Volume 18, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


Genres work through conventions of communicative patterns. Variation in them is related to sociolinguistic parameters of writers and readers as well as situational and contextual factors, including culture. Conventions of writing change slowly and there are elements that remain constant throughout centuries but acquire new connotations. I shall first discuss genre theories and methods of studies at the interface between language and literature, and then provide a case study. The top genre of scholastic research was the commentary with a distinct genre structure. It was first introduced in Middle English in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and became established in Early Modern English, as my examples will show. The transition period is particularly intriguing as the old thought style began to give way to new ideas, and observation proved inherited wisdom erroneous. Commentaries had an afterlife in spurious writings, providing an empirical example of genre dynamics and proving the usefulness of the notion of genre script as applied in this case study.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. de Acosta, José
    1604The naturall and morall historie of the East and West Indies Intreating of the remarkable things …which are proper to that country… translated into English by E.G., London: Printed by Val. Sims for Edward Blount and William Aspley.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Anon
    Anon 1684ARISTOTELES MASTER-PIECE Or The Secrets of Generation displayed in all the parts thereof. London: Printed for J. How.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Early English Books Online (EEBO)
    Early English Books Online (EEBO). ProQuest LLC. Available online at: eebo.chadwyck.com/.
  4. Early Modern English Medical Texts (EMEMT) 2010 Compiled by Irma Taavitsainen , Pahta Päivi , Turo Hiltunen , Martti Mäkinen , Ville Marttila , Maura Ratia , Carla Suhr and Jukka Tyrkkö , CD-ROM with EMEMT Presenter software by Raymond Hickey. Irma Published together with Irma Taavitsainen and Päivi Pahta (eds), Early Modern English Medical Texts: Corpus description and studies. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Atkinson, Dwight
    1999Scientific Discourse in Sociohistorical Context: The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1675–1975. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Bakhtin, M. M.
    1986 [1953]Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Basseler, Michael
    2013 “Tradition, Innovation and Defamiliarization in the Evolution of Genres: Explanations of Generic Change from Russian Formalism to the Renaissance of Genre Theory in the 21st Century”. In Michael Basseler , Ansgar Nünning and Christine Schwanecke (eds), Cultural Dynamics of Generic Change in Contemporary Fiction: Theoretical Frameworks, Genres and Model Interpretations, 43–63. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Basseler, Michael , Ansgar Nünning and Christine Schwanecke
    2013 “The Cultural Dynamics of Generic Change: Surveying Kinds and Problems of Literary History and Accounting for the Development of Genres”. In Michael Basseler , Ansgar Nünning and Christine Schwanecke (eds), Cultural Dynamics of Generic Change in Contemporary Fiction: Theoretical Frameworks, Genres and Model Interpretations, 1–40. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Biber, Douglas
    1988Variation across Speech and Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511621024
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511621024 [Google Scholar]
  10. Biber, Douglas and Edward Finegan
    1989 “Drift and the Evolution of English Style: A History of Three Genres”. Language65 (3): 487–517. doi: 10.2307/415220
    https://doi.org/10.2307/415220 [Google Scholar]
  11. 1997 “Diachronic Relations among Speech-based and Written Registers in English”. In Terttu Nevalainen and Leena Kahlas-Tarkka (eds), To Explain the Present: Studies in the Changing English Language in Honour of Matti Rissanen, 253–75. Helsinki: Société Néophilologique.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Biber, Douglas and Susan Conrad
    2009Register, Genre and Style. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511814358
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511814358 [Google Scholar]
  13. Biber, Douglas and Bethany Gray
    2012 “The Competing Demands of Poplarization vs Economy: Written Language in the Age of Mass Literacy”. In Terttu Nevalainen and Elizabeth Closs Traugott (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the History of English, 314–28. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Blake, Norman F.
