Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Introducing The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary
Historical Thesaurus Week

Welcome to Historical Thesaurus Week on the OUPblog! Every day this week we will be looking at the first historical thesaurus to be written for any of the world’s languages, the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. Conceived and complied by the English Language Department of the University of Glasgow, and based on the Oxford English Dictionary, it is the result of over 40 years of scholarly labor. To kickoff our celebration I have posted the timeline of the HTOED below, it is a good way to understand what a true labor of love this project has been.  Be sure to check back all week to learn more about the HTOED.

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 OED).

1969 When the scale of the project became apparent, a successful application for funding led 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 subsequently microfilmed and copies 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 entered into electronic databases developed in London.

1981 Talks with Oxford University Press on publishing the project.

During the 1980s  the UK government sponsors programme 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.
1995 The Old English material published in the Thesaurus of Old English by Roberts and Kay. Material from this publication entered into the Historical Thesaurus in simplified form.

Programme of updating the early sections of classification in progress.

Material from the Second Edition plus the Additions Series continues to be cross-checked with the original First Edition material.

2008 The last entries in the Historical Thesaurus completed.
2009 Publication of the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary

Read More in…

Recent Comments

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BelgradeSummerSchool, Art Topic. Art Topic said: Art #Art: Introducing The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English DictionaryHistorical Thesaurus Week… http://bit.ly/2Lr6ib [...]

  2. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by art_topic: Art #Art: Introducing The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English DictionaryHistorical Thesaurus Week… http://bit.ly/2Lr6ib

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *