Team bios

You're welcome to read brief bios of the current team members here. More extensive information, including publication lists, can be found on each member's own page on the VARIENG main website.

Irma Taavitsainen

I compiled the part on medical and scientific writings for  M4 of the Helsinki Corpus, as my dissertation topic (Taavitsainen 1988) was connected with astrological medicine.  A pioneer study on late medieval and early modern scientific writing  (Taavitsainen 1994) showed that the linguistic features were very different from what had been stated in the earlier literature. This discovery gave me inspiration to develop the idea of Scientific Thought-styles further and invite Päivi Pahta to join me in this exciting venture. Our first joint presentation outlines the project  (Taavitsainen and Pahta 1995),which has been one of my main pursuits ever since. The topic is challenging, and it is a great pleasure to work together with a team for a common goal, charting the development of the special language of  medicine in more detail, probing into the mechanisms of change in a long diachronic perspective.

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Päivi Pahta

I joined the legendary Helsinki Corpus team just before the corpus was released, and became acquainted with corpus linguistic methods in Matti Rissanen’s project on English in Transition, carrying out research on the development of apposition markers in the HC together with my former teacher Saara Nevanlinna. When Irma and I began to plan the Scientific Thought-styles project and the related Corpus of Early English Medical Writing in the mid-1990s, I was also working on my PhD thesis, a text edition and study of a unique medieval English medical text on human embryology (Medieval Embryology in the Vernacular: The Case of De spermate, Société Néophilologique 1998). The field of early medical manuscripts had begun to interest me some years earlier, and the thought of combining it with corpus compilation and linguistic analysis of medical discourse to get a more rounded view of the early developments of the register seemed attractive – a new and challenging area of research. As a continuation of my PhD research, language contact, specifically multilingualism in early medical writings, became a major focus of my interest. It proved such an inspiring area that it has also lead me to study the phenomenon in other types of contexts of discourse, including multilingual practices in present-day Finland, which, curiously enough, have some surprising similarities to multilingual practices attested in medieval English texts.

It has been a great experience to work in the corpus project with a team of bright minds. Over the many years we’ve learned a lot together, from each other, and about each other, including the wisdom buried in the memorable words by Martti, when, getting close to the completion of MEMT, we decided to go through all the corpus texts once more and change a code. He said: “If a corpus coding principle hasn’t been changed at least three times during the compilation process, it hasn’t been considered carefully enough.” Those words capture something very essential of the spirit and challenge of our pioneering venture and of the fun we’ve had together in venturing to pioneer.

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Martti Mäkinen

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Turo Hiltunen

As an undergraduate I worked as a research assistant in the Scientific thought-styles project, and my MA thesis (2004) on the early volumes of the Philosophical Transactions was based on the relevant section of the forthcoming EMEMT corpus. Although my PhD research is on present-day academic English, I maintain an active interest in the evolution of scientific and medical writing. I've collaborated with Jukka Tyrkkö on several studies focusing on lexical and grammatical features of medical rhetoric in Early Modern English.

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Anu Lehto

I joined the project on the Corpus of Early English Medical Writing in November 2006. As part of my studies, I had participated in Irma Taavitsainen’s course on historical pragmatics in the English department and I first became a research assistant to her historical pragmatics project (Pragmaattisia näkökulmia englannin kielen historiaan) funded by the Academy of Finland. During 2007, I collected research data on pragmatics topics from different historical corpora and databases, including the Middle English Medical Texts and Early Modern English Medical Texts corpora.

In 2008, I was hired as a full time research assistant to the corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts by VARIENG to replace Ville Marttila, when he started his PhD studies. Since EMEMT was already in its proofreading stage, my work has mainly concentrated on finishing the final round of checking and proofreading and writing catalogue entries of the corpus texts.

In 2008, I also began to work on my MA thesis. The topic of my thesis was motivated by the corpus compilation project and especially by a particular text in the EMEMT corpus: the appendix Medicine in Society in EMEMT includes a legal document on plague, the Elizabethan Plague Orders, which aroused my interest in Early Modern English plague legislation. Later, I widened my topic on Early Modern English legislative writing in general and on the development of linguistic complexity. I finished my MA degree in spring 2009 and was awarded a four-year position as a doctoral student in the Meaning, language and changing cultures network in the Humanities. At the end of 2009, I will begin my PhD research on complexity in historical legal language; for my thesis, I intend to compile a corpus of Early Modern English statutory texts, which will cover approximately the same time period as EMEMT.