    1996A History of the English Language. Basingstoke: Macmillan. doi: 10.1007/978‑1‑349‑24954‑1
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-24954-1 [Google Scholar]
  15. Chartier, Roger
    1994The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe between the Fourteenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. 1995Forms and Meanings: Texts, Performances and Audiences from Codex to Computer. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. doi: 10.9783/9780812200362
    https://doi.org/10.9783/9780812200362 [Google Scholar]
  17. Crombie, A. C.
    1994Styles of Scientific Thinking in the European Tradition: The History of Argument and Explanation, Especially in the Mathematical and Biomedical Sciences and Arts. (Threevolumes.) London: Duckworth.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. 1995 “Commitments and Styles of European Scientific Thinking”. History of Science33: 225–38. doi: 10.1177/007327539503300204
    https://doi.org/10.1177/007327539503300204 [Google Scholar]
  19. Culpeper, Jonathan and Michael Haugh
    2014Pragmatics and the English Language. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. doi: 10.1007/978‑1‑137‑39391‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-137-39391-3 [Google Scholar]
  20. Dear, Peter
    1991 “Narratives, Anecdotes and Experiments: Turning Experience into Science in the Seventeenth Century”. In Peter Dear (ed.), The Literary Structure of Scientific Argument: Historical Studies, 135–63. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. doi: 10.9783/9781512801590‑007
    https://doi.org/10.9783/9781512801590-007 [Google Scholar]
  21. Diller, Hans-Jürgen
    2001 “Genre in Linguistic and Related Discourses”. In Hans-Jürgen Diller and Manfred Görlach (eds), Towards a History of English as a History of Genres, 3–43. Heidelberg: C. Winter.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Emmott, Catherine
    1997Narrative Comprehension: A Discourse Perspective. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Emmott, Catherine and Marc Alexander
    2009 “Schemata”. In Peter Hühn , (ed.), Handbook of Narratology, 411–19. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Fowler, Alastair
    1982Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Goddard, Cliff
    2012 “‘Early interactions’ in Australian English, American English and English English: Cultrual Differences and Cultural Scripts”. Journal of Pragmatics44 (9): 1038–50. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2012.04.010
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2012.04.010 [Google Scholar]
  26. Görlach, Manfred
    2004Text Types and the History of English. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110197167
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110197167 [Google Scholar]
  27. Gotti, Maurizio
    2011 “The Development of Specialized Discourse in the Philosophical Transactions”. In Irma Taavitsainen and Päivi Pahta (eds), Medical Writing in Early Modern English, 204–20. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511921193.012
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511921193.012 [Google Scholar]
  28. Hübler, Axel and Ulrich Busse
    2012 “Introduction”. In Ulrich Busse and Axel Hübler (eds), Investigations into the Meta-communicative Lexicon of English: A Contribution to Historical Pragmatics, 1–16. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/pbns.220.02hub
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.220.02hub [Google Scholar]
  29. Jauss, Hans Robert
    1979 “The Alterity and Modernity of Medieval Literature”. New Literary History10 (2): 181–229 doi: 10.2307/468759
    https://doi.org/10.2307/468759 [Google Scholar]
  30. Jucker, Andreas H. and Irma Taavitsainen
    2013English Historical Pragmatics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Milroy, James
    1992Linguistic Variation and Change: On the Historical Sociolinguistics of English. Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Minnis, Alastair J.
    1979 “Late-medieval discussions of compilatio and the rôle of the compilator ”. Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und Literatur101 (3): 385–421. doi: 10.1515/bgsl.1979.101.3.385
    https://doi.org/10.1515/bgsl.1979.101.3.385 [Google Scholar]
  33. Ottosson, Per-Gunnar
    1984Scholastic Medicine and Philosophy: A Study of Commentaries of Galen’s Tegni (ca.1300–1450). Naples: Bibliopolis.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Pahta Päivi , Turo Hiltunen , Ville Marttila , Maura Ratia , Carla Suhr and Jukka Tyrkkö
    2011 “Communicating Galen’s Methodus medendi in Middle and Early Modern English”. In Päivi Pahta and Andreas H. Jucker (eds), Communicating Early English Manuscripts, 178–96. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Parkes, M. B.
