This article's lead section may be too short to adequately summarize the key points. Please consider expanding the lead to provide an accessible overview of all important aspects of the article. (April 2020)

David Crystal

David Crystal 2017.jpg
Crystal in 2017
Born (1941-07-06) 6 July 1941 (age 81)
Alma materUniversity College London
ChildrenBen Crystal
Scientific career

David Crystal, OBE, FBA, FLSW, FCIL (born 6 July 1941) is a British linguist, academic, and author.


Crystal was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, on 6 July 1941 after his mother had been evacuated there during The Blitz. Before he reached the age of one, his parents separated. He remained estranged from and ignorant of his father for most of his childhood, but later learnt (through work contacts and a half-brother) of the life and career of Dr. Samuel Crystal in London, and of his half-Jewish heritage. He grew up with his mother in Holyhead, North Wales, and Liverpool, England, where he attended St Mary's College from 1951.[1] Crystal is a practising Roman Catholic.[2]

He currently lives in Holyhead with his wife, Hilary, a former speech therapist and now children's author. He has four grown-up children. His son Ben Crystal is also an author, and has co-authored four books with his father.[3]


Crystal studied English at University College London between 1959 and 1962,[1] and was a researcher under Randolph Quirk between 1962 and 1963, working on the Survey of English Usage.[1][4] Since then he has lectured at Bangor University and the University of Reading and is an honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor.[5] Retired from full-time academia, he works as a writer, editor and consultant, and contributes to television and radio broadcasts. His association with the BBC ranges from, formerly, a BBC Radio 4 series on language issues to, more recently, podcasts on the BBC World Service website for people learning English.[6]

Crystal was awarded the OBE in 1995 and became a Fellow of the British Academy in 2000.[6][7] He is also a Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. His many academic interests include English language learning and teaching, clinical linguistics, forensic linguistics, language death, "ludic linguistics" (Crystal's neologism for the study of language play),[8] style, English genre, Shakespeare, indexing, and lexicography. He is the Patron of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL), honorary president of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP),[9] and Patron of the UK National Literacy Association.[10] He is a consultant for Babel - The Language Magazine, for which he has also written articles.[11]


Crystal has authored, co-authored, and edited over 120 books on a wide variety of subjects, specialising among other things in editing reference works, including (as author) the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (1987, 1997, 2010) and the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (1995, 2003, 2019), and (as editor) the Cambridge Biographical Dictionary, the Cambridge Factfinder, the Cambridge Encyclopedia, and the New Penguin Encyclopedia (2003).[1] He has also written plays and poetry.[12] He has published several books for the general reader about linguistics and the English language, which use varied graphics and short essays to communicate technical material in an accessible manner.[13] In his article "What is Standard English", Crystal hypothesises that, globally, English will both split and converge, with local variants becoming less mutually comprehensible and therefore necessitating the rise of what he terms World Standard Spoken English (see also International English).[14]

In his 2004 book The Stories of English, a general history of the English language, he describes the value he sees in linguistic diversity and the according of respect to varieties of English generally considered "non-standard".[15] In 2009 Routledge published his autobiographical memoir Just a Phrase I'm Going Through: My Life in Language, which was released simultaneously with a DVD of three of his lectures.[16] His book Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling (2013) explains why some English words are difficult to spell.[17] His companion book, Making a Point: The Pernickety Story of English Punctuation came out in 2015 from Profile Books (UK) and St. Martin's Press (USA).

Crystal is a proponent of a new field of study, Internet linguistics, and has published Language and the Internet (2001) on the subject.[18] Crystal's book Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 (2008) focused on text language and its impact on society.[19][20]

From 2001 to 2006, Crystal served as the Chairman of Crystal Reference Systems Limited, a provider of reference content and Internet search and advertising technology. The company's iSense and Sitescreen products are based upon the patented Global Data Model, a complex semantic network that Crystal devised in the early 1980s and was adapted for use on the Internet in the mid 1990s. These include semantic targeting technology (marketed as iSense by ad pepper media) and brand protection technology (marketed as SiteScreen by Emediate ApS).[21] The iSense technology is the subject of patents in the United Kingdom and the United States. After the company's acquisition by Ad Pepper Media N.V., he remained on the board as its R&D director until 2009.[22]

Crystal was influential in a campaign to save Holyhead's convent from demolition, leading to the creation of the Ucheldre Centre.[23]

Involvement in Shakespeare productions

As an expert on the evolution of the English language, he was involved in the production of Shakespeare at Shakespeare's Globe in 2004 and 2005 in the "Original Pronunciation" of the period in which he was writing, coaching the actors on the appropriate pronunciation for the period, and has since been the consultant for several other Shakespeare plays performed in OP, including A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Macbeth, Pericles, The Merchant of Venice, and Henry V.[24][25]


This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (July 2016)


Reference works

Critical studies and reviews


  1. ^ a b c d "All About...The Author". Cambridge University Press. Archived from the original on 19 March 2006. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  2. ^ Crace, John (15 September 2008). "Interview: John Crace meets language guru David Crystal". The Guardian.
  3. ^ Lo Dico, Joy (14 March 2010). "Watch what you're saying!: Linguist David Crystal on Twitter, texting and our native tongue". The Independent. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  4. ^ "Staff Profile of Professor David Crystal". Prifysgol Bangor University. Archived from the original on 17 November 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  5. ^ "David Crystal profile". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Biography". Crystal Reference. 2005. Archived from the original on 26 October 2007. Retrieved 15 October 2007.
  7. ^ Hazel Bell (1 October 1999). "David Crystal". Journal of Scholarly Publishing. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 15 October 2007.
  8. ^ David Crystal, "Carrolludicity" Archived 27 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "CIEP Honorary Members". Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  10. ^ Marks, Paul (25 June 2010). "Innovation: Smarter books aim to win back the kids". new Scientist. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  11. ^ "Babel The Language Magazine". Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  12. ^ "David Crystal Books & Articles". Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  13. ^ "David Crystal: Books in chronological order". Crystal Reference. 2005. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008.
  14. ^ "What Is Standard English". Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  15. ^ Crystal, David (2004). The Stories of English. Penguin Books. ISBN 0 713 99752 4.
  16. ^ Balik, Rachel (29 September 2009). "Just A Phrase I'm Going Through : My Life in Language David Crystal review". PopMatters. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  17. ^ Leith, Sam (14 September 2012). "Spell It Out by David Crystal – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  18. ^ Crystal, David (25 January 2001). "Weaving a Web of linguistic diversity". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  19. ^ The Times Review, Txtng: The Gr8 Db8
  20. ^ Gr8 db8r takes on linguistic luddites, The Guardian.
  21. ^ "Executive Profile David Crystal O.B.E". Bloomberg Business. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  22. ^ "Crystal Semantics: About Us". Retrieved 15 October 2007.
  23. ^ "The Ucheldre Story". Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  24. ^ Robert Siegel, "Shakespeare's Tongue, Heard at the Globe", All Things Considered (NPR), 19 July 2005. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  25. ^ The Open University, "Shakespeare: Original Pronunciation" on YouTube, 17 October 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2013.