Pragmatics on the Page (PoP)
Members: Matti Peikola (PI),  Mari-Liisa Varila, Carla Suhr, Janne Skaffari, Hanna Salmi, Aleksi Mäkilähde, Risto Hiltunen, Ruth Carroll


There has so far been relatively little collaboration between historical pragmaticians and book historians, although both study diversity characteristic of manuscripts and/or early printed books. To explain such linguistic and visual variation in early texts, it is essential to study the text in its situational, discoursal and physical context. We thus call for a new cross-disciplinary approach to older texts which explores not only linguistic content but also visual appearance and material constraints. With this in mind, our research team has launched a pragmaphilological project called Pragmatics on the Page: Early English Discourse in Manuscript and Print. In 2014, the team organized an international symposium Linguistics Meets Book History: Seeking New Approaches (keynote speakers: Colette Moore, Jukka Tyrkkö, Daniel Wakelin) and is currently editing a peer-reviewed collection of articles for Brepols (see publications below). Research on PoP has led into the formation of the Framing Text Paratextual communication in English, 1400-1600 (Frami) project.


Peikola Matti, Mäkilähde Aleksi, Salmi Hanna, Varila Mari-Liisa & Skaffari Janne eds. (forthcoming). Reading the Page: Verbal and Visual Communication in Early English Texts (Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy). Turnhout: Brepols.

  • The chapters in this volume investigate how visual and material features of early English books, documents and other artefacts communicate to support (or potentially contradict) the linguistic message. In addition to investigating how such communication varies between different media and genres, the contributors propose novel methods for analysing these features, including new digital applications. They map the use of visual and material features (e.g. layout design or choice of script/typeface) against linguistic features (e.g. code-switching, lexical variation, textual labels) to consider how these choices reflect the communicative purposes of the text, for example guiding readers to navigate the text in a certain way or persuading them to arrive at a certain interpretation of it. The chapters explore texts from the medieval and the early modern period, including saints’ lives, medical treatises, dictionaries, personal letters and inscriptions on non-textual objects. The thematic threads running through the volume bring book studies into interaction with linguistics, the medieval with the early modern, manuscript with print, and the verbal with the visual.
Carroll Ruth, Peikola Matti, Salmi Hanna, Varila Mari-Liisa, Skaffari Janne & Hiltunen Risto 2013. Pragmatics on the Page: Visual Text in Late Medieval English Books. European Journal of English Studies 17 (1): 54-71.
DOI: 10.1080/13825577.2013.755006. Link.

Posters and conference presentations

Towards Pragmatics on the Page. FINSSE, University of Eastern Finland, 18-20 October 2012. Poster

The Polychronicon on the Page: Visual and Material Aspects of the Late Medieval English Book. Dies Medievales, University of Turku, 27 October 2012.
Pragmatic motivations for visual choices in the pages of the Polychronicon. ICEHL 17, University of Zurich, 21 August 2012. Abstract.

Other select publications by project members

Skaffari Janne. forthcoming (2015/16). Code-switching and vernacular support: An early Middle English case study. Multilingua: Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication 35 (2).

Skaffari Janne & Mäkilähde Aleksi 2014. Code-switching in historical materials: Research at the limits of contact linguistics. In Nicolaï Robert (ed.): Questioning Language Contact: Limits of Contact, Contact at its Limits (Brill Studies in Language Contact and Dynamics of Language, 1). Leiden & Boston: Brill, 252-279.

Salmi Hanna 2014. Visual Presentation of English Body and Soul Debates. Studia Neophilologica 86, Supplement 1: 144-156.
DOI: 10.1080/00393274.2013.834106. Link.

Varila Mari-Liisa 2014. Graphetic variation within one scribal hand as evidence on manuscript production. Studia Neophilologica 86, Supplement 1: 157–170. DOI: 10.1080/00393274.2013.834107. Link.

Peikola Matti 2013. Guidelines for consumption: scribal ruling patterns and designing the mise-en-page in later medieval England. In Cayley, E & S. Powell (eds). Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe 1350-1550: Packaging, Presentation and Consumption. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 14-31, 225-231.

Suhr Carla. 2011. Publishing for the Masses: Early Modern English Witchcraft Pamphlets. Helsinki: Société Néophilologique.

Carroll Ruth 2010. The Visual Language of the Recipe: A Brief Historical Survey. In Hosking Richard (ed.): Food and Language: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery 2009. Totnes: Prospect Books, 62-72.