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Ville Marttila

My involvement with the project begun in the autumn of 2005 just before the publication of MEMT when I started working as a research assistant for the project. My duties as a research assistant consisted mostly of keying in and proofreading texts for the corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts and finding new potential corpus texts. Soon I also took over the coordination of text collection, which mostly involved creating and maintaining a master list of corpus texts to track the progress of the various steps of typing, proofreading and checking required of corpus texts.

Alongside the corpus work, I worked on my MA thesis, which was completed at the end of 2006. After my MA, I worked as a research assistant for the project for a further year, after which I handed the duties over to Anu Lehto and started work on my PhD thesis, which was conceived of as a continuation of my MA thesis and led me to the world of digital editing.

Working on the EMEMT corpus has given me valuable insights into the practical ins and outs of compiling a historical text corpus, and also allowed me to work together as a team with some wonderful people - rare opportunity in the field of humanities. The constant exposure to corpus linguistic thinking and frantic text collection has also reacted with my passion for historical culinary texts, spawning a grandiose long-term plan of one day creating a historical corpus of culinary recipes from the Middle Ages to the Late Modern Period.

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Maura Ratia

I have been working in the Scientific Thought-styles project for most of my adult life. I started my career at Varieng as a part-time research assistant in 2000, typing and proofreading medical texts. I was immediately taken by the mysterious world of Early Modern medicine which can be seen in the choice of topic for my Master’s thesis – the Early Modern tobacco controversy – a medical controversy at the core. I received a scholarship from Varieng for completing the thesis in 2001, graduated in 2002 and started working on a PhD, again on the tobacco controversy. Since then, I’ve had two children and a third one (the PhD) is due sometime next year.

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Raisa Oinonen

To be added shortly.

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Carla Suhr

I came to study English with the firm intention of graduating quickly and becoming an English teacher. Then during my second year of studies, in the spring of 2000, Irma Taavitsainen advertised that she was looking for research assistants to join the Scientific Thought-Styles project, to transcribe and proofread texts to be included in the Corpus of Early English Medical Writing (CEEMW). Well, as a historian (MA, Emory University, 1997), how could I resist? And almost ten years later, here I am still.

In late 2001, I received my MA in English Philology. By that time I was also in charge of securing permissions from copyright holders for texts in the first part of the corpus, published in 2005 as the Corpus of Middle English Medical Writing (MEMT). I have continued working with the project as a post-graduate student, even after becoming Assistant at the Department of English in 2003 and a total of four years on family leave. For my PhD thesis, inspired by CEEMW, I have compiled a corpus of my own, the Corpus of Early Modern English Witchcraft Pamphlets. My study of the evolution of this new genre is scheduled to be completed in late 2010. My interests have also spread into Early Modern English pamphlet advertisements for proprietary medicines.

Many of us former research assistants, current post-graduate students, are writing articles for the forthcoming book Medical Writing in Early Modern England, edited by Irma Taavitsainen and Päivi Pahta. Our lively coffee discussions over these many years about corpus coding conventions are producing a joint article by four of us (Ville Marttila, Maura Ratia, Jukka Tyrkkö and myself), to be published in Varieng: Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English in 2010.

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Jukka Tyrkkö

Upon joining VARIENG in 2003, I found myself working for the Scientific thought-styles project and quickly discovered that I was in the company of a brilliant group of like-minded researchers. Although my doctoral thesis would be on hyperfiction, I also had interests in historical linguistics and corpus linguistics, and the research topics of the project rang a bell with me straight away. Ding dong.

I take a particular interest in the discursive use of abstract and conceptual terms in early scientific writing, the terminological practices of professional communities within the field of medicine and, more methodologically, the application of statistical methods to the analysis of corpus data and databases. Along the way, I've grown fascinated with how the various processes of book production were affected and guided by material, social, and commercial factors.

I am also rather keen on the history of the book, and the influence of production circumstances on early scientific books has come to fascinate me more and more. Working in the Scientific thought-styles project has made me increasingly aware of the need to incorporate biographical and bibliographical information into corpus linguistic analysis, and I try to incorporate aspects of book historical research into most of my corpus linguistic projects.

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