David Crystal: Linguistic, what next? Lecture review

Fifty years after David Crystal helped set up a Linguistics degree at the University of Reading, he returned to give a public lecture about the changes he’s seen to linguistics over this period. The Great Hall at the London Road Campus was filled with students, lecturers and members of the public who all had great admiration for a man who has done so much for linguistics at the University but also for the research he has undertaken and the developments he has made. Indeed, his works are a staple to anyone studying English Language and Linguistics and are featured on the English Language course at Reading.

David Crystal delivering his lecture at the University of Reading. November 2015

David Crystal delivering his lecture at the University of Reading. November 2015

Once the lecture began, it only took moments before the audience were in the palm of his hand. His charismatic charm and ease of public speaking made for a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere where people were hanging on his every word. David began by telling the audience about the evolution of linguistics, and how it will never be the same tomorrow as it is today or was yesterday. Somehow, regardless of how obvious this statement seems, it struck a chord with me and reminded me why I found studying English Language so exciting. David’s enthusiasm for the subject as a result of his first-hand experience of studying these changes was definitely rubbing off!

David then spoke about how he helped create a Linguistics degree at Reading, how it has developed and how many issues are just as important now as they were then. For example he told us that he still gets asked “How many words are there in the English language?” which will and can never be answered with certainty.  Whilst at Reading, David worked with a child with a delayed development of speech and nobody knew why this delay occurred. As a result of this work, David helped to set up the Speech and Language Therapy course ten years after Linguistics had started. The story told was very moving. Although it was clear that the audience were touched, it wasn’t long before the atmosphere was once again joyous. Making jokes throughout, his happiness was infectious and everybody was clapping and smiling.

Once the lecture had finished, there was a twenty minute question time where David answered every question with a smile and in great depth. At the end, with people giving standing ovations, David seemed genuinely touched by such a warm and welcome reception at the University of Reading.

Sarah Robertson

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