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   Researchers and writers on varieties of English


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.

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).

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).

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 [sociolinguistics] 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.

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 [sociolinguistics] 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.

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.

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).

Reinecke, John (1904-1982) An American scholar who, after moving to Hawai'i in 1926, worked intensively on creole languages. His published work pioneered the study of these languages and gave much impetus to scholars who followed this direction after the Second World War. Reinecke was also important in the labour movement on Hawai’i.

Schuchardt [ˡʃu:xart], Hugo (1842-1927) German linguist who was opposed to Neogrammarians’ views on language change and their ignorance of languages without a long cultural history, such are creole languages (see his Über die Lautgesetze. Gegen die Junggrammatiker ‘On sound laws. Against the Neogrammarians’). In later dialect studies (for example in the Survey of English dialects) the type of word geography instituted by Schuchardt was implemented. He was also associated with the school named Wörter und Sachen ‘Words and things’ after a journal which was concerned with semantic issues.

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.

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).

Webster, Noah (1758-1843) American lexicographer and linguist. Born in Connecticut, Webster studied at Yale. After fighting in the American Revolution he worked as a lawyer in Hartford. His Grammatical institute of the English language (1783-85) established his reputation as the foremost scholar of English in America. The first part of this work, The elementary spelling book, was instrumental in standardising American spelling even though not all of Webster’s suggestions were later adopted. His lexicographical work includes the Compendious dictionary (1806) which was followed by his major work, The American dictionary of the English language (1812) which contained 70,000 words, 12,000 of which had not been listed before. The work went through many revisions. The last which Webster saw through himself was that of 1840. It has been repeatedly revised and published and has retained its popularity in America.

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.