Randolph Quirk

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Charles Randolph Quirk, Baron Quirk, CBE, FBA (12 July 1920 – 20 December 2017) was a British linguist and life peer. [1] He was the Quain Professor of English language and literature at University College London from 1968 to 1981. He sat as a crossbencher in the House of Lords.

Order of the British Empire British order of chivalry

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It involves analysing language form, language meaning, and language in context. The earliest activities in the documentation and description of language have been attributed to the 6th-century-BC Indian grammarian Pāṇini who wrote a formal description of the Sanskrit language in his Aṣṭādhyāyī.

In the United Kingdom, life peers are appointed members of the peerage whose titles cannot be inherited, in contrast to hereditary peers. In modern times, life peerages, always created at the rank of baron, are created under the Life Peerages Act 1958 and entitle the holders to seats in the House of Lords, presuming they meet qualifications such as age and citizenship. The legitimate children of a life peer are entitled to style themselves with the prefix "The Honourable", although they cannot inherit the peerage itself.


Life and career

Quirk was born at Lambfell, Michael, Isle of Man, where his family farmed, the son of Thomas and Amy Randolph Quirk. [2] He attended Douglas High School for Boys on the island and then went to University College London (UCL) to read English (the department relocated to Aberystwyth due to the war) [2] under A.H. Smith. His studies began in 1939 but were interrupted in 1940 by five years of service in Bomber Command of the RAF, [2] where he rose to the rank of squadron leader.

Michael, Isle of Man

Michael is one of the six sheadings of the Isle of Man.

University College London, which has operated under the official name of UCL since 2005, is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom. It is a constituent college of the federal University of London, and is the third largest university in the United Kingdom by total enrolment, and the largest by postgraduate enrolment.

Aberystwyth town in Ceredigion, Wales

Aberystwyth is an ancient market town, administrative centre, community, and holiday resort in Ceredigion, Wales. It is located near the confluence of the Ystwyth and the Afon Rheidol.

Quirk became so deeply interested in explosives that he started an external degree in chemistry, [2] but his English undergraduate studies were completed from 1945 to 1947 (with the department back in Bloomsbury) and was then invited to take up a research fellowship in Cambridge; however he took up a counter-offer of a junior lectureship at UCL, which he held until 1952. [2] In this period he completed his MA on phonology and his PhD thesis on syntax, and in 1951 became a post-doctoral Commonwealth Fund fellow at Yale University and Michigan State University. [2] Shortly after his return from the US in 1952, he moved to the University of Durham, [2] becoming reader there in 1954, and professor in 1958.[ citation needed ] He returned to UCL as professor in 1960 and in 1968 succeeded Smith as Quain Professor, a post he held until 1981.

Bloomsbury area of the London Borough of Camden, in London, England, UK

Bloomsbury is a district in the West End of London, famed as a fashionable residential area and as the home of numerous prestigious cultural, intellectual, and educational institutions. It is bounded by Fitzrovia to the west, Covent Garden to the south, Regent's Park and St. Pancras to the north, and Clerkenwell to the east.

A master's degree is an academic degree awarded by universities or colleges upon completion of a course of study demonstrating mastery or a high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice. A master's degree normally requires previous study at the bachelor's level, either as a separate degree or as part of an integrated course. Within the area studied, master's graduates are expected to possess advanced knowledge of a specialized body of theoretical and applied topics; high order skills in analysis, critical evaluation, or professional application; and the ability to solve complex problems and think rigorously and independently.

Phonology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the systematic organization of sounds in spoken languages and signs in sign languages. It used to be only the study of the systems of phonemes in spoken languages, but it may also cover any linguistic analysis either at a level beneath the word or at all levels of language where sound or signs are structured to convey linguistic meaning.

Quirk lectured and gave seminars at UCL in Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and the History of the English Language. These two disciplines were part of a ten-discipline set of final examinations in the undergraduate syllabus. At that time Old and Middle English, along with History of the English Language, were all compulsory subjects in that course. He also worked closely with A. C. Gimson and J. D. O'Connor of the Phonetics Department, sometimes sitting in as an examiner for Phonetics oral examinations.

Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest historical form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers probably in the mid-5th century, and the first Old English literary works date from the mid-7th century. After the Norman conquest of 1066, English was replaced, for a time, as the language of the upper classes by Anglo-Norman, a relative of French. This is regarded as marking the end of the Old English era, as during this period the English language was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman, developing into a phase known now as Middle English.

