Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 May 2011
Historically, language is an indispensable guide both to theoretical scientific ideas and to real actions. Any language embodies a theory of meaning, a logic, a classification of experience, a conception of perceiver, knower and agent and their objects, and an apprehension of existence in space and time. We need to ask how language conditioned scientific thinking and was in turn altered by it. We may distinguish three levels: those of the structure of a language itself, of general conceptions of the nature of things expressed in it, and of particular theories.(Crombie 1995: 232–3)
This book examines the connection of language and science in English medical writings in the period 1500–1700. We approach this link through situated analyses of language and texts, paying attention to context in all its multifaceted aspects, from the broad context of culture to situational and cognitive discourse contexts and to the narrow linguistic context. The twelve chapters of the book analyse language use in medical texts in their disciplinary, social and societal embedding. The basic theoretical assumption on which the book relies is the view of language as communication that always takes place in a particular context of discourse, characterized by time and place, between people – speakers and hearers or writers and readers – and for a particular purpose. This communicative situation has an impact on how the speakers or writers formulate their message.