Irma Taavitsainen

Irma Taavitsainen is Professor Emerita of English Philology and Deputy Director of the Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English, at the University of Helsinki.

Her interests cover historical pragmatics and corpus linguistics, genre and register variation, and historical discourse analysis, the development of the special language of medicine, and the position of English in Finland.

Contact information


PhD, Professor of English Philology
Deputy Director of the Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English (VARIENG), National Centre of Excellence, 2006-2011

Room C610, Unioninkatu 40 (Consultation Mon 13-14, Tuesday 13-14 or by appointment)
PL 24, 00014 Helsingin yliopisto, Finland
Phone: +358504480005
E-mail: irma.taavitsainen(at)

Research interests

I started my research career in manuscript studies on Middle English utilitarian prose and charted an unknown genre in its various forms with the prototype approach (diss. Middle English Lunaries 1988). Genre and register variation has been my long-standing interest ever since. My present focus is more broadly on genres of medical and scientific writing, from top academic texts to popular applications, in a long diachronic perspective; it is also the topic of my plenary talk at the Diachronic Corpora, Genre, and Language Change conference in Nottingham in April 2016.

Language use in context and meaning-making practices in various genres is at the core of historical pragmatics, my main research field. I am particularly intrigued by expressive speech acts and their manifestations, most recently with studies on compliments and thanking, also in a diachronic perspective. I have mostly relied on corpus linguistic methods combined with qualitative contextual assessments, with the challenge of developing the methodology for detecting and analyzing elusive pragmatic units like speech acts. 

Corpus compilation has been one of my main interests. The research project Scientific Thought-styles: the Evolution of English Medical Writing continues  and we are about to complete the Late Modern English Medical Texts 1700-1800 (see Taavitsainen et al., in ICAME Journal, March 2014). It will be the third part of a series which began with Middle English Medical Texts 1375-1500 (MEMT 2005) and continued with Early Modern Medical Texts 1500-1700 (EMEMT 2010).

Much of my work has been promoting other researchers’ work in doctoral training and with editorial work. I coedited the Journal of Historical Pragmatics (with Andreas H. Jucker) for fifteen years 2000-2014; our overview article “Twenty years of historical pragmatics: origins, developments and changing thought styles” came out in the new editors’ inauguaral issue (2015). I have also coedited and contributed to several handbooks and textbooks on historical pragmatics and corpus linguistics.

My international commitments continue. I am one of the vice-presidents of ISLE, a board member of ICAME and several international publication series and scholarly journals, including Corpora, Historical Linguistics, ICAME Journal, Nordic Journal of English Studies, Textus, Token. I am also involved with IAUPE and will (co)convene the History of English section at the IAUPE Conference in London in 2016.

Recent research

My most recent coedited volumes include Developments in English: Expanding Electronic Evidence, (with Merja Kytö, Claudia Claridge and Jeremy Smith, Cambridge University Press, 2015),  Diachronic Corpus Pragmatics (with Andreas H. Jucker and Jukka Tuominen, Benjamins, 2014), and a textbook Historical Pragmatics (with Andreas H. Jucker, Edinburgh University Press, 2013), and a handbook on Historical Pragmatics (Volume 8 in the HOPS series, with Andreas H. Jucker, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2010).

Research profile in TUHAT

Recent publications