The Evolution of Medical Research Writing from 1735 to 1985: The Case of the Edinburgh medical journal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


A crucial event in the historical evolution of scientific English was the birth of the scientific journal. This event, and its early rhetorical consequences, have been well described in recent research. In contrast, few details are known concerning subsequent developments in scientific writing from the eighteenth century onward. In this paper, the changing language and rhetoric of medical research reporting over the last 250years are characterized and the underlying causes of these changes investigated.Research articles from the Edinburgh Medical Journal, the oldest continuing medical journal in English, constitute the corpus in this study. Sampling took place at seven intervals beween 1735 and 1985, with two types of data analysis being performed: rhetorical analysis focusing on the broad genre characteristics of articles; and linguistic analysis of these articles' registral features using Biber's system of text analysis.Results indicate that the linguistic/rhetorical evolution of medical research writing can be accounted for on the basis of the changing epistemological norms of medical knowledge, the growth of a professional medical community, and the periodic redefinition of medicine vis-a-vis the non-medical sciences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-374
Number of pages38
JournalApplied Linguistics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'The Evolution of Medical Research Writing from 1735 to 1985: The Case of the Edinburgh medical journal'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this