Philological Society

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The Philological Society
Philological Society logo.png
Formation1842;179 years ago (1842)
FounderEdwin Guest [1]
Type learned society
Registration no.1014370
Legal status charity, limited company
Headquarters London, England
Fields Linguistics
Membership (2019)
641 [2]
Susan Fitzmaurice
Publication Transactions of the Philological Society
Website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

The Philological Society, or London Philological Society, is the oldest learned society in Great Britain dedicated to the study of language as well as a registered charity. [3] The current Society was established in 1842 to "investigate and promote the study and knowledge of the structure, the affinities, and the history of languages". [4] The society publishes a journal, the Transactions of the Philological Society , issued three times a year as well as a monographic series.


The first Philological Society, based in London's Fitzroy Square, was founded in 1792 under the patronage of Thomas Collingwood of St Edmund Hall, Oxford. [5] Its publication was titled The European Magazine, and London Review . [6]

The Philological Society is a member organisation of the University Council of General and Applied Linguistics. [7]


The Society's early history is most marked by a proposal in July 1857 to create an up-to-date dictionary of the English language. [8] This proposal, issued by Richard Chenevix Trench, Herbert Coleridge, and Frederick Furnivall, members of the Unregistered Words Committee, and an article by Trench, entitled On Some Deficiencies in our English Dictionaries, [9] eventually led the Society to formally adopt the idea of creating a comprehensive new dictionary on 7 January 1858. [10] :107–8

In 1952, the Society hosted the seventy Congress of the International Congress of Linguists in London. [11]

At a later date, the Society was instrumental in the early stages of the Survey of English Dialects conducted by Harold Orton between 1950 and 1961, helping to develop, amongst other things, a questionnaire for use in gathering data. [12]


The society holds seven regular meetings each academic year; traditionally, four take place in London at SOAS University of London, the other three in Cambridge, Oxford, and at another university outside of South East England. Most meetings consist of hour-long academic papers being presented by one or more scholar. Occasionally, round table or panel discussions are organised. [13] Every two years, together with the British Academy the Society organises the Anna Morpurgo Davies Lecture, named in honour of its former president. [14]

Prizes and Bursaries

Once every two years, the Society awards the R. H. Robins Prize for an article on a subject within the Society's area of interest; the prize bears the name of a former president of the Society. [15] Every year, the Society further awards a limited number of bursaries valued at £5,000 each to students embarking on taught postgraduate programmes in all areas of linguistics or philology. [16]


The Society is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee, having been incorporated on 2 January 1879. The Society is governed by its trustees, consisting of the President (appointed at an Annual General Meeting for a period of three years, with the option to renew for one further year), the Vice-Presidents (appointed for life at an Annual General Meeting; usually former presidents), the other Officers, and up to twenty ordinary members of Council, who are elected annually at an Annual General Meeting. [2]

As of February 2021, the Officers of the Society are: [17]

List of presidents

The following list is based on the sporadically occurring statements concerning membership of the Society's Council as printed in the Transactions of the Philological Society of the relevant years.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Philology is the study of language in oral and written historical sources; it is the intersection of textual criticism, literary criticism, history, and linguistics. Philology is more commonly defined as the study of literary texts as well as oral and written records, the establishment of their authenticity and their original form, and the determination of their meaning. A person who pursues this kind of study is known as a philologist.

Richard Chenevix Trench

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<i>Transactions of the Philological Society</i> Academic journal

Transactions of the Philological Society is a linguistics journal published three times a year by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the Philological Society. It has appeared since 1854, making it the oldest scholarly linguistics journal. It is currently edited by Lutz Marten ; Frans Plank and Nigel Vincent act as consulting editors.

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Anna Morpurgo Davies

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Eugénie Henderson British linguist and academic

Eugénie Jane Andrina Henderson, FBA was a British linguist and academic, specialising in phonetics. From 1964 to 1982, she was Professor of Phonetics at the University of London. She served as Chair of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain from 1977 to 1980, and President of the Philological Society from 1984 to 1988.


  1. (Madison) Fiona Carolyn Marshall. ‘Edwin Guest: Philologist, Historian, and Founder of the Philological Society of London’. Language & History (July 2016); formerly Bulletin of the Henry Sweet Society for the History of Linguistic Ideas 42, no. 1 (2004): 11–30,
  2. 1 2 "Report of the Council of the Philological Society for the year 2019" . Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  3. "Charity No. 1014370 – Charity Commission for England and Wales" . Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  4. "The Philological Society – About Us" . Retrieved 2021-02-17.
  5. (Madison) Fiona Carolyn Marshall. "History of the Philological Society: The Early Years" (PDF). Retrieved 2021-02-17.
  6. Attributions of Authorship in the European Magazine, 1782-1826
  7. "UCGAL – Members" . Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  8. "Oxford University Press – The Philological Society Proposal" . Retrieved 2021-02-19.
  9. Trench, Richard Chenevix (1857). "On Some Deficiencies in Our English Dictionaries". Transactions of the Philological Society. 9: 3–8.
  10. Winchester, Simon (1999). The Professor and the Madman . New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN   978-0-06-083978-9.
  11. Brough, J.; Scott, N. C. (November 1952). "Philological Society – Secretaries' Annual Report 1951". Transactions of the Philological Society . 51 (1): 143. doi:10.1111/j.1467-968X.1952.tb00264.x.
  12. "Special Collections – University of Leeds – Archived notes of Harold Orton" . Retrieved 2021-02-19.
  13. "The Philological Society – Meetings" . Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  14. "Anna Morpurgo Davies Lectures" . Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  15. "The Philological Society – Robins Prize" . Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  16. "The Philological Society – Funding Opportunities" . Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  17. "The Philological Society – Council Us" . Retrieved 2021-02-18.