“Strong churlish purging Pills”

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This article looks at the frequency and use of sequences of two or more attributive adjectives in early modern medical writing in English. Taking as a starting point the observation that long sequences of premodifiers are one of the many linguistic features that add complexity to present-day academic writing, I examine the situation diachronically and pragmatically during the period when the scholastic style of thought gave way to empiricism. The study will argue that while a modest increase in multi-adjectival premodifiers can be observed over the timeline, the observation can be largely attributed to pragmatic contexts which arose from the practice of early modern medicine and which, by and large, cannot be considered a predictor of present-day scientific style.


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