Famous British Linguists

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Find out more about the greatest British Linguists, including Percy Bysshe Shelley, Susie Dent, Enoch Powell, Max Müller and Harriet Martineau.
Vote for Your Favourite British Linguists
 1 
Katharine Gun
(British Linguist and Whistle-blower )
Katharine Gun
8
Birthdate: 1974 AD
Birthplace: Taiwan, Taiwan
 2 
Mary Somerville
(Mathematician, Linguist, Translator, Astronomer, Scientist)
Mary Somerville
6
Birthdate: December 26, 1780
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Jedburgh
Died: November 28, 1872

One of the two pioneering female honorary members of the Royal Astronomical Society, Mary Somerville was a 19th-century polymath and science writer. Though she specialized in math and astronomy, she was also well-versed in botany and geology. The Connection of the Physical Sciences remains her most notable work.

 3 
J. L. Austin
(Philosopher of Language Best Known for Developing the 'Theory of Speech Acts')
J. L. Austin
4
Birthdate: March 26, 1911
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lancaster, England
Died: February 8, 1960

Philosopher J. L. Austin is remembered for his study on ordinary-language philosophy and is also considered a pioneer of the theory of speech acts. His lectures at Harvard were later collected in How to Do Things with Words. He died of cancer while developing a theory on sound symbolism.

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 4 
Michael Halliday
(Linguist who developed the internationally influential systemic functional linguistics (SFL) model of language)
Michael Halliday
4
Birthdate: April 13, 1925
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Leeds, England
Died: April 15, 2018

British linguist Michael Halliday is best remembered for his neo-Firthian theory of language. Born to a dialectologist father and an English teacher mother, Halliday naturally developed a love for languages. An expert in Chinese language, he has conducted research on child language development and the theory of grammar.

 5 
Enoch Powell
(Former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care of the United Kingdom)
Enoch Powell
17
Birthdate: June 16, 1912
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Birmingham
Died: February 8, 1998

Enoch Powell was a British politician, linguist, classical scholar, philologist, and poet. Also a soldier, Powell served in World War II, reaching the rank of brigadier. His political career is remembered for his iconic and infamous Rivers of Blood speech, which was interpreted as a demonstration of racism. The speech became the subject of a play titled What Shadows.

 6 
William Jones
(British Philologist and Jurist Known for His Research on Oriental Languages)
William Jones
3
Birthdate: September 28, 1746
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, England
Died: April 27, 1794
 7 
Paul Grice
(British Philosopher of Language)
Paul Grice
0
Birthdate: March 13, 1913
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Birmingham, England
Died: August 28, 1988
 8 
John Florio
(English Poet, Linguist, Writer, Lexicographer, and Translator)
John Florio
3
Birthdate: 1553 AD
Birthplace: London, England
Died: 1625 AD
 9 
Henry Sweet
(English Phonetician, Philologist, and Grammarian)
Henry Sweet
1
Birthdate: September 15, 1845
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: London, United Kingdom
Died: April 30, 1912
 10 
John Rupert Firth
(British Linguist)
John Rupert Firth
3
Birthdate: June 17, 1890
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Keighley, England
Died: December 14, 1960
 11 
Arthur Waley
(English Sinologist and Orientalist)
Arthur Waley
3
Birthdate: August 19, 1889
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England
Died: June 27, 1966
Guillermo Cabrera Infante
3
Birthdate: April 22, 1929
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Gibara, Cuba
Died: February 21, 2005

Guillermo Cabrera Infante was a Cuban novelist, essayist, translator, and screenwriter. He initially planned to become a doctor but ditched his plans to become a writer instead. He had a successful career and eventually became the editor of the magazine Carteles and director of the Instituto del Cine. He received the Premio Cervantes in 1997. 

