Magdalena Leitner

Magdalena Leitner, Dr.

Teaching and Research Assistant in English Linguistics

Assistant Prof. Dr. Andreas H. Jucker

Phone: +41 44 634 35 55



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 conducts a diachronic pragmatic study of advice. The aim is to trace changes in the language use and reader involvement in English advice columns (on the topics of love and relationships) from the 18th century to the present day. In addition to collecting and analysing a small corpus of advice sequences in periodicals and online problem pages, she is going to test the potentials and limits of extracting instances of advice from a mega corpus, the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA), thus contributing to current advancements in corpus pragmatics.


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, Magdalena and Andreas H. Jucker. Submitted. Historical sociopragmatics. In: Michael Haugh, Dániel Z. Kádar and Marina Terkourafi (eds.). Handbook of Sociopragmatics. Cambridge: CUP.

Leitner, Magdalena. 2018. Book review of Peter Ernst and Martina Werner (eds.). Lin-guistische Pragmatik mit Historischen Bezügen. 2016. Journal of Historical Pragmatics 19.1, 156-160.

Leitner, Magdalena, 2018. Book review of Ilka Flöck. Requests in American and Brit-ish English: A Contrastive Multi-method Analysis. 2016. Journal of Pragmatics 124, 125-127.

Leitner, M. 2017. Curses or threats? Debating the power of witches' words in 17th-century Scottish courtrooms. Nordic Journal of English Studies, 16.1, 145-170.

Leitner, Magdalena. 2014. Crabit or offended? Words in conflicts in Scotland’s past. Scottish Language Dictionaries Newsletter. Available at: (accessed 28 February 2017).

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.

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.



Moving beyond speech acts: the make-up of 18th-century advice-seeking. Paper presented at the 20th International Conference of English Historical Linguistics (ICEHL XX), Edinburgh, UK, 27-31 August 2018.

Advice on early 18th-century relationship problems: Investigating the pragmatics of an emergent tradition. Paper presented at the Fifth Conference of the International Society for the Linguistics of English (ISLE-5), London, UK, 17-20 July 2018.

"ADVICE from the Scandal. CLUB": The conversational components of giving advice in Defoe's Review. Paper presented at the Historical English Linguistics at Zurich and Beyond Symposium (HEL-2), Zurich, Switzerland, 27 October 2017.

Politeness in Singapore English: A challenge to speech-act definitions. Paper presented at the conference of Linguistic Im/politeness and Rudeness, Manchester, UK, 12th-14th July 2016.

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

Witchcraft trials in Salem and Scotland. Guest lecture in the lecture series Language in the Courtroom, University of Zurich, 7 November 2016.

The metadiscourse of verbal offences in 16th-/17th-century Scottish law courts. Paper presented to the Pragmatics and Stylistics Research Group, University of Lancaster, UK, 13th November 2015.

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

MA seminars (one-semester electives) on Varieties of English (SS 2018) and Middle English (SS 2018), University of Konstanz, Germany.

Coordinator of the BA module History of the English Language (core introductory module): June 2016 - present, University of Zurich.

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

BA seminars (one-semester electives) on Corpus Pragmatics (SS 2016), (Im)politeness (AS 2016), Letter-writing in early modern Britain (SS 2017) and Metaphors (AS 2018).

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)

International Society for the Linguistics of English (ISLE)

Philological Society

Swiss Association of University Teachers of English (SAUTE)

UK Historical Pragmatics Network (member by invitation)

Linguistic Politeness Research Group (LPRG)

Association of Scottish Literary Studies (ASLS)