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    Researchers and writers on the history of English


Brunner, Karl [English philology] An Austrian scholar, who worked at the University of Innsbruck, and is the author of a two volume work on the historical development of English Die englische Sprache (2nd edition 1962).

Campbell, Alistair [English philology] A Cambridge scholar who produced an Old English Grammar in 1959 which has remained one of the definitive treatments of the subject since.

Craigie, Sir William (1867-1957) [lexicography] A Scottish lexicographer born in Dundee and a graduate of St.Andrews and Oxford. In 1897 he joined the staff of the Oxford English dictionary and was later involved in the Dictionary of the older Scottish tongue and The Scottish national dictionary.

Ekwall, Eilert [English philology] A Swedish scholar of the history of English who produced various important works such as A history of Modern English sounds and morphology (translated from German in 1975).

Ellis, Alexander John (1814-1890) [English philology] Born in London and educated in Eton and Cambridge, Ellis was to become one of the foremost among early phoneticians and dialectologists on a par with Sweet for instance.

Fowler, Henry Watson (1858-1933) [lexicography] English lexicographer whose principal work is A Dictionary of modern English usage (1926; later revised by Sir Ernest Gowers in 1965). This is a loosely structured commentary on English usage and style. Together with his brother he wrote The king's English (1906) and The concise Oxford dictionary of current English (1911).

Funk, Isaac Kaufmann (1839-1912) [lexicography] An American lexicographer of German extraction. In 1876 he founded a publishing house in New York with Adam Wagnalls and in 1890 began working on The standard dictionary of the English language which first appeared in 1893 and which has been continued since as Funk and Wagnalls dictionary.

Furnivall, Frederick James (1825-1910) [lexicography] An English lexicographer. Born in Surrey and educated at London and Cambridge. He is the founder of various societies, the most important of which was the Early English Text Society (1864) which since its inception has been responsible for the publication of many older texts which were up to then only available in manuscript form in university libraries. He also worked on the Oxford English dictionary in its early stages.

Gimson, Alfred Charles [phonetics] English phonetician. Gimson is the author of An introduction to the pronunciation of English (1962, 4th edition 1989 with Susan Ramsaran) which became the definitive book on Received Pronuciation after Daniel Jones’ work. He held the same chair of phonetics as did Jones and revised his pronunciation dictionary of English.

Gowers, Sir Ernest (1880-1966) [lexicography] One of the many inofficial (and frequently self-appointed) authorities on English usage. Gowers was born in London and educated at Rugby and Cambridge where he graduated in classics. At the original request of the English treasury he compiled a book Plain words: A guide to the use of English (1948) followed by The ABC of plain words (1951), the two being combined to The complete plain words (1954). He also revised Fowler’s book on English usage.

Hogg, Richard [English philology] An English scholar who worked at the University of Manchester. Author of a phonology of Old English and the general editor of the Cambridge history of the English language

Jespersen, Otto (1860-1943) [Indo-European]

Danish philologist and phonetician and language educationalist. Jespersen’s linguistic career began with work on phonetics and on the teaching of English as a foreign language, an area where Jespersen pleaded strongly for reform. From 1893 to his retirement in 1925, he was professor of English at the University of Copenhagen and produced a series of original books on the history and structure of English which are topical to this day: The growth and structure of the English language (1905), A modern English grammar on historical principles (7 vols., 1909-49), Language: Its nature and development (1922).

Jones, Daniel (1881-1967) [phonetics]

English phonetician. He was born in London and studied mathematics at King’s College, Cambridge. In 1905/6 he studied phonetics in Paris under Paul Passy and on his return was appointed at University College London and remained there, from 1921 to 1949 as professor of phonetics. Jones was the first to describe rigorously the (standard) sociolect of British English which he termed Received Pronunciation. His two main books are An outline of English phonetics (1918 with later revisions) and An English pronouncing dictionary (1917 with later revisions).

Jordan, Richard [English philology] A German scholar who produced an important work on Middle English Handbuch der mittelenglischen Grammatik (1925) which was later translated into English and revised.

