David Crystal

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David Crystal
David Crystal.jpg
Crystal in 2004
Born (1941-07-06) 6 July 1941 (age 73)
Lisburn, Northern Ireland, UK
Nationality British
Fields Linguistics
Alma mater University College London

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

Background and career[edit]

Crystal was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. He grew up in Holyhead, North Wales, and Liverpool, England, where he attended St Mary's College from 1951.

Crystal studied English at University College London between 1959 and 1962. He was a researcher under Randolph Quirk between 1962 and 1963, working on the Survey of English Usage. Since then he has lectured at Bangor University and the University of Reading. He is an honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor. 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),[1] style, English genre, Shakespeare, indexing, and lexicography. He is the Patron of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) and honorary vice-president of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). He has also served as an editor for Cambridge University Press.

David Crystal lives in Holyhead with his wife. He has four grown-up children. His son Ben Crystal is also an author and co-authored two books with his father. Retired from full-time academia, he works as a writer, editor and consultant. Crystal was awarded the OBE in 1995 and became a Fellow of the British Academy in 2000.[2][3] He is also a Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists.


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). He has also edited literary works, and is Patron of the UK National Literacy Association. He has also 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.[4]

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). 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". He is a proponent of a new field of study, Internet linguistics.

His non-linguistic writing includes poems, plays and biography. A Roman Catholic by conviction,[5] he has also written devotional poetry and articles.

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. 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, and continues to act as a consultant for Ad Pepper.[6]

Crystal was influential in a campaign to save Holyhead's convent from demolition, leading to the creation of the Ucheldre Centre. Crystal continues to write as well as contribute to television and radio broadcasts. His association with the BBC ranges from, formerly, a BBC Radio 4 series on language issues to, currently, podcasts on the BBC World Service website for people learning English.[2]

His book Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 (published in 2008) focused on text language and its impact on society.[7] 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. His book Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling (2013) explains why some English words are difficult to spell.

Furthermore David Crystal was a co-founder of Crystal Semantics Limited. He is the inventor of the patented classification scheme which forms the basis of the Crystal Semantics technology upon which certain products for the online advertising sector have been developed. These include semantic targeting technology (marketed as iSense by ad pepper media) and brand protection technology (marketed as SiteScreen by Emediate ApS).

Involvement in Shakespeare productions[edit]

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. He coached the actors on the appropriate pronunciation for the period.[8][9]


  1. ^ David Crystal, "Carrolludicity"
  2. ^ a b "Biography". Crystal Reference. 2005. Retrieved 2007-10-15. 
  3. ^ Hazel Bell (1 October 1999). "David Crystal". Journal of Scholarly Publishing. Retrieved 2007-10-15. 
  4. ^ "David Crystal: Books in chronological order". Crystal Reference. 2005. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008. 
  5. ^ Gr8 db8r takes on linguistic luddites, The Guardian.
  6. ^ "Crystal Semantics: About Us". Retrieved 2007-10-15. 
  7. ^ The Times Review, Txtng: The Gr8 Db8
  8. ^ Robert Siegel, "Shakespeare's Tongue, Heard at the Globe", All Things Considered (NPR), 19 July 2005. Retrieved 2013-09-13.
  9. ^ The Open University, "Shakespeare: Original Pronunciation" on YouTube, 17 October 2011. Retrieved 2013-09-13.

External links[edit]