Final examination Assessment at the end of a course or training to gauge ones mastery

A final examination, annual, exam, final interview, or simply final, is a test given to students at the end of a course of study or training. Although the term can be used in the context of physical training, it most often occurs in the academic world. Most high schools, colleges, and universities run final exams at the end of a particular academic term, typically a quarter or semester, or more traditionally at the end of a complete degree course.

Alfred Charles "Gim" Gimson was an English phonetician. He was known to generations of students and colleagues simply as 'Gim'.

In 1985, he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of Bath. [3]

Doctor of Letters higher doctorate

Doctor of Letters is an academic degree, a higher doctorate which, in some countries, may be considered to be equal to the Ph.D. and equal to the Doctor of Science. It is awarded in many countries by universities and learned bodies in recognition of achievement in the humanities, original contribution to the creative arts or scholarship and other merits. In some countries it also regarded as the highest degree of education. When awarded without an application by the conferee, it is awarded as an honorary degree.

University of Bath university in England

The University of Bath is a public university located in Bath, Somerset, United Kingdom. It received its royal charter in 1966, along with a number of other institutions following the Robbins Report. Like the University of Bristol and University of the West of England, Bath can trace its roots to the Merchant Venturers' Technical College, established in Bristol as a school in 1595 by the Society of Merchant Venturers. The university's main campus is located on Claverton Down, a site overlooking the city of Bath, and was purpose-built, constructed from 1964 in the modernist style of the time.

Survey of English Usage

In 1959, Quirk founded the Survey of English Usage, working with Valerie Adams, Derek Davy and David Crystal; they sampled written and spoken British English produced between 1955 and 1985. The corpus comprises 200 texts, each of 5,000 words. The spoken texts include dialogue and monologue, and the written texts material intended for both reading and reading aloud. [4]

The Survey of English Usage was the first research centre in Europe to carry out research with corpora. The Survey is based in the Department of English Language and Literature at University College London.

David Crystal British linguist and writer

David Crystal, is a British linguist, academic and author.

British English is the standard dialect of English language as spoken and written in the United Kingdom. Variations exist in formal, written English in the United Kingdom. For example, the adjective wee is almost exclusively used in parts of Scotland and Ireland, and occasionally Yorkshire, whereas little is predominant elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is a meaningful degree of uniformity in written English within the United Kingdom, and this could be described by the term British English. The forms of spoken English, however, vary considerably more than in most other areas of the world where English is spoken, so a uniform concept of British English is more difficult to apply to the spoken language. According to Tom McArthur in the Oxford Guide to World English, British English shares "all the ambiguities and tensions in the word 'British' and as a result can be used and interpreted in two ways, more broadly or more narrowly, within a range of blurring and ambiguity".

The project was to be the foundation of A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language , a widely used reference grammar and the first of English in real use rather than structured by rules derived from Greek and Latin models.[ citation needed ] Quirk and his collaborators proposed a descriptive rather than prescriptive grammar, showing readers that different groups of English speakers choose different usages, and argued that what is correct is what communicates effectively.[ citation needed ]

Summer School of English

One of Quirk's favourite enterprises was the London University Summer School of English, where the above-mentioned colleagues and other budding scholars and friends of his came to teach for a month. It was considered[ by whom? ] the most eminent body of English teachers anywhere in the world. The resident students were foreign academics, teachers and students. He threw himself into the social life with gusto and enjoyed singing Victorian ballads in a Cockney accent over a "couple of pints". When the School moved away from Queen Elizabeth College to New Cross, numbers fell rapidly. The next and last successful director was the phonetician J. D. O'Connor.


Quirk was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1976 New Year Honours, [5] and was knighted in 1985. [6] He had openly been a Labour supporter all his life, although he sat in the House of Lords as a cross-bench peer. [7] He was President of the British Academy from 1985 to 1989 and became a life peer as Baron Quirk, of Bloomsbury in the London Borough of Camden on 12 July 1994. [7] [8] He sat on the boards of Pearson Education and the Linguaphone Institute. [7]

Last years

Until his death he resided in Germany and England, with his wife, the German linguist Gabriele Stein.[ citation needed ]


Related Research Articles

Corpus linguistics is the study of language as expressed in corpora (samples) of "real world" text. The text-corpus method is a digestive approach that derives a set of abstract rules that govern a natural language from texts in that language, and explores how that language relates to other languages. Originally derived manually, corpora now are automatically derived from source texts. Corpus linguistics proposes that reliable language analysis is more feasible with corpora collected in the field in its natural context ("realia"), and with minimal experimental-interference.

"He" is the masculine third-person, singular personal pronoun in Modern English.

