M.L. Samuels Lecture: Professor David Crystal

Tuesday October 16, 2012, 5.15 p.m.

Western Infirmary Lecture Theatre (WILT)

University Place, University of Glasgow

This lecture series celebrates the life and work of Michael Samuels (1920-2010), and especially the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, published on 22 October 2009.

Further details available: Here

David Crystal is honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Bangor, and works from his home in Holyhead, North Wales, as a writer, editor, lecturer and broadcaster. The author of many books on English language and linguistics, his dictionary-related work includes A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics, An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Language and Languages, Shakespeare's Words, and Dr Johnson's Dictionary, as well as the various editions of the Cambridge and Penguin families of general encyclopedias. His recent books include Internet Linguistics, The Story of English in 100 Words, and Spell It Out: the Singular Story of English Spelling.


Lexicographers, especially when they have had a drink or two, fantasize about the super-dictionary – the ultimate, unprecedented and of course unpublishable (on paper) collection of all the lexical items in a language. Such a project, discussed here with reference to the limitations of sources available in English, would require the integration of coverage from several sources: dictionaries of the standard and nonstandard language; the specialized lexicons of encyclopedic domains; the emerging vocabulary of ‘new Englishes’; and Internet neologisms. Thesaurus organization would need to play a more dominant role than is usually found in dictionaries. It is a crazy, super idea, but like another crazy, super idea, whose genesis is celebrated in this lecture series, its true value would be appreciated only after a first edition is completed. With the opportunities provided by the Internet, a super-dictionary now seems achievable. All we need is a second Samuels prepared to take it on.

First published: 16 October 2012