School of English

Richard Jason Whitt

Assistant Professor in Linguistics, Faculty of Arts



I joined the School of English as an Assistant Professor of Linguistics in Autumn 2016, before which I was a Nottingham Research Fellow (2013-2016) in German Studies (CLAS) working on my own project, "Evidentiality and Genre in English and German". Before coming to Nottingham, I worked as a Research Associate at The University of Manchester (2008-2011) and as a Research Assistant at The University of Strathclyde (2011-2012).

I hold a PhD in Germanic Linguistics from The University of California at Berkeley (2008), an MA in the same field from The University of Georgia (2004), and a BA in English from Georgia State University (2001). I also spent a year as a Fulbright Fellow at Leibniz Universität Hannover (2006-2007) and a year as a postgraduate exchange student at Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (2002-2003).

Expertise Summary

My broad research interests lie in the areas of historical pragmatics, historical discourse analysis (including critical discourse analysis and critical stylistics) and corpus linguistics. Specifically, I am interested in the history of medical writing -- midwifery and gynaecology, in particular -- from the Early Modern period (ca. 1500) to the present. I am happy to supervise students with an interest in historically-oriented discourse analysis, corpus linguistics and/or medical writing.

You can view my GoogleScholar profile at

Teaching Summary

I have taught on the following modules in the School of English: Texts across Time (convenor), Essentials of English (convenor), Language in Context, Literary Linguistics, and Language in Society.

While in the Department of German Studies, I convened a final year module on "Genre and Language in German", which examined the connection between genre and language use in the history of German. I have also convened the first-year module "The Sounds of German", the second-year module "Meaning and Context in Modern German" and I have taught on the first-year school-wide module, "Language Meaning, Variation and Change".

In the spring of 2015, I became an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Previously, I have experience teaching German as a Foreign Language, English Composition, Tolkien and Germanic Mythology, Digital Text Analysis, Register Variation in Modern German Texts, and Semantics and Pragmatics.

Research Summary

My current focus is on the development of medical writing devoted to midwifery and women's medicine from the Early Modern period to the present. I am looking at how various upheavals and shifts in… read more

Recent Publications

Current Research

My current focus is on the development of medical writing devoted to midwifery and women's medicine from the Early Modern period to the present. I am looking at how various upheavals and shifts in childbirth/midwifery culture during the Early Modern period (i.e. decline of learned medicine in favour of more empirical models, the emergence of female writers of midwifery texts, and the genesis of the male midwife) are reflected and negotiated within the discourse of medical texts devoted to midwifery and gynaecology. I am particularly interested in how knowledge related to childbirth is appropriated at various levels in these texts, from the metatextual/metadiscourse level through the discourse structure and down to the use of specific linguistic markers relating to knowledge (e.g. markers of evidentiality and epistemic modality).

My most recent project, "Evidentiality and Genre Variation in English and German", was an investigation into the connection between the use of evidential markers and genre variation in the histories of English and German. Evidentiality markers in language -- expressing how we know what we know, or expressing our source of information for what we say -- are of key importance to understanding how language works, for they illuminate how speakers and writers choose to present information to their audiences, and why such choices are made. This project was a comprehensive comparative, corpus-based, synchronic and diachronic study of evidential markers and genre in English and German, of a kind and scale only now possible by recent advances in corpus linguistics and evidentiality studies. Evidentiality has only recently attracted the attention of linguists, and scholarship to date has focused principally on classifying the general grammatical and semantic functions of evidential markers. Very little attention has been paid to the actual social and interpersonal contexts that give rise to and in which these markers are used, and it is this gap which this project aimed to fill.

After a series of initial searches of multi-genre corpora, it was decided that the best direction in which to take this project would be to examine the use of evidential markers in the history of medical writing. Specifically, the early modern period was identified as a period that witnessed the decline of medical scholasticism in favor of more empirically-based models of medical thought and practice. As this concerns a fundamental epistemological shift, it was expected that change in the language (specifically the use of evidential markers) accompanied this broader sociohistorical change. In addition, a desideratum of this research is the creation of a corpus of early modern German-language medical writing to complement extant resources for English, available at the Oxford Text Archive (

An international conference on Diachronic Corpora, Genre, and Language Change was hosted in the spring 2016 to celebrate the (near) completion of this project. Selected peer-reviewed papers appear in a collection published by John Benjamins in their Studies in Corpus Linguistics series (

Past Research

My doctoral work examined how perception verbs -- verbs of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste -- serve as evidential markers in English and German. Perception is key to our understanding of the world, so it only makes sense that verbs of perception can be used to indicate our sources of knowledge and information. This research resulted in several conference presentations, a monograph and a number of journal articles and book chapters.

I have also worked on two major digital humanities research projects. From 2008 to 2011, I worked as a Research Associate at The University of Manchester on the GerManC Project, which sought to build a representative corpus of Early Modern German from 1650-1800. The completed corpus can be found here: From 2011-2012, I worked as a Research Assistant at The University of Strathcylde on the "Visualizing English Print, 1470-1800" Project, which sought to test and develop digital methods of text analysis and statistical visualisations using large corpora of Early Modern English texts.

School of English

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