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An Evening with Professor David Crystal

Two of our students have written a review of the evening with Professor Crystal...

On Tuesday 11th October, Professor David Crystal, a pioneer of modern linguistics, visited Stratford Girls’ Grammar School to deliver lectures to an audience largely made up of students and parents from schools all over South-Warwickshire, on the subjects of English Literature and English Language.

The first lecture entitled Language BLANK Literature was a discussion on the topic of the divide between Literature and Language in many forms of higher education.  Professor Crystal argued eloquently that the subjects are too interconnected to be taught separately; using many examples, including an extract from the Harold Pinter play The Birthday Party, and the Henry Reed poem The Naming of Parts, to demonstrate how an intricate knowledge of English Language can be complimentary in the composition of English Literature.  This is because, in order to create interesting literature “you must break the rules of language” and to do this, a developed knowledge of the language is required.  Professor Crystal's use of well-known examples, as well as his entertaining manner, made the lecture enjoyable and accessible to all.

His second lecture was directly tailored to our location in Stratford upon Avon and explored The Tongue That Shakespeare Spoke.  Here, Professor Crystal recounted his work of the last 10 years with the Globe Theatre and their endeavours into the use of original pronunciation when performing Shakespeare.  He described the effect of this on the audience, as opposed to the 'received pronunciation' we have become accustomed to hearing from the world of theatre.  He gave an example of students in London who said that productions of Shakespeare in ‘original pronunciation' are more relatable as the accent is more familiar to them.  He then explained how they discovered original pronunciation through carefully examining rhymes and puns within Shakespeare's plays and sonnets, as well as by reading publications from the time containing information about the correlation between pronunciation and spelling.

It was an enlightening and thought-provoking experience that challenged the audience's preconceptions of how English should be taught and how Shakespeare should be performed.  Both parts of the evening were thoroughly entertaining and were enjoyed by all.


Professor David Crystal read English at University College London (1959-62), specialised in English language studies, did some research there at the Survey of English Usage under Randolph Quirk (1962-3), then joined academic life as a lecturer in linguistics, first at Bangor, then at Reading. He published the first of his 100 or so books in 1964, and became known chiefly for his research work in English language studies, in such fields as intonation and stylistics, and in the application of linguistics to religious, educational and clinical contexts, notably in the development of a range of linguistic profiling techniques for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. He held a chair at the University of Reading for 10 years, and is now Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor.

David Crystal has been a consultant, contributor, or presenter on several radio and television programmes and series. He is currently patron of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) and the Association for Language Learning (ALL), president of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and the UK National Literacy Association, and an honorary vice-president of the Institute of Linguists and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. He is a past honorary president of the National Association for Professionals concerned with Language-Impaired Children, the International Association of Forensic Phonetics, and the Society of Indexers. He was Sam Wanamaker Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2003-4 and honorary president of the Johnson Society for 2005-6. He has also been a member of the Board of the British Council and of the English-Speaking Union. He received an OBE for services to the English language in 1995, and was made a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA) in 2000. He now lives in Holyhead, where he is the director of the Ucheldre Centre, a multi-purpose arts and exhibition centre. He is married with four children.