Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary - 2 volume set

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9780199208999: Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary - 2 volume set
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A 40-year project in the making, the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary is the first historical thesaurus to include almost the entire vocabulary of English, from Old English to the present day. Conceived and compiled by the Department of English Language of the University of Glasgow, the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary is a groundbreaking analysis of the historical inventory of English, allowing users to find words connected in meaning throughout the history of the language.

The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary is a unique resource for word-lovers of all types--linguists and language specialists, historians, literary commentators, among others--as well as a fascinating resource for everyone with an interest in the English language and its historical development. It is a perfect complement to the OED itself, allowing the words in the OED to be cross-referenced and viewed in wholly new ways.


Timeline for the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary

  • 1965: Announcement by Michael Samuels, Professor of English Language at the University of Glasgow--at a lecture to the Philological Society--that his department intends to undertake production of a historical thesaurus of English.

    Work on the Historical Thesaurus begins. The focus is on data collection and the entries are compiled using paper slips to record data (in the same way as the Oxford English Dictionary).
  • 1969: When the scale of the project becomes apparent, a successful application for funding leads to the employment of Irene Wotherspoon and Christian Kay as research assistants, mainly collecting data. A number of volunteers begin to work on the project in Glasgow, Germany, and Canada.
  • 1978: The project faces many challenges during the 1970s, the most significant being a major fire which threatened to destroy the entire archive of paper slips. All material is subsequently microfilmed and copies are kept at different locations in the UK.

    During the 1970s, classifying the data becomes the main focus. Postgraduate students are recruited. A decision is also taken to include material from the Supplements, and the forthcoming second edition and additions series of the OED. This enriches, but also slows down, the project.

    During the 1980s, Old English material is entered into electronic databases developed in London.
  • 1981: Talks with Oxford University Press on publishing the project.

    During the 1980s, the UK government sponsors a program to train people in editing and data-entry skills. The trainees help to edit and input the bulk of the Historical Thesaurus data into an electronic system.
  • 1984: Department of English Language moves into its current site at Glasgow University. A kitchen is converted into a fire-proof archive.

  • 1989: Christian Kay becomes director of the project.

About the Author:


Professor Christian Kay, MA, AM, DipGenLing
Professor Jane Roberts, MA, DPhil, DLitt
Professor Michael Samuels, MA, DLitt, FRSE
Irené Wotherspoon, MA, MLitt

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