Background information: Scientific thought-styles project

Of all the branches of learning, medicine has the longest tradition of writing in the vernacular, and thus provides the longest uninterrupted timeline for the study of the developing language and thought-styles of science. The idea of compiling a historical corpus of scientific English came to Irma Taavitsainen during the compilation of the Helsinki Corpus, where Prof. Taavitsainen was responsible for the compilation of scientific and medical texts. Päivi Pahta joined Irma Taavitsainen in the mid 1990's and the Scientific thought-styles: The evolution of English medical writing project was born. The main undertaking of the new research project would become the compilation of the Corpus of Early English Medical Writing, the first diachronic corpus of scientific writing.

Over the last 15 years, members of the Scientific thought-styles project have examined medical writing from a wide variety of perspectives, ranging from stylistic features and pragmatics to code switching and the history and usage of particular lexical fields and individual terms. To date, the main finding has been that the history of scholarly writing in English can be pushed back considerably from what was previously believed, and that the transition from one thought-style to another is a much more varied and complicated process than what has been thought before. The project has also uncovered considerable linguistic differences between the various branches of medical writing.

Corpora and books

In 2004, the project produded a book entitled Medical and Scientific Writing in Late Medieval English (eds. Taavitsainen and Pahta), published by Cambridge University Press. Featuring contributions by project members and colleagues, the book has been very well received with a paperback volume was released in 2008.

The team finished two more books in 2010. Medical Writing in Early Modern England (CUP, eds. Irma Taavitsainen and Päivi Pahta) features studies based on the EMEMT corpus as primary material. The volume includes contributions by Päivi Pahta, Irma Taavitsainen, Peter Murray Jones, Turo Hiltunen, Ville Marttila, Maura Ratia, Carla Suhr, Jukka Tyrkkö, Rod McConchie, Anne Curzan, Martti Mäkinen, Maurizio Gotti, Bethany Gray and Douglas Biber.

Early Modern English Medical Texts: Corpus Description and Studies (Benjamins, Irma Taavitsainen and Päivi Pahta eds.) also came out in 2010. The book is sold with the EMEMT corpus, and provides detailed background information on the corpus, the corpus software, and medical writing in the 16th and 17th centuries. The book features contributions by Irma Taavitsainen, Päivi Pahta, Belén Méndez-Naya, Raymond Hickey, Paul Rayson, Alistair Baron, Turo Hiltunen, Anu Lehto, Ville Marttila, Heikki Mikkeli, Raisa Oinonen, Maura Ratia, Carla Suhr, and Jukka Tyrkkö.

A brief history of who, what, and when

Over the years, many young researcher have been introduced to historical linguistics as junior members of the Scientific thought-styles project. Several have went on to conduct or finish doctoral research.

Martti Mäkinen first joined Irma Taavitsainen and Päivi Pahta in connection with his MA thesis and was soon hired as a research assistant on Academy of Finland funding. Mäkinen subsequenty wrote his doctoral dissertation, Between Herbals et alia: Intertextuality in Medieval English Herbals (2006),on a closely related topic of medieval herbals. While working on his PhD, Mäkinen supervised the day-to-day compilation of MEMT and played a major role in the development of MEMT Presenter by Raymond Hickey (Universität Duisburg-Essen). Mäkinen took his PhD in 2005, moving to Stavanger to work on the Middle English Grammar project. He remains a collaborating scholar of the project.

When the Research Unit for Variation and Change was awarded Center of Excellence status by the Academy of Finland in 2000, the Scientific thought-styles project became eligible for continued research funding. Over the following years, several MA students worked on the project: Nora Leskinen (2001–2002), Ville Hyvönen (2001–2002), Alpo Honkapohja (2001–), Carla Suhr (2002–), Maura Ratia (2002–), Turo Hiltunen (2002–), Jukka Tyrkkö (2003–), Johanna Lahti (2004), Jukka Tuominen (2005), and Ville Marttila (2005–). Some left the project to pursue other goals, while the rest remained and became fully fledged members. The research assistants have primarily worked on corpus compilation, although several (Ratia, Honkapohja, and Marttila) came to select PhD topics related to the corpus.

VARIENG received a second six year Center of Excellence funding period (2006–2011), which enabled the continued compilation of CEEM. During this time, Anu Lehto (2007–) started out first as a research assistant and now as a postgraduate student. Raisa Oinonen (2009–) came onboard during the final stages of EMEMT, taking over the responsibility of final proofreading and preparing the text catalogue. Hiltunen, Marttila, Ratia, Suhr, and Tyrkkö contributed to the final read-through of the text catalogue. Tyrkkö was responsible for the testing of EMEMT Presenter by Raymond Hickey, while Anu Lehto worked with Alistair Barron (UCREL) in preparing the standardized spelling version of the corpus texts.

With the release of EMEMT at the end of 2010, the team has immediately turned its focus to LMEMT, the third and final subcorpus. The project team currently includes Irma Taavitsainen, Turo Hiltunen, Anu Lehto, Ville Marttila, Raisa Oinonen, Päivi Pahta, Maura Ratia, Carla Suhr, and Jukka Tyrkkö.