UofG's Historical Thesaurus of English scoops Queen’s Anniversary Prize

UofG's Historical Thesaurus of English scoops Queen’s Anniversary Prize

Issued: Tue, 05 Dec 2017 06:15:00 GMT

by Áine Allardyce, Communications and Public Affairs

There are 224 ways to call something “excellent”, according to the Historical Thesaurus of English.

And now the University of Glasgow can use any of these stellar words to describe the announcement that it has been awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education.

The prize, the highest accolade for any academic institution, was awarded to the University in recognition of its world-class research into the English language through the Historical Thesaurus.

The Prize has been approved by Her Majesty The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister following a very intensive period of assessment organised by the Royal Anniversary Trust which administers the scheme.

Online

The Historical Thesaurus features 793,733 words arranged by their meaning, spanning more than a thousand years of the English language and is now available online for everyone to search at glasgow.ac.uk/thesaurus.

For example, searching the term “excellent” reveals a diverse range of adjectives including brave, bonzer, jelly, topgallant, splendid, pure merino, smick-smack, dandy and rad. Next to each word are the dates each word was used, telling us that topgallant was first used to mean excellent in 1613 and last found in 1849, while the Australian term bonzer was first used in 1906 and continues to this day.

Professor Marc Alexander is Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Glasgow and is the third Director of the Historical Thesaurus of English after Professor Michael Samuels and Professor Christian Kay.

Professor Alexander said: “Hundreds of researchers at Glasgow have spent over fifty years scrutinising the English language of today and of our ancestors, and we are delighted the prize recognises this extraordinary effort.

“The result is that the gloriously messy and intricate evolution of English meanings over the last thousand years is laid out on every page of the Historical Thesaurus.

“This award is a well-deserved tribute to my predecessors Christian and Michael, and celebrates their hard work, intellectual rigour, and vision.”

World-class research

Professor Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh, Vice-Principal and the Head of the College of Arts at the University of Glasgow, said: “The Historical Thesaurus is a wonderful example of the University’s continued and ongoing commitment to support world-class research in the Arts and Humanities.

“This award is well deserved recognition for the commitment of our staff and students in producing, over many years, this living historical treasury of the English language.”

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said he was “delighted” that the Historical Thesaurus has been recognised.

He added: “It is testament to the outstanding scholarship and important work being carried out at our University which has spanned more than 50 years, three Directors, 230 linguists and compilation of nearly 800,000 words.”

In total, 21 UK universities and further education colleges were awarded Prizes on 30 November 2017 recognising a wide range of innovative work across many different disciplines.

This is the 4th time that the University of Glasgow has won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize. Previously the University won in 1994, 1998 and 2013.

Royalties from the printed Historical Thesaurus are used to fund more research into the English language at Glasgow, principally through undergraduate and postgraduate prizes and scholarships.

University of Glasgow Historical Thesaurus of English Three Teams Compilation Photo Caption of Photo Montage

University of Glasgow Historical Thesaurus of English Three Teams Compilation Photo Caption of Photo Montage – Right -The current team at the Historical Thesaurus of English at the University of Glasgow including Professor Marc Alexander, Director of the Historical Thesaurus of English (at table); Dr Fraser Dallachy, Deputy Director of the Thesaurus and Murdo Homewood, MA Student and Project Assistant for the Thesaurus (standing) and Elina Koristashevskaya, PhD Student on the Thesaurus (seated on window ledge); (Upper Left) Professor Michael Samuels (1920-2010), who set up the Historical Thesaurus of English project on 15 January 1965 and (Lower Left) Professor Christian J. Kay (1940-2016) who was the second Director of the Historical Thesaurus of English and oversaw its completion in 2009.