Kökeritz, Helge [English philology] A German scholar, working in the United States in his later life, who produced Shakespeare's pronunciation in 1953.

Krapp, George Philip (1872-1934) [dialectology] An American linguist who initially trained as an Old English scholar but later researched more and more his native American English producing the two books for which is still best known The pronunciation of standard English in America (1919) and The English language in America (2 vols. 1925).

Kuhn Sherman McAllister (1907-1991) [lexicography] Americal linguist and lexicographer who is known today for the major project on Middle English, the Middle English dictionary, which he worked on from its beginning after the Second World War at the University of Michigan.

Kurath, Hans (1891-1992) [lexicography]

American dialectologist and lexicographer of Austrian extraction. He worked at different universities at the beginning of his career and in 1930 was appointed director of The linguistic atlas of the United States and Canada producing various books on the dialects of the eastern coast of America. In 1946 he became editor of the Middle English dictionary and worked on it until his retirement in 1961.

Labov, William [linguistic theory]

American linguist. He is the founder of the modern discipline of sociolinguistics. Labov started his career with an investigation of the English used on a small island off the coast of New England and of the English of New York city. In both instances he demonstrated conclusively that the use of language, above all systematic variation, was determined by social factors such as upward mobility or group solidarity. These findings unleashed a veritable avalanche of research into language and society which has led to innumerable insightful studies, particularly in the English-speaking world.

Lass, Roger [English philology] American scholar working in South Africa. He is known for his original work on historical English phonology and language change. He is author (with John Anderson) of Old English phonology (1975) and of Old English. A historical linguistic companion (1994).

Luick, Karl [English philology]

A Viennese scholar, active early in the 20th century, who was instrumental in establishing English historical linguistics on the continent. His main contribution is his monumental Historische Grammatik der englischen Sprache (1914-1940).

Mencken, Henry Louis (1880-1956) [dialectology]

American journalist and author. Born in Baltimore where he later worked as a journalist as an essayist attacking bourgeoisie complacency (see his collection Prejudices 6 vols. 1919-1927). In linguistics he is principally remembered for his large-scale book The American language (1919 with later editions and supplements) which was responsible for the study of this variety of English becoming academically respectable.

Milroy, James and Lesley [linguistic theory] British sociolinguists who in pioneering work in Belfast in the 1970’s propounded the idea that social network ties (strong and weak) are essential factors determining language use and systematic variation. Change emanates in their view from those speakers with loose ties as they move readily in society and are not bound by strict linguistic norms to a specific class or sub-class.

Mitchell, Bruce (1920- ) [English philology] An English scholar known for many works on Old English including Old English syntax (2 vols., 1985).

Murray, James A.H. (1837-1915) [lexicography]

Scottish lexicographer and teacher. He is remembered as the scholar who began work on what was later to become the Oxford English dictionary, originally entitled A new dictionary of English on historical principles for which he collected most material. The work was not completed until 1928 but many sections of it had been printed during Murray’s lifetime.

Murray, Lindley (1745-1826) [prescriptive grammar] Born in Pennsylvania, Murray was a lawyer by profession but in 1784 for health reasons he retired to York in north England and wrote an English grammar in 1794 along with other religious works.

Onions, C.T. [lexicography] Compiler of the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology produced in 1966 and subsequently revised and condensed by Terence F.Hoad.

Orton, Harold (1898-1975) [dialectology]

English dialectologist. Born in Durham the son of a village schoolmaster, Orton studied at Oxford after World War I and developed a strong interest in dialects. He also studied under Joseph Wright and Henry Wyld and later worked at Newcastle and Sheffield before he was appointed professor at Leeds after World War II. In this capacity he initiated the Survey of English dialects which was to become his life’s work and led to the publication of The linguistic atlas of England in 1978. Much of the material collected was used by other researchers in their work on English dialects and this work is still carried out at Leeds.

