Sadly, Randolph Quirk passed away at the age of 97 on 20 December Tributes to Randolph are being published on our Survey blog , where you can also add your own. Like everyone else, I suppose, I'm very much a product of my background and childhood, the child being father of the man, as Wordsworth said. I was brought up in a farming family to be obsessively enamoured of hard work and to be just as obsessively sceptical about orthodoxies, religious or political. So in retrospect it's easy for me to see why I became such a restless, free-ranging eclectic as I have been.
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Sadly, Randolph Quirk passed away at the age of 97 on 20 December Tributes to Randolph are being published on our Survey blog , where you can also add your own. Like everyone else, I suppose, I'm very much a product of my background and childhood, the child being father of the man, as Wordsworth said.
I was brought up in a farming family to be obsessively enamoured of hard work and to be just as obsessively sceptical about orthodoxies, religious or political. So in retrospect it's easy for me to see why I became such a restless, free-ranging eclectic as I have been. You see, my family was a mixture of catholic and protestant, of anglican and methodist, in an island community where self-consciously Manx values cohabited uneasily with increasingly dominant English values.
Indeed, if I'm an eclectic pluralist, it may simply be that the Manx in general are. Although we tend to be a bit equivocal and semi-detached about national identity, we're very conscious of our Celtic roots: we share St Patrick with Ireland and we have the remnants of a Celtic language that is close to being intercomprehensible with Irish. I say "remnants" because, although the rudiments are now taught in school, when I was a child there were already very few fully competent Manx speakers, and most of us though living in Manx named Ballabrooie or Cronk y Voddy only used Manx for the odd greeting or proverb or our very own euphemism for "loo", tthai beg "little house".
But we were conscious too of Scandinavian roots. We sang of King Orry and bowed to St Olave; we proudly gawped at our quite splendid Viking-Age crosses with their runic inscriptions -- some of the best in Kirk Michael only a couple of miles from our family farm which itself bears a Scandinavian name, Lambfell.
The Manx parliament has retained its Scandinavian name for a thousand years: Tynwald, cognate in form and function with Iceland's Thingvoll. In the middle ages, our bishop was appointed from Trondheim and his title still recalls that his domain once included "Sodor", which derives from the Scandinavian name for the Hebrides. You may well be wondering, but are too courteous to ask: What has all this to do with my academic career?
Well, in addition to underlining this nonconforming eclecticism of mine, it may help to explain my interest in language, history, and language history. So when I had reluctantly abandoned school science for the "arts", I came to UCL, eventually settling for the subject "English" because of the historical and linguistic bias in the curriculum: Gothic, some Old Saxon and Old High German, a lot of Old Norse, and even more Anglo-Saxon: Germanic philology, history of language and the writing of language: palaeography from runes to court hand.
Not that the course of my true love for this English degree ran smoothly to begin with. I diverted some of my energies into the lively politics of the time, and a lot into music - especially into playing in a dance band, not least to fund nights out with girls. The war had made my bit of UCL re-locate in Aberystwyth and I was further diverted into dabbling in the Welsh spoken around me, tickled that Cronk y Voddy's tthai beg was Aber's ty bach.
I still love singing those minor-key Welsh hymns -- in Welsh. But most seriously I was diverted from the English degree by five years in RAF's bomber command where I became so deeply interested in explosives that I started to do an external degree in chemistry through evening classes at what is now the University of Hull. But with demobilisation in I suddenly felt middle-aged and so I soberly resumed my UCL degree with unexpected dedication, enlivened by new excitements.
By the time I'd got my BA, I was hooked on the idea of research. Ah, but in what? It's hard now to explain to young graduates how lucky we were in austerity England, bombarded with tempting career offers. I was invited to take up a research fellowship in Cambridge to work on Old Norse and in fact I did subsequently do some bits of work on Hrafnkelssaga and a student edition of Gunnlaugssaga with P.
Foote in But I was counter-attracted by the offer offer : no ad, no application, no referees of a junior lectureship at UCL itself. Without so much as an hour's teacher training, I happily charged into undergraduate classes on medieval literature, history of the language, OE, Old Norse, and anything else the powers thought I had more time to do than they.
And then there was the exciting challenge of embarking on research -- a matter far more important in the eyes of the said powers. At that time, there was much controversy over a now yawn-inducing issue in old Germanic philology: what Grimm had called Brechung.
Were the vowels in OE words like heard "hard" or feoh "cattle" really diphthongs or just simple vowels plus diacritics indicating consonant "colour"? Supervision was often rather nominal in those days, and so it was with Hugh Smith, but it was always a privilege to have ready access to such an extraordinary polymath: big in toponymics, of course, but big also in ultra-violet photography, horology, and typography, to name just a few of his interests. My research involved learning some Old Irish where the vowel graphemics showed apparent similarities and where the stories from the Tain held -- like the Norse sagas -- a literary interest for me as well.
