UofG Funding for world-class research in the English language

Published: 22 February 2018

The announcement was made as UoG was presented with its Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education in recognition of a half century of work on the Historical Thesaurus of English

Professor Marc Alexander and Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli receives UofG Queen's Anniversary Prize from the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall

The University of Glasgow announced additional investment in its world-class research on the evolution of the English language.

The funding of more than £400,000 by the University will be invested over the next five years in the second edition of the Historical Thesaurus of English and the creation of new Lectureship in Historical Thesaurus Studies.

The first edition of Glasgow’s Historical Thesaurus was key to developing our modern understanding of the last thousand years’ worth of meanings in English.

The funding announcement was made on the 22nd of February as the University of Glasgow was presented with its Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education in recognition of a half century of work on the Historical Thesaurus. The project is described as “a unique resource for scholarship, education and creativity”.

At a ceremony in Buckingham Palace, London, HRH The Prince of Wales with HRH The Duchess of Cornwall made the presentation to the University. The Prize is the highest accolade for any academic institution.

Among those in attendance from Glasgow were Professor Marc Alexander, Director of the Historical Thesaurus; Professor Sir Kenneth Calman, University Chancellor; Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and University Vice-Chancellor and Professor Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh, Vice-Principal and the Head of the College of Arts.

The Historical Thesaurus has 793,733 words arranged by their meaning, spanning more than 1000 years of the English language and is online.

The second edition, which today’s announcement funds, will mean 35% of the 800,000 entries in the Thesaurus will be re-dated with new evidence, over a third of the meaning categories will be revised, and 20,000 new words added.

Professor Alexander, the University’s Professor of English Linguistics, is the third Thesaurus Director after Professor Michael Samuels  and Professor Christian Kay.

Speaking outside Buckingham Palace today, Professor Alexander said: “There is nothing like the Historical Thesaurus of English for any other language, and it has been wonderful to see its importance recognised here today. For years it has been my daily joy to direct the Thesaurus and be surrounded by all the richness of a millennium’s worth of English. This prize, our new University investment, and our external funding successes will enhance Glasgow’s standing as a university at the forefront of the study of the language.

“Of course, this award is very much owed to my predecessors, Christian and Michael, who had the vision and determination to drive forward this glorious and long-lived treasure-store of our language, and I am sure they both would have been delighted to see their Thesaurus lauded on the national stage.”

Professor Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh, Vice-Principal and the Head of the College of Arts at the University of Glasgow, said: “The announcement of additional funds and a new post in the Historical Thesaurus reflects the University and College’s continued and ongoing commitment to support our outstanding research in the Arts and Humanities and to ensuring the sustainability of the Thesaurus project. This prestigious prize deservedly honours the dedicated work of our world-leading staff and students over the last 50 years.”

Queen's Anniversary Prize Presentation to Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli and Professor Marc Alexander by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: “Our aim at the University of Glasgow is to be an exceptional home for game-changing research and today’s presentation is a national testament to the outstanding scholarship our institution provides to the world.

“The announcement of additional University funding for the Historical Thesaurus will continue this incredible work into the roots and development of the English language.”

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.

Since 15 January 1965, more than 230 linguists have worked to arrange every known word in English into the extensive system of categories which made up the first edition of the Historical Thesaurus, published in 2009.

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.

The Prize, unique in the honours system, is granted to an institution as a whole not an individual. As a national honour the prize carries no cash value, consisting of a silver-gilt medallion and a Prize Certificate signed by Her Majesty The Queen.

In 2015, for its 50th anniversary, an enhanced digital version of the Historical Thesaurus was made available online. The second edition of the Historical Thesaurus is currently underway. In the online version, people can either search for individual words or browse the full series of 235,249 categories.

Queen's Anniversary Prize Full Team outside of Buckingham Palace after receiving their prize for the Historical Thesaurus of English

For more information contact Aine Allardyce in the University of Glasgow Communications and Public Affairs Office on 0141 330 7126 or email aine.allardyce@glasgow.ac.uk

First published: 22 February 2018