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The Historical Thesaurus of English

The Historical Thesaurus of English

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Funded by:  AHRC

Main contact:  Dr Marc Alexander

Start date:  1964

Subject area:
English Language - School of Critical Studies, College of Arts

The Historical Thesaurus of English, published in 2009 and produced by a team at the University of Glasgow over 44 years, has been described as “perhaps the single most significant tool ever devised for investigating semantic, social, and intellectual history” (Randolph Quirk). Consisting of over 797,000 words and 236,000 conceptual categories, the Thesaurus is unique, both in its coverage and in its systematicity; it consists of the recorded vocabulary of English virtually in its entirety from c.700 AD to the present, arranged into a comprehensive semantic framework.

This framework, hierarchical in nature, therefore allows a reader to understand not only which words were available in order to discuss any particular concept in the history of English, but also the range and variety of words which were available at any given point. The framework itself also provides a comprehensive survey of all the things, concepts, and ideas which have been recorded in the last millennium of English.