David Crystal

David Crystal, OBE, FBA, FLSW, FCIL (born 6 July 1941) is a British linguist, academic and author.

David Crystal

David Crystal 2017
Crystal in 2017
Born6 July 1941 (age 77)
Lisburn, Northern Ireland, UK
Alma materUniversity College London
Scientific career


Crystal was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, on 6 July 1941 after his mother had been evacuated there during The Blitz. Before he reached the age of one, his parents separated. He remained estranged from and ignorant of his father (Dr. Samuel Crystal) for most of his childhood, but later learnt (through work contacts and a half-brother) of his father's life and career in London, and of his half-Jewish heritage. He grew up with his mother in Holyhead, North Wales, and Liverpool, England, where he attended St Mary's College from 1951.[1] Crystal is a practising Roman Catholic.[2]

He currently lives in Holyhead with his wife, a former speech therapist and now children's author. He has four grown-up children. His son Ben Crystal is also an author, and has co-authored three books with his father.[3]


Crystal studied English at University College London between 1959 and 1962,[1] and was a researcher under Randolph Quirk between 1962 and 1963, working on the Survey of English Usage.[1][4] Since then he has lectured at Bangor University and the University of Reading and is an honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor.[5] Retired from full-time academia, he works as a writer, editor and consultant, and contributes to television and radio broadcasts. His association with the BBC ranges from, formerly, a BBC Radio 4 series on language issues to, more recently, podcasts on the BBC World Service website for people learning English.[6]

Crystal was awarded the OBE in 1995 and became a Fellow of the British Academy in 2000.[6][7] He is also a Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. His many academic interests include English language learning and teaching, clinical linguistics, forensic linguistics, language death, "ludic linguistics" (Crystal's neologism for the study of language play),[8] style, English genre, Shakespeare, indexing, and lexicography. He is the Patron of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL, honorary vice-president of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), and Patron of the UK National Literacy Association.[9] He is a consultant for Babel - The Language Magazine, for which he has also written articles.[10]


Crystal has authored, co-authored, and edited over 120 books on a wide variety of subjects, specialising among other things in editing reference works, including (as author) the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (1987, 1997, 2010) and the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (1995, 2003), and (as editor) the Cambridge Biographical Dictionary, the Cambridge Factfinder, the Cambridge Encyclopedia, and the New Penguin Encyclopedia (2003).[1] He has also written plays and poetry.[11] He has published several books for the general reader about linguistics and the English language, which use varied graphics and short essays to communicate technical material in an accessible manner.[12] In his article "What is Standard English", Crystal hypothesises that, globally, English will both split and converge, with local variants becoming less mutually comprehensible and therefore necessitating the rise of what he terms World Standard Spoken English (see also International English).[13] In his 2004 book The Stories of English, a general history of the English language, he describes the value he sees in linguistic diversity and the according of respect to varieties of English generally considered "non-standard".[14] In 2009 Routledge published his autobiographical memoir Just a Phrase I'm Going Through: My Life in Language, which was released simultaneously with a DVD of three of his lectures.[15] His book Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling (2013) explains why some English words are difficult to spell.[16] His companion book, Making a Point: The Pernickety Story of English Punctuation came out in 2015 from Profile Books (UK) and St. Martin's Press (USA).

Crystal is a proponent of a new field of study, Internet linguistics, and has published Language and the Internet (2001) on the subject.[17] Crystal's book Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 (2008) focused on text language and its impact on society.[18][19]

From 2001 to 2006, Crystal served as the Chairman of Crystal Reference Systems Limited, a provider of reference content and Internet search and advertising technology. The company's iSense and Sitescreen products are based upon the patented Global Data Model, a complex semantic network that Crystal devised in the early 1980s and was adapted for use on the Internet in the mid 1990s. These include semantic targeting technology (marketed as iSense by ad pepper media) and brand protection technology (marketed as SiteScreen by Emediate ApS).[20] The iSense technology is the subject of patents in the United Kingdom and the United States. After the company's acquisition by Ad Pepper Media N.V., he remained on the board as its R&D director until 2009.[21]

Crystal was influential in a campaign to save Holyhead's convent from demolition, leading to the creation of the Ucheldre Centre.[22]

Involvement in Shakespeare productions

As an expert on the evolution of the English language, he was involved in the production of Shakespeare at Shakespeare's Globe in 2004 and 2005 in the "Original Pronunciation" of the period in which he was writing, coaching the actors on the appropriate pronunciation for the period, and has since been the consultant for several other Shakespeare plays performed in OP, including A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Macbeth, Pericles, The Merchant of Venice, and Henry V.[23][24]



