Formulaic discourse across Early Modern English medical genres
This paper offers a corpus-driven investigation into the formulaic nature of Early Modern English medical genres. The aim of this study is to answer three related questions: (1) to what extent various text categories in medical discourse share the same lexico-syntactic choices?; (2) what stable and fixed lexico-syntactic patterns repeat across various texts related to medicine?; and (3) is there a diachronic dimension to the employment of these repetitive strings? The study is based on the recently published electronic corpus of <i>Early Modern English Medical Texts</i> (EMEMT, 1500–1700, Taavitsainen et al. 2010) and uses the lexical bundle method (Biber et al. 1999) to extract 3-grams from the normalized version of the corpus. The diachronic distribution of 3-grams across medical texts shows an increase in the number of text categories which share lexical bundles. When it comes to specific 3-grams, the paper presents a diachronic overview of the most prominent semantic areas where overlaps of fixed strings occur among text categories, e.g. quantification, body parts, time and sequence, or ingredients. The study has also found important overlaps in purely functional contexts, e.g. in clarification, modality or efficacy expressions, and in structural frames, e.g. copula constructions and prepositional phrase fragments. With the help of an objective, frequency-driven corpus tool, the common lexico-syntactic core of early modern medical discourse could be established. At the same time, clusters of text categories sharing the same preferences could emerge.