the natural sciences are not always clear in this period, we have adopted a rather generous definition of medicine. To represent also the fuzzy edges of medical writing, we have included an appendix titled “Medicine in society”, which includes texts which view medicine from religious, legal, polemical and literary standpoints and illustrates the wider social context of medical writing proper.

The end of the timeline, 1700, is defined by developments in medical thought and institutions, and by the final break-through of the vernacular along with the shift in balance from Latin to English. These changes are perhaps best exemplified by the Royal Society, which was founded in the 1660s. By the end of the 17 th century it was already opening up new lines of development by publishing The Philosophical Transactions (1665–), the first scientific journal whose first decades are also represented in our corpus.