    1976 “The influence of the concepts of ordinatio and compilatio on the development of the book”. In J. J. G. Alexander and M. T. Gibson (eds), Medieval Learning and Literature: Essays Presented to Richard William Hunt, 115–41. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Porter, Roy
    1985 “Lay Medical Knowledge in the Eighteenth Century: The Evidence of the Gentleman’s Magazine ”. Medical History29: 138–68. doi: 10.1017/S0025727300043970
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0025727300043970 [Google Scholar]
  37. Porter, Roy and Lesley Hall
    1995The Facts of Life: The Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain, 1650–1950. New Haven: Yale University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Rosch, Elinor and Carolyn B. Mervis
    1975 “Family Resemblances: Studies in the Internal Structure of Categories”. Cognitive Psychology7: 573–605. doi: 10.1016/0010‑0285(75)90024‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0010-0285(75)90024-9 [Google Scholar]
  39. Shapin, Steven
    1996The Scientific Revolution. Chicago: Chicago University Press. doi: 10.7208/chicago/9780226750224.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226750224.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  40. Swales, John M.
    1990Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Taavitsainen, Irma
    2001 “Changing Conventions of Writing: The Dynamics of Genres, Text Types and Text Traditions”. European Journal of English Studies5 (2): 139–50. doi: 10.1076/ejes.
    https://doi.org/10.1076/ejes. [Google Scholar]
  42. 2004 “Transferring Classical Discourse Conventions into the Vernacular”. In Irma Taavitsainen and Päivi Pahta (eds), Medical and Scientific Writing in Late Medieval English, 37–72. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. 2009 “The Pragmatics of Knowledge and Meaning: Corpus Linguistic Approaches to Changing Thought-styles in Early Modern Medical Discourse”. In Andreas H. Jucker , Daniel Schreier and Marianne Hundt (eds), Corpora: Pragmatics and Discourse, 37–62. Amsterdam and Atlanta, Georgia: Rodopi. doi: 10.1163/9789042029101_004
    https://doi.org/10.1163/9789042029101_004 [Google Scholar]
  44. 2010 “Discourse and Genre Dynamics in Early Modern English Medical Writing”. In Irma Taavitsainen and Päivi Pahta (eds), Early Modern English Medical Texts: Corpus Description and Studies, 29–53. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. 2012 “Disseminating Learning: Linguistic Features of the Commentary Tradition and Other Learned Texts in Middle English”. In Anna Alberni , Lola Badia , Lluís Cifuentes and Alexander Fidora (eds), Congrés internacional Icrea. Ciència i societat a la Corona d’Aragó a l’època de Llull i Eiximenis (Barcelona, 20–22 d’octubre de 2009), 183–200. Barcelona: Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. 2015 “Historical Pragmatics”. In Douglas Biber and Randi Reppen (eds), Handbook of Corpus Linguistics, 252–68. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. 2016 “Genre Dynamics in the History of English”. In Merja Kytö and Päivi Pahta (eds), Cambridge Handbook of Historical Linguistics, 271–85. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781139600231.017
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139600231.017 [Google Scholar]
  48. . Forthcoming. “Scholastic Genre Scripts in English Medical Writing 1375–1800”. In Richard J. Whitt ed. Diachronic Corpora, Genre and Language Change. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Taavitsainen, Irma and Andreas H. Jucker
    2015 “Twenty Years of Historical Pragmatics: Origins, Developments and Changing Thought Styles”. Journal of Historical Pragmatics16 (1): 1–24. doi: 10.1075/jhp.16.1.01taa
    https://doi.org/10.1075/jhp.16.1.01taa [Google Scholar]
  50. Taavitsainen, Irma and Päivi Pahta
    1998 “Vernacularisation of Medical Writing in English: A Corpus-based Study of Scholasticism”. Special issue ofEarly Science and Medicine3 (2): 157–85. doi: 10.1163/157338298X00266
    https://doi.org/10.1163/157338298X00266 [Google Scholar]
  51. Tavormina, M. Teresa
    (ed.) 2006Sex, Aging & Death in a Medieval Medical Compendium: Trinity College Cambridge MS R.14.52, its Texts, Language and Scribe. (Volume1.) Tempe, Arizona: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. Voigts, Linda Ehrsam
    1984 “Medical Prose”. In Anthony S. Edwards (ed.), Middle English Prose: A Critical Guide to Major Authors and Genres, 315–35. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  53. Wear, Andrew
    2000Knowledge and Practice in English Medicine, 1550–1680. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511612763
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511612763 [Google Scholar]
  54. Werlich, Egon
    1982A Text Grammar of English. (Second edition.) Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Yule, George
    1996Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): context; culture; genre; meaning change; schemata; script
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error