 13 
Joseph Wright
(English Philologist and Academic)
Joseph Wright
1
Birthdate: October 31, 1855
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
Died: February 27, 1930
 14 
Charles Kay Ogden
(English Linguist, Author, and Philosopher Who Developed English as a Mode of International Communication)
Charles Kay Ogden
2
Birthdate: June 1, 1889
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Fleetwood, England
Died: March 20, 1957
 15 
Elizabeth Carter
(English Poet, Translator, and Linguist Who Was Part of the Bluestocking Society )
Elizabeth Carter
2
Birthdate: December 16, 1717
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Deal, England
Died: February 19, 1806
 16 
Peter Ladefoged
(British Linguist, Phonetician, and Professor)
Peter Ladefoged
2
Birthdate: September 17, 1925
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Sutton, England
Died: January 24, 2006
 17 
Sir George Abraham Grierson
(Irish Linguist and Scholar Who Conducted the Linguistic Survey of India )
Sir George Abraham Grierson
2
Birthdate: January 7, 1851
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Glenageary, Ireland
Died: March 9, 1941
 18 
Reynold A. Nicholson
(British Orientalist and Scholar Known for His Work on Islamic Literature)
Reynold A. Nicholson
2
Birthdate: August 18, 1868
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Keighley, England
Died: August 27, 1945
 19 
John Chadwick
(English Linguist and Academic)
John Chadwick
1
Birthdate: May 21, 1920
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Thames, England
Died: November 24, 1998
 20 
Alan Gardiner
(English Egyptologist, Philologist, and Linguist Who Studied Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs)
Alan Gardiner
1
Birthdate: March 29, 1879
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Eltham, London, England
Died: December 19, 1963
 21 
Stephen Levinson
(British Social Scientist and Academic)
Stephen Levinson
0
Birthdate: December 6, 1947
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: London, England
 22 
Randolph Quirk
(British Linguist, Academic, and Life Peer )
Randolph Quirk
0
Birthdate: July 12, 1920
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Isle of Man
Died: December 20, 2017
 23 
Archibald Sayce
(British Linguist, Assyriologist, and Academic Who Studied Middle Eastern Languages)
Archibald Sayce
2
Birthdate: September 25, 1846
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Shirehampton, Bristol, England
Died: February 4, 1933
 24 
Peter Hebblethwaite
(British Jesuit Priest, Author, and Vaticanologist)
Peter Hebblethwaite
1
Birthdate: September 30, 1930
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Ashton-under-Lyne, England
Died: December 18, 1994
 25 
Sir Edward Howard Marsh
(British Polymath, Translator, and Patron of the Arts)
Sir Edward Howard Marsh
2
Birthdate: November 18, 1872
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 13, 1953
 26 
Bernard Comrie
(British-Born Linguist and Academician)
Bernard Comrie
0
Birthdate: May 23, 1947
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Sunderland, England
 27 
Robert M. W. Dixon
(British-Born Linguist and Academic)
Robert M. W. Dixon
0
Birthdate: January 25, 1939
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Gloucester, England
 28 
Nathan Bailey
(Pioneering English Philologist and Lexicographer )
Nathan Bailey
1
Birthplace: England
Died: June 27, 1742
 29 
Ernest Weekley
(Philologist)
Ernest Weekley
1
Birthdate: April 27, 1865
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England
Died: May 7, 1954
 30 
Thomas Hoby
(English Translator and Diplomat)
Thomas Hoby
1
Birthdate: 1530 AD
Birthplace: England
Died: July 13, 1566
 31 
Angus McIntosh
(British Linguist and Academic )
Angus McIntosh
1
Birthdate: January 10, 1914
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Sunderland, England
Died: October 25, 2005
 32 
Eve Clark
(British-born American Linguist)
Eve Clark
0
Birthdate: July 26, 1942
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Camberley, United Kingdom
 33 
John of Garland
(British Grammarian and University Teacher)
John of Garland
1
Birthdate: 1190 AD
Birthplace: England
Died: 1270 AD