  • Crystal, David (1995). The Cambridge encyclopedia of the English language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Crystal, David (2002). "Language Death." Cambridge University Press.
  • Crystal, David and Crystal, Ben (2004). Shakespeare's Words: A Glossary and Language Companion. Penguin.
  • Crystal, David (2004). The Stories of English. The Overlook Press.
  • Crystal, David (2005). Pronouncing Shakespeare: The Globe Experiment. Cambridge University Press.
  • Crystal, David (2006). The Fight for English. Oxford University Press.
  • Crystal, David (2007). By Hook or By Crook; A Journey in Search of English. The Overlook Press.
  • Crystal, David (2010). A Little Book of Language. Yale University Press.
  • Crystal, David (2012). Think on my Words: Exploring Shakespeare's Language. Cambridge University Press.
  • Crystal, David (2012). Spell It Out. St.Martin's Press.
  • Crystal, David (2016). The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation. Oxford University Press.
  • Crystal, David (2017). Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar. Profile Books.

Critical studies and reviews

  • Morrisby, Edwin (Oct 1995). "A gallimaufry of Englishes". Books. Quadrant. 39 (10): 84–86. Review of The Cambridge encyclopedia of the English language.


  1. ^ a b c d "All About...The Author". Cambridge University Press. Archived from the original on 19 March 2006. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  2. ^ Crace, John (15 September 2008). "Interview: John Crace meets language guru David Crystal". The Guardian.
  3. ^ Lo Dico, Joy (14 March 2010). "Watch what you're saying!: Linguist David Crystal on Twitter, texting and our native tongue". The Independent. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  4. ^ "Staff Profile of Professor David Crystal". Prifysgol Bangor University. Archived from the original on 17 November 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  5. ^ "David Crystal profile". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Biography". Crystal Reference. 2005. Archived from the original on 26 October 2007. Retrieved 15 October 2007.
  7. ^ Hazel Bell (1 October 1999). "David Crystal". Journal of Scholarly Publishing. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 15 October 2007.
  8. ^ David Crystal, "Carrolludicity" Archived 27 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Marks, Paul (25 June 2010). "Innovation: Smarter books aim to win back the kids". new Scientist. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  10. ^ "Babel The Language Magazine". babelzine.com. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  11. ^ "David Crystal Books & Articles". www.davidcrystal.com. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  12. ^ "David Crystal: Books in chronological order". Crystal Reference. 2005. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008.
  13. ^ "What Is Standard English". davidcrystal.com. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  14. ^ Crystal, David (2004). The Stories of English. Penguin Books. ISBN 0 713 99752 4.
  15. ^ Balik, Rachel (29 September 2009). "Just A Phrase I'm Going Through : My Life in Language David Crystal review". PopMatters. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  16. ^ Leith, Sam (14 September 2012). "Spell It Out by David Crystal – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  17. ^ Crystal, David (25 January 2001). "Weaving a Web of linguistic diversity". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  18. ^ The Times Review, Txtng: The Gr8 Db8
  19. ^ Gr8 db8r takes on linguistic luddites, The Guardian.
  20. ^ "Executive Profile David Crystal O.B.E". Bloomberg Business. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  21. ^ "Crystal Semantics: About Us". Retrieved 2007-10-15.
  22. ^ "The Ucheldre Story". www.ucheldre.org. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  23. ^ Robert Siegel, "Shakespeare's Tongue, Heard at the Globe", All Things Considered (NPR), 19 July 2005. Retrieved 2013-09-13.
  24. ^ The Open University, "Shakespeare: Original Pronunciation" on YouTube, 17 October 2011. Retrieved 2013-09-13.

External links

Babel (magazine)

Babel is a quarterly magazine about languages and linguistics. Its aim is to make linguistics and linguistic research accessible to a wider audience. The magazine is available in digital format and in print and offers individual and institutional subscriptions with international shipping. Its first issue appeared in November 2012.

Babel is based and produced at the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages at the University of Huddersfield, by an editorial team headed by Professors Lesley Jeffries and Dan MacIntyre. British linguist David Crystal serves as linguistic consultant. The magazine was endorsed by comedian Stephen Fry


A blurb is a short promotional piece accompanying a piece of creative work. It may be written by the author or publisher or quote praise from others. Blurbs were originally printed on the back or rear dust-jacket of a book, and are now found on home video cases, web portals, and news websites. A blurb may introduce a newspaper or magazine feature story.


Bricklehampton is a village in Worcestershire, England. The 14-letter town name is perhaps the longest isogrammic one-word place name in the English-speaking world (i.e. the longest that does not repeat any letter), according to linguist David Crystal.

