Magdalena Leitner

Magdalena Leitner, Dr.

Assistant to Prof. Dr. Andreas H. Jucker

Phone: +41 44 634 35 48



Magdalena Leitner joined the UZH English Department as a Teaching and Research Assistant in October 2014. She completed her PhD on Conflicts in Early Modern Scottish Letters and Law Courts in May 2015. Her doctoral thesis was supervised by Professor Jeremy J. Smith at the University of Glasgow, UK, where she also spent three years before returning to Switzerland. Magdalena holds a Lizenziat degree (i.e. a joint BA & MA) from the University of Zurich in English Linguistics and Literature, Educational Psychology and Film Studies. She wrote her Lizenziatsarbeit (i.e. Masters thesis) on the topic of Thou and You in Late Middle Scottish and Early Modern Northern English Witness Depositions, under the supervision of Professor Dr. Andreas H. Jucker.

Postdoctoral research

In her postdoc project, Magdalena is developing a postcolonial pragmatic approach to speech act sequences in Singapore English. The historical developments in Singapore have created a fascinating contact situation of Asian languages and English. While Singapore English has been well researched in terms of its linguistic structure, little is known about how the language and cultural contact of East and West has shaped - and is shaping - the communicative features of Singapore English.

Doctoral research

In her PhD thesis, Magdalena examined notions of verbal offence in 16th-/17th-century Scottish correspondence and court records. Current theories of (im)politeness (Culpeper 2011, Spencer-Oatey 2005) were synthesized with insights from Scottish history and historical pragmatics and tested on datasets of Highland clan correspondence, royal letters and criminal and church court processes. The aim of this qualitative study was to find out more about period- and situation-specific perceptions of interpersonal conflicts and how language was used to express those views. Selecting texts that represent different shades of private and public in early modern Scottish life allowed her to analyse the influence of these situational factors on social interaction on a sliding scale, which adds a new angle to current (im)politeness research.


Leitner, M. In press. Curses or threats? Debating the power of witches' words in 17th-century Scottish courtrooms. Nordic Journal of English Studies.

Leitner, M. 2013. Reviewed work: Testifying to Language and Life in Early Modern England by Merja Kytö, Peter J. Grund and Terry Walker. Journal of Historical Pragmatics, 14.2, 305-309. ISSN 1566-5852

Leitner, M. 2013. Thou and you in Late Middle Scottish and Early Modern Northern English witness depositions. Journal of Historical Pragmatics, 14.1, 100-129. ISSN 1566-5852



Debating the power of witches' words in 17th-century Scottish courtrooms. Paper presented at the Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster, Ayr, UK, 12th-14th August 2015.

Reconstructing social norms: The case of kinship in Anglo-Scottish correspondence. Paper presented at the 14th International Pragmatics Conference, Antwerp, Belgium, 26th-31st July 2015.

Slander, cursing and verbal aggression in 16th-/17th-century Scottish court-records. Paper presented at the 18th International Conference of English Historical Linguistics (ICEHL 18), KU Leuven, Belgium, 14th-18th July 2014.

Face-attacks in post-Reformation Scottish kirk sessions. Paper presented at the 2nd Postgraduate Politeness Conference, Sheffield Hallam University, UK, 13th March 2014.

Impoliteness meets politeness in 16th-century Scottish correspondence: The Breadalbane Collection, 1548-1583. Paper presented at the Reading Conference in Early Modern Studies, University of Reading, UK, 9th-11th July 2013.

Never neglect your kin: Impoliteness in 16th-century Scottish correspondence. Paper presented at the 1st Postgraduate Conference on Linguistic Politeness, University of Huddersfield, UK, 8th March 2013.

How to offend a Highland clan chief: Impoliteness in 16th-century Scottish correspondence. Paper presented at the Manchester and Salford New Researchers Forum in Linguistics, University of Manchester, UK, 2nd-3rd November 2012.

(Im)politeness in Older Scottish texts between private and public. Poster presented at the 17th International Conference of English Historical Linguistics (ICEHL 17), University of Zurich, Switzerland, 20th-25th August 2012.

Invited talks

The civil, the barbarous, and their conflict strategies in 16th-century Scottish correspondence. Paper presented at the English Language Research Seminar, University of Glasgow, UK, 13th February 2014.


College Scholarship, University of Glasgow, College of Arts, 2012-2014 (PhD funding): maintenance £ 24,000, plus tuition fees, £ 7,600

Historical Thesaurus of the OED Scholarship, University of Glasgow, English Language, 2011 (PhD funding): tuition fees, £ 3,732

Teaching experience

BA seminar on the History of the English Language (introductory module): September 2015 - present, University of Zurich.

Tutorials accompanying the introductory lectures on English Linguistics: September 2012 – May 2014, University of Glasgow

Guest lecture with seminars in the Honours course History of English I (28 February/3 March 2014, University of Glasgow): Introduction to Historical Pragmatics and the Language of Letters


Research affiliations

International Pragmatics Association (IPrA)

Philological Society

Linguistic Politeness Research Group (LPRG)

Association of Scottish Literary Studies (ASLS)