My work also involved learning some Danish and Swedish for a lot of the relevant published research.. So it was that I came to sit at the feet of Elias Bredsdorff, the Hans Andersen scholar, then lektor in Danish at UCL, who could sometimes be coaxed into telling of his exploits in war-time Denmark when he was prominent on the SS wanted list. Despite such temptations to dawdle and dabble, the thesis got finished but astonishingly as it may now seem the controversy rumbled on, joined by up-and-coming Bob Stockwell on the one side and Sherman Kuhn stoutly joining forces with me on the other.
Meanwhile, teaching students OE was bringing home to me how little Germanic philology helped them and how much syntax and lexicology would. So for my PhD, I switched to syntax, incurring some displeasure among the powers for whom sticking to one's scholarly last was a prime virtue and my field was phonology, was it not? But in one quarter the switch was welcomed. Wrenn at Pembroke, Oxford was planning to write an OE grammar. Because such grammars traditionally covered only phonology and morphology, he roped me in to help write a different kind of text book, replete with a fairly full treatment of syntax as well as word-formation.
An Old English Grammar was duly published by Methuen in But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before that collaboration with Wrenn, I had another life-changing stroke of luck. I rejoiced in attending Bloch's classes as a "post-doc" but revelled also in the proximity given a splendid car and the Merritt Parkway of Columbia and Cabell Greet to the south and of Brown Freeman Twaddell and Harvard F.
Magoun, Joseph Watmough, et many al, but especially Roman Jabobson to the north. I was made to feel very welcome, and Bloch in particular in Bloomfield's old chair tried to recruit me into Bloch-Trager structuralism and teased me about Firth -- though I told him he hadn't recruited me either. I enjoyed trawling through the MED 's voluminous files and managed to do a few things related to my Langland mission.
I was also briefly tempted back into OE phonology to do a couple of papers with Kuhn Language I became more acquainted with the historical and contemporary relations between American and British English and especially through seminars hospitably organised chez Fries with modes of working empirically on the syntax of spoken language.
Fries had of course already done innovative work on unedited manuscript English soldiers' letters, for example. But now the new electronic recording had enabled him to do even more innovative work on unedited spoken English, and whatever its obvious deficiencies his book on The Structure of English gave me a huge buzz.
From then on, I've never been without a tape recorder -- and never above using a hidden mike. But I was also able to witness the darker side of academia: LSA meetings reduced to chaos, as surely pre-planned vilification was hurled at senior figures like Adelaide Hahn by gangs of young turks peddling their current brand of structuralism against those they saw as stuck in the mind set of the Junggrammatiker.
Not a few of these same young turks were within a couple of years to desert Trager and Hill to become just as fanatical about TG, and in I was dismayed to see just such fascistic intolerance at the International Congress in Cambridge, Mass, when it was scholars like Bloch who were disgracefully shouted down. Not long after my return from the US in , I moved to Durham, in no small part to get away from an increasingly bibulous departmental culture which I was not alone in finding a bit oppressive.
The Durham department, headed by the critic Clifford Leech, was excellent but small, and everyone was expected to teach more or less everything. There weren't many linguists around, but there were a few very active ones such as Neville Collinge in Classics, while over in Newcastle there was my close friend, Barbara Strang.
The tiny "language side" that I was appointed to take over in Durham had been eminent in the cultural and textual history of Anglo-Saxon England, but while doing my amateurish best to keep this tradition alive I devoted myself more to convincing students and colleagues that a linguistic approach could contribute valuable insights to the study of Shakespeare, Swift, Wordsworth, Dickens, and all stations to T. Eliot and beyond. And I started seriously examining the grammar of present-day and especially spoken English.
That included the speech of my children. One of them regularly in more senses than one spoke of "a-r-apple", rightly divining that sandhi [r] was of greater phonotactic currency than sandhi [n] though he didn't actually say so ; and both lads contributed mightily to the series of broadcast lectures that eventually grew into The use of English Longman.
I made frequent weekend trips to London where the BBC had kindly given me not just a desk but free access to all their tapes and transcriptions of the spontaneous speech in numerous discussion programmes. I had ideas for harnessing the then vast and clumsy computer in the task of sorting out the conditions under which linguistic variants occurred, and I took a programming course with Ewan Page later Vice-Chancellor of Reading in his Newcastle department.
The University of Durham provided modest seed money for such things as primitive recording and analysis facilities, and I was soon well on the way to devising a long-term project for the description of English syntax "The Survey of English Usage" , described in TPS , pp The infant thrived and many, many people contributed to its nurture.
I got unstinting support from UCL itself, the department and successive Provosts Ifor Evans, Noel Annan, James Lighthill ; from the British Council, who funded postgraduate and more senior scholars to work with me over the years Florent Aarts, Wolf-Dietrich Bald, Jan Firbas, for example ; from the Ford Foundation who brought to UCL such scholars as Jim Sledd and Nelson Francis; from the research councils and the great charities like Leverhulme during one of the Survey's financial crises, Keith Murray responded to a week-end call with what amounted to a year's bail-out ; from Longman thanks especially to John Chapple and subsequently Tim Rix, the latter setting up a generous Longman Fellowship that funded post-docs from the third world so they could use the Survey materials in the production of English teaching materials back home.