Partridge, Eric (1894-1979) [lexicography] A prominent lexicographer of English who was born in New Zealand and educated in Australia and England. Partridge did not follow up the beginnings of his academic career but took to publishing. His linguistic reputation rests on A dictionary of slang and unconventional English (1937) and Usage and abusage: A guide to good English (1942).

Passy, Paul Édouard (1859-1940) [phonetics]

One of the earliest professional phoneticians, Passy was one of the founding fathers of the International Phonetic Association and helped develop the system of transcription which that organisation propagated. He also founded a journal Le Maître Phonétique which is the forerunner of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association. Passy was also a dedicated pacifist and the first to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Quirk, Sir Randolph (1920- ) [English philology] The most prominent of a group of linguists involved in the description of present-day English usage. Born on the Isle of Man Quirk studied in London where he had his first appointment, then he moved to Durham and later returned to London to take up the chair of English language at University College London. Quirk initiated the Survey of English Usage in 1959 and engaged a number of prominent linguists such as Sidney Greenbaum and Geoffrey Leech who collaborated with him in A grammar of contemporary English (1972) and the even more exhaustive A comprehensive grammar of the English language (1985). Quirk has also written a grammar of Old English (with C.L.Wrenn) and several commentaries of aspects of English.

Shaw, George Bernard (1856-1950) [literary writing]

Irish playwright and critic. Shaw showed an awareness of language in all his plays. In one, Pygmalion (1913), he incorporated many elements of linguistics in the character Professor Higgins who was based on Henry Sweet. He was also interested in questions of spelling reform and actually bequeathed some of his considerable estate for this cause. Shaw’s ideas were, however amusing, linguistically quite amateurish.

Sievers, Eduard (1850-1932) [English philology]

A German scholar who is important for historical English studies because of his Angelsächsische Grammatik. This was revised as Altenglische Grammatik (1965) by Karl Brunner. He was also active as a phonetician as documented by his Grundzüge der Phonetik.

Skeat, Walter William (1835-1912) [lexicography]

One of the most prominent early English philologists. Skeat was professor of Anglo-Saxon at Cambridge from 1878 to 1912 and is author of An etymological dictionary of the English language (1882) which became a standard work in the field.

Sweet, Henry (1845-1912) [English philology]

English philologist and phonetician. Born in London he was educated in both England and Germany where he studied at the University of Heidelberg thus coming in touch with the mainstream of German linguistics of the day. Sweet was interested in English philology and produced editions of Old English texts as well as a grammar and reader. He is also the author of books on phonetics and the history of English in general (History of English sounds, 1874). Sweet was a dominant character in the early days of professional English linguistics and was known to creative writers of the time, notably to George Bernard Shaw who included elements of his character in the figure of Professor Higgins in his play Pygmalion.

Turner, George William (1921- ) [lexicography] An Australian scholar and lexicographer, actually born in New Zealand and educated there and in London. He is the author of The English language in Australia and New Zealand (1966) and a revised edition of the Australian pocket Oxford dictionary (1987).

Turner, Lorenzo Dow (1895-1972) [dialectology]

An American linguist who is known for his seminal work on the African background to Black English in the United States which he traced successfully in his famous book Africanisms in the Gullah dialect (1949).

Visser, F.Th. [English philology] A Dutch scholar and author of a comprehensive work An historical syntax of the English language (1973).

Wright, Joseph (1855-1930) [dialectology]

An English scholar who set dialect study on a new footing at the beginning of the 20th century. Wright studied in Germany in Heidelberg and Leipzig and came into contact with leading linguists of the day at these centres. Later he returned to England to take up a professorship at Oxford. He is now known for two works, the English dialect dictionary (5 vols., 1898-1905) and the sixth volume of this work, his English dialect grammar, all of which are still consulted today for valuable information.

Wyld, Henry Cecil (1870-1945) [English philology] An English scholar active at the beginning of the 20th century and author of A short history of English (1927) and A history of modern colloquial English (1936) which took information on social use and style into account.