Cardinal number (linguistics)

In linguistics, more precisely in traditional grammar, a cardinal number or cardinal numeral (or just cardinal) is a part of speech used to count, such as the English words one, two, three, but also compounds, e.g. three hundred and forty-two (Commonwealth English) or three hundred forty-two (American English). Cardinal numbers are classified as definite numerals and are related to ordinal numbers, such as first, second, third, etc.


"Chav" ( CHAV) ("charver" in parts of Northern England) is a pejorative epithet used in the United Kingdom to describe a particular stereotype of anti-social youth dressed in sportswear. The word was popularised in the 2000s by the British mass media to refer to an anti-social youth subculture in the UK. The Oxford English Dictionary defines "chav" as an informal British derogatory, meaning "a young lower-class person who displays brash and loutish behaviour and wears real or imitation designer clothes". The derivative chavette has been used to refer to females, and the adjectives chavvy, chavvish and chavtastic have been used in relation to items designed for or suitable for use by chavs.

Eng (letter)

Eng or engma (capital: Ŋ, lowercase: ŋ) is a letter of the Latin alphabet, used to represent a velar nasal (as in English singing) in the written form of some languages and in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

English-speaking world

Approximately 330 to 360 million people speak English as their first language.

With 258 million native speakers, the United States comprises the majority of the global total. As pictured in the pie graph below, most native speakers of English are Americans.

Additionally, there are 60 million native English speakers in the United Kingdom, 19 million in Canada, 25.1 million in Australia, 4.7 million in Ireland, and 4.9 million in New Zealand. Other countries also use English as their primary and official languages.

In the European Union, English is one of 24 official languages and is widely used by institutions and majority of population as native (United Kingdom and Ireland) and as a second language in other member states.

English is the third largest language by number of native speakers, after Mandarin and Spanish.Estimates that include second language speakers vary greatly, from 470 million to more than 1 billion. David Crystal calculates that, as of 2003, non-native speakers outnumbered native speakers by a ratio of 3 to 1. When combining native and non-native speakers, English is the most widely spoken language worldwide.

Besides the major varieties of English, such as British English, American English, Canadian English, Australian English, Irish English, New Zealand English and their sub-varieties, countries such as South Africa, India, the Philippines, Jamaica and Nigeria also have millions of native speakers of dialect continua ranging from English-based creole languages to Standard English.

India now claims to be the world's second-largest English-speaking country. The most reliable estimate is around 10% of its population or 125 million people, second only to the US and expected to quadruple in the next decade.

English personal pronouns

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.

Internet linguistics

Internet linguistics is a domain of linguistics advocated by the English linguist David Crystal. It studies new language styles and forms that have arisen under the influence of the Internet and of other new media, such as Short Message Service (SMS) text messaging. Since the beginning of human-computer interaction (HCI) leading to computer-mediated communication (CMC) and Internet-mediated communication (IMC), experts have acknowledged that linguistics has a contributing role in it, in terms of web interface and usability. Studying the emerging language on the Internet can help improve conceptual organization, translation and web usability. Such study aims to benefit both linguists and web users.The study of Internet linguistics can take place through four main perspectives: sociolinguistics, education, stylistics and applied linguistics. Further dimensions have developed as a result of further technological advances - which include the development of the Web as corpus and the spread and influence of the stylistic variations brought forth by the spread of the Internet, through the mass media and through literary works. In view of the increasing number of users connected to the Internet, the linguistics future of the Internet remains to be determined, as new computer-mediated technologies continue to emerge and people adapt their languages to suit these new media. The Internet continues to play a significant role both in encouraging as well as in diverting attention away from the usage of languages.

Intonation (linguistics)

In linguistics, intonation is variation in spoken pitch when used, not for distinguishing words as sememes (a concept known as tone), but, rather, for a range of other functions such as indicating the attitudes and emotions of the speaker, signalling the difference between statements and questions, and between different types of questions, focusing attention on important elements of the spoken message and also helping to regulate conversational interaction. (The term tone is used by some British writers in their descriptions of intonation but to refer to the pitch movement found on the nucleus or tonic syllable in an intonation unit.)

Although intonation is primarily a matter of pitch variation, it is important to be aware that functions attributed to intonation such as the expression of attitudes and emotions, or highlighting aspects of grammatical structure, almost always involve concomitant variation in other prosodic features. David Crystal for example says that "intonation is not a single system of contours and levels, but the product of the interaction of features from different prosodic systems – tone, pitch-range, loudness, rhythmicality and tempo in particular."

Journal of Child Language

The Journal of Child Language is a peer-reviewed academic journal covering all aspects of the scientific study of language behavior in children, the principles which underlie it, and the theories which may account for it. This includes various aspects of linguistics such as phonology, phonetics, morphology, syntax, vocabulary, semantics, pragmatics, and sociolinguistics. Its editor-in-chief is Heike Behrens (University of Basel). It was established in 1974 with David Crystal (Bangor University) as its founding editor. The journal is published by Cambridge University Press and is the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Child Language.