Among the researchers thus funded, several were key to the day-to-day development of the project. These have been recorded in annual reports and in prefaces to Survey publications full lists available from UCL , but one or two should be recalled here.
Jan Rusiecki and later Robert Ilson took prime responsibility for what we called the "Work-book", specifying the criteria for every single linguistic and taxonomic decision as the corpus was analysed.
David Crystal became the lead partner in devising the scheme by which the multiple systems of prosodic and paralinguistic features of speech were recognised, categorised, and transcribed by experts such as Janet Whitcut. Jan Svartvik and Henry Carvell led the way in computational analyses, with many nocturnal hours on off-peak access to the vast Atlas machine in Gordon Square. Geoffrey Leech's leadership was crucial in shaping A Grammar of Contemporary English Longman , as also its successor of - another of the many works in which I have indulged my enjoyment of collaborative writing.
Sidney Greenbaum and Ruth Kempson devoted a good deal of time and ingenuity to psycholinguistic techniques of elicitation e. Elicitation Experiments in English , Longman ; Language All this has been acknowledged before and is, so to say, in the public domain. Less well known has been my dependence for day-to-day spade work on a host of devoted volunteers led by Rene Quinault ex-BBC and comprising such loyal friends as Oonagh Sayce, Grace Stewart wife of the University Principal , Jocelyn Goodman, Audrey Morris, and many many others.
It was in no small part through their efforts that the Survey rapidly became and increasingly continues to be a valued resource for researchers from near e.
Frank Palmer or far e. Yoshihiko Ikegami , and the list of Survey-dependant publications grows more impressive by the year. And of course the Survey has drawn on scholarship far beyond modern Bloomsbury in time and space. From continental giants of the past such as Jespersen and Kruisinga. From more recent continental giants in the Prague School of Mathesius, Trnka and Vachek -- even to some extent from the Danish glossematics of Hjelmslev.
Most obviously perhaps from Bloomfieldian structuralism whether of Fries's brand or Pike's or Trager's or Hockett's, and from a succession of generative theories articulated by Chomsky et al. The nice thing about eclecticism is, as its etymology proclaims, that you can choose freely and widely what you need for a particular purpose, without boxing yourself into any single and doubtless inevitably flawed theoretical position.
It's a matter of taste and personal intellectual bent, I suppose, but I have always found it liberating to be unconstrained by the very idea of an orthodoxy. In this, nothing would please me better than to be compared with a linguist friend I have particularly admired, Dwight Bolinger. The Survey took up the bulk of my time in the sixties and seventies, but in addition I worked for the British Council, not only on committees but on report-writing after inspection and lecture visits to Russia, China, Korea, Japan, and a swathe of Commonwealth countries such as India, Ghana, and Nigeria.
In the only spell of sabbatical leave I ever had , I took in Iraq and had a memorable few months in New Zealand. And I like to think I revolutionised linguistics at UCL by getting money together thanks again to Tim Rix and Longman and doing a spot of energetic head-hunting in Edinburgh.
In due course, this section moved out of English and ultimately joined Phonetics to become the Department of Phonetics and Linguistics.
Oh yes, and there's another thing worth mentioning among the myriad of odds and ends I busied myself with during these years: I helped Tim Rix launch Longman into producing dictionaries -- well, re- launch, really, since the Longman family were already on Johnson's title-page in I was drawn outside academia on a couple of occasions to do jobs for Whitehall, for example to serve on a committee on school examinations the Lockwood Report was published by HMSO in , and once to chair a committee of inquiry into the speech therapy services, producing a report in also HMSO which I'm delighted to say totally revolutionised the profession, not least by making it an all-graduate career.
But I wish I had done more, especially in relation to the teaching of English in schools. This was sharply brought home to me, oddly enough, when I was appointed Vice-Chancellor of London University another job, like my very first, that I didn't apply for and was in this instance very reluctant to accept. It was draconian, but in one of my chilly confrontations in the Senate House with the then Secretary of State, Sir Keith Joseph, he told me bluntly that if his department had the kind of money I was seeking, he wouldn't give it to me but to where it was infinitely more badly needed.
Well, the following week he took me to one for a couple of hours, and the scales fell from my eyes.
A University Grammar Of English
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He sat as a crossbencher in the House of Lords. His studies began in but were interrupted in by five years of service in Bomber Command of the RAF ,  where he rose to the rank of squadron leader. Quirk became so deeply interested in explosives that he started an external degree in chemistry,  but his English undergraduate studies were completed from to 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 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. Gimson and J.
A University Grammar of English By Randolph Quirk & Sidney Greenbaum