MURRAY, Sir J(ames) A(ugustus) H(enry)

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MURRAY, Sir J(ames) A(ugustus) H(enry) [1837–1915]. Scottish lexicographer and philologist. Born in Denholm, Roxburghshire, he had no formal education after the age of 14, acquiring his erudition by private study. He moved from Hawick to London in 1864 in the hope that milder southern winters might help his first wife's health, but she died shortly afterwards. From 1870 to 1885, he was English master at Mill Hill School in north-east London. He joined the circle of professional and amateur scholars who were establishing the scientific study of PHONETICS, Early English, and DIALECTOLOGY. From 1868, he was active in the Philological Society, and, urged on by F. J. Furnivall, produced several editions of SCOTS texts for the Early English Text Society. In 1873, he brought out The Dialect of the Southern Counties of Scotland, on which all subsequent work on the history and description of Scots has depended. His entry on the English Language in the 9th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1878) has long been regarded as a classic.

In 1876, Murray was invited by the publisher Macmillan to produce a major new dictionary of English. Although this proposal came to nothing, it reawakened the interest of Furnivall and others in the Philological Society's own lapsed project for a new historical dictionary. The upshot was its relaunching by Murray in 1879 at Mill Hill. With the help of hundreds of new volunteer excerptors, he augmented the collection of quotations (already over 2m on slips) assembled by Coleridge and Furnivall. At the same time, following the principles set out in R. C. Trench's paper of 1857, he laid down plan and methodology, after which, in the face of financial and other difficulties, he began to produce copy for A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (later renamed The OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY) at the remarkable rate of over 200 dictionary pages per year. In 1885, he gave up his part-time post at Mill Hill School and moved to Oxford to devote himself exclusively to the dictionary. He edited some 7,207 of its 15,487 pages, the remainder being divided among Henry Bradley, William Craigie, and Charles Onions. Because of the influence on later historical dictionaries of the methods he devised and of the editorial standard he set, and his own prodigious achievement as a dictionary compiler, Murray is widely regarded as the greatest ever lexicographer.

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MURRAY, Sir J(ames) A(ugustus) H(enry)

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