Carla Suhr has been a Senior Lecturer in English Philology at the University of Helsinki since August 2014. She returned to teach at her alma mater (PhD 2011) after a two-year Senior lectureship at the University of Turku. Before starting her undergraduate and graduate degrees in English philology, she obtained an MA in History, so it is no accident that her academic interests combine both fields. In very broad terms, she investigates the construction of texts in early modern England, with a focus on early news discourse and medical discourse. She also works with corpus compilation and is interested in extending the use of corpus linguistic methods to visual features of the printed page.
Keywords: historical pragmatics, genre studies, book history, corpus compilation and methodology
My area of research is historical pragmatics, which studies language use in context. The period I concentrate on is the early modern period, though my interests range from the middle ages to the eighteenth century. I have worked with early popular news pamphlets and different kinds of medical texts. My definition of "context" is very broad, it includes not only the surrounding text but also the physical aspects of texts and the contemporary society and culture that surrounds them, because I believe that the history of printing, reading and writing helps us to understand how texts – both the physical objects and the language used in them – were constructed for consumption by different kinds of audiences. Thus my linguistic analysis of written texts is complemented by analyses of visual features such as layout or illustrations, because they contribute to the readers’ understanding of texts. At the moment I am interested in the development of title-page design from a visual to a textual tool for marketing texts, and the rise of textual labeling in titles as explicit genre markers. In future corpus work, I intend to use corpus linguistic methods to study visual features such as textual highlighting that, along with various linguistic features, contribute to the comprehension and retention of texts in the early modern period. The same methods can also be applied to study systematically the development of various aspects of the printed (or manuscript) book, as long as the chosen features have been annotated into the corpus, so my work will use corpus methodology as a bridge between historical linguistics and book history.
I have a background in corpus compilation: For my dissertation research, I compiled the Corpus of early modern English witchcraft pamphlets, and as a long-time member of the Scientific Thought-styles project I have participated in the compilation of the Corpus of Early English Medical Writing (CEEMW). In future, I would like to participate in designing corpora that also function as digital editions of texts and as databases of significant background information, and that can be analyzed with corpus methods by linguists and historians alike.