Linguistic purism in English

Linguistic purism in the English language is the belief that words of native origin should be used instead of foreign-derived ones (which are mainly Latinate and Greek). "Native" can mean "Anglo-Saxon" or it can be widened to include all Germanic words. In its mildest form, it merely means using existing native words instead of foreign-derived ones (such as using begin instead of commence). In a less mild form, it also involves coining new words from Germanic roots (such as wordstock for vocabulary). In a more extreme form, it also involves reviving native words which are no longer widely used (such as ettle for intend). The resulting language is sometimes called Anglish (coined by the author and humorist Paul Jennings), or Roots English (referring to the idea that it is a "return to the roots" of English). The mild form is often advocated as part of Plain English, but the more extreme form has been and is still a fringe movement; the latter can also be undertaken as a form of constrained writing.

English linguistic purism is discussed by David Crystal in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. The idea dates at least to the inkhorn term controversy of the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 19th century, writers such as Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and William Barnes advocated linguistic purism and tried to introduce words like birdlore for ornithology and bendsome for flexible. A notable supporter in the 20th century was George Orwell, who advocated what he saw as plain Saxon words over complex Latin or Greek ones, and the idea continues to have advocates today.

Nonce word

A nonce word (also called an occasionalism) is a lexeme created for a single occasion to solve an immediate problem of communication.Some nonce words may acquire a fixed meaning inferred from context and use, possibly even becoming an established part of the language, at which point they stop being nonce words, while others are essentially meaningless and disposable and are useful for exactly that reason. For instance in child language testing, examples of such words include "wug" and "blicket".


Phonaesthetics (also spelled phonesthetics in North America) is the study of beauty and pleasantness associated with the sounds of certain words or parts of words. The term was first used, perhaps by J. R. R. Tolkien in this sense, during the mid-twentieth century, deriving from the Greek: φωνή phōnē, "voice-sound" plus Greek: αἰσθητική aisthētikē, "aesthetic". Speech sounds have many aesthetic qualities, some of which are subjectively regarded as euphonious (pleasing) or cacophonous (displeasing).

More broadly, phonaesthetics refers to the study of "phonaesthesia": sound symbolism. For instance, the British linguist David Crystal, who has compiled research on popular perceptions of beautiful-sounding English words, regards phonaesthetics as the "study of aesthetic properties of sounds, especially the sound symbolism attributable to individual sounds". An example is that English speakers tend to make an association of unpleasantness with the sound sl- in such words as sleazy, slime, slug, and slush, or an association of formless repetition with -tter in such words as chatter, glitter, flutter, and shatter. Phonaesthetics remains a budding and often subjective field of study, with no formally established definition; today, it mostly exists as a marginal branch of psychology, phonetics, or poetics.

SMS language

SMS language, textspeak or texting language is the abbreviated language and slang commonly used with mobile phone text messaging, or other Internet-based communication such as email and instant messaging.

Features of early mobile phone messaging encouraged users to use abbreviations. Text entry was difficult, requiring multiple key presses on a small keypad to generate each letter, and messages were generally limited to 160 characters. Additionally, SMS language made text messages quicker to compose.

Once it became popular it was often used outside of texting, such as to write formal emails or letters.


In English phonology, t-glottalization or t-glottaling is a sound change in certain English dialects and accents that causes the phoneme to be pronounced as the glottal stop [ʔ] (listen) in certain positions. It is never universal, especially in careful speech, and it most often alternates with other allophones of /t/ such as [t] , [tʰ], [tⁿ] (before a nasal), [tˡ] (before a lateral), or [ɾ].

As a sound change, it is a subtype of debuccalization. The pronunciation that it results in is called glottalization. Apparently, glottal reinforcement, which is quite common in English, is a stage preceding full replacement of the stop, and indeed, reinforcement and replacement can be in free variation.

The earliest mentions of the process are in Scotland during the 19th century, when Henry Sweet commented on the phenomenon. Peter Trudgill has argued that it began in Norfolk, based on studies of rural dialects of those born in the 1870s. The SED fieldworker Peter Wright found it in areas of Lancashire and said, "It is considered a lazy habit, but may have been in some dialects for hundreds of years." David Crystal claims that the sound can be heard in Received Pronunciation (RP) speakers from the early 20th century such as Daniel Jones, Bertrand Russell and Ellen Terry. The Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary claims that t-glottalization is now most common in London, Leeds, Edinburgh, and Glasgow.Uniquely for English in the West Indies, Barbadian English uses a glottal allophone for /t/, and also less frequently for /k/ and /p/.

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