Philological Society


The Philological Society, or London Philological Society, is the oldest
learned society A learned society (; also known as a learned academy, scholarly society, or academic association) is an organization An organization, or organisation (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English; American and British Eng ...
Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the List of European islands by area, largest European island, and the List of i ...

Great Britain
dedicated to the study of
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private and public, and ...

as well as a registered
charity Charity may refer to: Giving * Charitable organization or charity, a non-profit organization whose primary objectives are philanthropy and social well-being * Charity (practice), the practice of being benevolent, giving and sharing * Charity (virtu ...
. The current Society was established in 1842 to "investigate and promote the study and knowledge of the structure, the affinities, and the
history of languages History (from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the past. Events occurring before the History of writing#Inventions of writing, invention of writing systems are considered ...
". The society publishes a journal, the ''Transactions of the Philological Society'', issued three times a year as well as a monographic series. The first Philological Society, based in London's Fitzroy Square, was founded in 1792 under the patronage of Thomas Collingwood of St Edmund Hall, Oxford. Its publication was titled ''The European Magazine, and London Review''. The Philological Society is a member organisation of the University Council of General and Applied Linguistics.


The Society's early history is most marked by a proposal in July 1857 to create an up-to-date dictionary of the English language. This proposal, issued by Richard Chenevix Trench, Herbert Coleridge, and Frederick Furnivall, members of the ''Unregistered Words Committee'', and an article by Trench, entitled ''On Some Deficiencies in our English Dictionaries'', eventually led the Society to formally adopt the idea of creating a comprehensive new dictionary on 7 January 1858. In 1952, the Society hosted the seventy Congress of the International Congress of Linguists in London. At a later date, the Society was instrumental in the early stages of the Survey of English Dialects conducted by Harold Orton between 1950 and 1961, helping to develop, amongst other things, a questionnaire for use in gathering data.


The society holds seven regular meetings each academic year; traditionally, four take place in London at SOAS University of London, the other three in Cambridge, Oxford, and at another university outside of South East England. Most meetings consist of hour-long academic papers being presented by one or more scholar. Occasionally, round table or panel discussions are organised. Every two years, together with the British Academy the Society organises the Anna Morpurgo Davies Lecture, named in honour of its former president.

Prizes and Bursaries

Once every two years, the Society awards the R. H. Robins Prize for an article on a subject within the Society's area of interest; the prize bears the name of a former president of the Society. Every year, the Society further awards a limited number of bursaries valued at £5,000 each to students embarking on taught postgraduate programmes in all areas of linguistics or philology.


The Society is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee, having been incorporated on 2 January 1879. The Society is governed by its trustees, consisting of the President (appointed at an Annual General Meeting for a period of three years, with the option to renew for one further year), the Vice-Presidents (appointed for life at an Annual General Meeting; usually former presidents), the other Officers, and up to twenty ordinary members of Council, who are elected annually at an Annual General Meeting. As of February 2021, the Officers of the Society are: *Secretary: Simon Pulleyn *Treasurer: Peter Austin (linguist), Peter Austin *Secretary for Publications (Transactions): Lutz Marten *Secretary for Publications (Monographs): Melanie Green *Secretary for Membership: Richard K. Ashdowne *Secretary for Student Associate Members: Joshua Booth

List of presidents

The following list is based on the sporadically occurring statements concerning membership of the Society's Council as printed in the Transactions of the Philological Society of the relevant years.

See also

*''Oxford English Dictionary'' *Philology *Linguistics *Transactions of the Philological Society *Oxford English Dictionary *Survey of English Dialects


External links

Official blog of the Philological Society
Learned societies of the United Kingdom 1842 establishments in the United Kingdom Organizations established in 1842 Linguistic societies Educational charities based in the United Kingdom {{UK-org-stub