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Robert Burchfield (Robert William Burchfield) Biography

(1923–2004), (Robert William Burchfield), Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, Supplement

New Zealand lexicographer, born in Wanganui, near Wellington, New Zealand, educated at Victoria University College, Wellington, and at Magdalen College, Oxford. After lecturing at Magdalen and Christ Church Colleges, he was appointed to the editorship of the new Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1957. From 1971 to 1984 he was the Chief Editor of Oxford English Dictionaries. The four volumes of the Supplement appeared in 1972, 1976, 1982, and 1986. He subsequently devoted himself to his work as senior research fellow at St Peter's College. His other works as a lexicographer, grammarian, and philologist include The Spoken Language as an Art Form (1981), The English Language (1985), and Studies in Lexicography (1987). Although he considers English to be ‘at an uneasy stage of its development’, he retains a fundamentally optimistic view of the language's capacity to retain its richness and flexibility throughout increasingly rapid processes of expansion and change. Unlocking the English Language (1989) contains his T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures delivered in 1988, together with eight additional essays. Points of View: Aspects of Present Day English (1992) discusses varieties of contemporary spoken English.

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