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Life and career
Quirk was born at Lambfell, where his family farmed, in Michael on the Isle of Man, the son of Thomas and Amy Randolph Quirk. He attended Douglas High School for Boys on the Isle of Man and then went to University College London to read English, the department relocated in Aberystwyth due to the war, under A. H. Smith. His studies began in 1939 but were interrupted in 1940 by five years of service in the RAF, in Bomber Command, where he rose to the rank of squadron leader. He became so deeply interested in explosives that he started an external degree in chemistry, but his English undergraduate studies were completed from 1945 to 1947, the department by now again in Bloomsbury, at which point he was invited to take up a research fellowship in Cambridge, but took up a counter-offer of a junior lectureship at UCL, which he held until 1952. In this period he completed his MA on phonology and his PhD thesis on syntax and in 1951 became a post-doctoral Commonwealth Fund fellow at Yale and Michigan. Shortly after his return from the US in 1952, he moved to the University of Durham, becoming reader there in 1954, and professor in 1958. He returned to UCL as professor in 1960 and in 1968 succeeded Smith as Quain Professor, a post he held until 1981.
Quirk lectured and taught seminars at University College, London, in Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and in History of the English Language. 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. He also worked closely with A.C. Gimson and J.D. O'Connor of the Phonetics Department, sitting in as an examiner for Phonetics oral examinations on occasion.
Survey of English Usage
In 1959, Quirk founded the Survey of English Usage. This ambitious project, early co-workers on which included Valerie Adams, Derek Davy and David Crystal, samples written and spoken British English produced between 1955 and 1985. The corpus comprises 200 texts, each of 5,000 words. The spoken texts include dialogue and monologue, and the written texts material intended for both reading and reading aloud. The project was to be the foundation of A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, a widely used reference grammar and the first of English in real use rather than being structured by rules derived from Greek and Latin models. Quirk and his collaborators proposed a descriptive rather than prescriptive grammar, showing readers that different groups of English speakers choose different usages, and argued that what is correct is what communicates effectively.
Summer School of English
One of Quirk's favourite enterprises was the London University Summer School of English, where the above-mentioned colleagues and other budding leading scholars and friends of his came to teach for a month. It was considered the most eminent body of English teachers anywhere in the world. The resident students were foreign academics, teachers, and students. He threw himself into the social life with gusto and enjoyed singing Victorian ballads over a "couple of pints" with a Cockney accent. When the School moved away from Queen Elizabeth College to New Cross, numbers fell rapidly. The next and last successful Director was the phonetician J D O'Connor.
Quirk has been an open Labour supporter all his life. He was president of the British Academy from 1985 to 1989 and became a life peer as Baron Quirk, of Bloomsbury in the London Borough of Camden in 1994.
He currently resides in Germany and England, with his wife, German linguist Gabriele Stein.
- Quirk, Randolph; Wrenn, Charles Leslie (1957). An Old English Grammar. Taylor & Francis. Pp. 166. ISBN 0-416-77240-4.
- Quirk, Randolph; Greenbaum, Sidney; Leech, Geoffrey; Svartvik, Jan (1985). A comprehensive grammar of the English language. Harlow: Longman. Pp. 1779. ISBN 0-582-51734-6.
- Quirk, Randolph (1986). Words at work: lectures on textual structure. NUS Press. Pp. 137. ISBN 9971-69-102-7.
- Greenbaum, Sidney; Quirk, Randolph (1990). A Student's Grammar of the English Language. Addison Wesley Publishing Company. Pp. 496. ISBN 0-582-05971-2.
- Safire, William (April 24, 1982). "More important? Or Importantly?". Miami News. p. 15A. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
- "Interview, 2001". Retrieved 8 August 2013.
- "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". bath.ac.uk. University of Bath. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
- "Bas Aarts". Archived from the original on 2013-08-09. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- "Survey of English Usage". Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics biographical abstract
- Photograph, 1970, with Greenbaum, Svartvik and Leech
- Photograph, 1983: Svartvik, Crystal, Greenbaum, Leech and Quirk
- A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language ebook
- Randolph Quirk on NHK, 1989, part 1
- Randolph Quirk on NHK, 1989, part 2
- Archive of contributions to the London Review of Books
- LRB review, 1992
- Independent article, 1993
- Obituary Sidney Greenbaum, 1996
- Introduction to Longman Guide to English Usage, 1996
- Interview, 2001
- Parliamentary record
- Facebook page
- Misstylings of 'The Lord Quirk', 2004
- Debrett's entry
|Vice-Chancellor of University of London
1981 – 1985