Tracking the history of words – changing perspectives, changing research

Fri 6 May 2022, 16:15 - 17:30

Wheelchair accessible venue
A close-up of the open page of the King James' Bible.
Wellcome Trust Lecture Hall, Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG

Event ended

Delivered by the most outstanding academics in the UK and beyond, the British Academy’s flagship lecture
programme showcases the very best scholarship in the humanities and social sciences.

This is the 2022 Anna Morpurgo Davies Lecture in partnership with The Philological Society of London.

Traditionally most words have been seen as having simple linear histories, with the earliest known attestation regarded as the date at which a word ‘entered the language’. Changing perspectives, especially from historical sociolinguistics and from detailed research on language varieties, are bringing different questions into focus. Whose language does a particular word belong to? How is it used differently by different speakers? And how has this changed over time? Additionally, renewed etymological interest in the origins of complex words has raised fresh questions about how frequently words may show convergent lines of development, polygenesis as opposed to monogenesis. This talk will examine some of the challenges and opportunities presented by such issues for one of the oldest tools in historical linguistics, the historical dictionary.

Headshot of Dr Philip Durkin
Dr Philip Durkin

Speaker: Dr Philip Durkin, Deputy Chief Editor at the Oxford English Dictionary, University of Oxford

Philip Durkin is Deputy Chief Editor at the Oxford English Dictionary, where he has led the dictionary’s team of specialist etymology editors since the late 1990s. Among his publications are The Oxford Guide to Etymology (2009) and Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English (2014). He is editor of The Oxford Handbook of Lexicography (2016) and is currently editing a handbook of etymology in the same series.

Doors will open for registration at 3:30pm. There will be a reception held after the lecture and all registered attendees are welcome to join. The evening will conclude at approximately 6:15pm.

Free, booking required

A recording of this event will be added to our YouTube channel after the event has taken place. If you have any questions about this event, please email [email protected].

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