In linguistics, an object pronoun is a personal pronoun that is used typically as a grammatical object: the direct or indirect object of a verb, or the object of a preposition. Object pronouns contrast with subject pronouns. Object pronouns in English take the objective case, sometimes called the oblique case or object case. For example, the English object pronoun me is found in "They see me", "He's giving me my book", and "Sit with me" ; this contrasts with the subject pronoun in "I see them," "I am getting my book," and "I am sitting here."

In linguistics, a subject pronoun is a personal pronoun that is used as the subject of a verb. Subject pronouns are usually in the nominative case for languages with a nominative–accusative alignment pattern. On the other hand, a language with an ergative-absolutive pattern usually have separate subject pronouns for transitive and intransitive verbs: an ergative case pronoun for transitive verbs and an absolutive case pronoun for transitive verbs.

John C. Wells British phonetician and Esperanto teacher

John Christopher Wells is a British phonetician and Esperantist. Wells is a professor emeritus at University College London, where until his retirement in 2006 he held the departmental chair in phonetics.

English personal pronouns personal pronoun in English

The personal pronouns in English take various forms according to number, person, case and natural gender. Modern English has very little inflection of nouns or adjectives, to the point where some authors describe it as an analytic language, but the Modern English system of personal pronouns has preserved some of the inflectional complexity of Old English and Middle English.

Synesis is a traditional grammatical/rhetorical term derived from Greek σύνεσις.

In grammar, a complement is a word, phrase or clause that is necessary to complete the meaning of a given expression. Complements are often also arguments.

An adverbial clause is a dependent clause that functions as an adverb; that is, the entire clause modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. As with all clauses, it contains a subject and predicate, although the subject as well as the (predicate) verb may sometimes be omitted and implied.

Generic <i>you</i>

In English grammar and in particular in casual English, generic you, impersonal you, or indefinite you is the use of the pronoun you to refer to an unspecified person, as opposed to its use as the second person pronoun.

Geoffrey Neil Leech FBA was a specialist in English language and linguistics. He was the author, co-author or editor of over 30 books and over 120 published papers. His main academic interests were English grammar, corpus linguistics, stylistics, pragmatics and semantics.

Practical English Usage is a standard reference book aimed at foreign learners of English and their teachers written by Michael Swan.

Albert Hugh Smith OBE was a scholar of Old English and Scandinavian languages and played a major part in the study and publication of English place-names.

Quain Professor is the professorship title for certain disciplines at University College London, England. The title is derived from Richard Quain (1800-1887) who became professor of anatomy in 1832 at what was to become UCL. He made a provision in his will to the University that endowed professorships for four subjects; intending that funding gave recognition to his brother, John Richard Quain, as well as his own.

The International Corpus of English (ICE) is a set of corpora representing varieties of English from around the world. Over twenty countries or groups of countries where English is the first language or an official second language are included.

Sidney Greenbaum was a British scholar of the English language and of linguistics. He was Quain Professor of English language and literature at University College London from 1983 to 1990 and Director of the Survey of English Usage, 1983-96. With Randolph Quirk and others, he wrote A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. He also wrote Oxford English Grammar.

English possessive

In English, possessive words or phrases exist for nouns and most pronouns, as well as some noun phrases. These can play the roles of determiners or of nouns.

<i>A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language</i> book by Randolph Quirk

A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (ISBN 9780582517349) is a descriptive grammar of English written by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik. It was first published by Longman in 1985.

Thetical grammar forms one of the two domains of discourse grammar, the other domain being sentence grammar. The building blocks of thetical grammar are theticals, that is, linguistic expressions which are interpolated in, or juxtaposed to, clauses or sentences but syntactically, semantically and, typically, prosodically independent from theses structures. The two domains are associated with contrasting principles of designing texts: Whereas sentence grammar is essentially restricted to the structure of sentences in a propositional format, thetical grammar concerns the overall contours of discourse beyond the sentence, thereby being responsible for a higher level of discourse production.


  1. Safire, William (24 April 1982). "More important? Or Importantly?". Miami News . p. 15A. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Interview, 2001" . Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  3. "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". bath.ac.uk. University of Bath . Retrieved 18 February 2012.
  4. "Survey of English Usage" . Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  5. "No. 46777". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1976. p. 9.
  6. "No. 50078". The London Gazette . 29 March 1985. p. 4500.
  7. 1 2 3 According to this official biography on the UK Parliament website, accessed 3 February 2014.
  8. "No. 53736". The London Gazette . 18 July 1994. p. 10227.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Lord Annan
Vice-Chancellor of University of London
Succeeded by
Lord Flowers