Tom McArthur (linguist)


Tom McArthur (23 August 1938 – 30 March 2020) was a Scottish linguist,[2] lexicographer, and the founding editor of English Today.[3][4] Among the many books he wrote and edited, he is best known for the Longman Lexicon of Contemporary English,[5] the first thematic monolingual learner's dictionary, which complemented the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English by bringing together sets of words with related meanings,[6] Worlds of Reference,[7][8] as well as the Oxford Guide to World English (2002, paperback 2003).

Tom McArthur
Born23 August 1938
Died30 March 2020 (aged 81)
EducationMA, University of Glasgow, 1958; PhD, University of Edinburgh, 1977[1]
Occupationlinguist, expert on English as a world language, writer, editor
Notable work
Longman Lexicon of Contemporary English; English Today; Worlds of Reference; Oxford Companion to the English Language; Oxford Guide to World English
Spouse(s)Feri Mottahedin (married 1963, died 1993); Jacqueline Lam (married 2001)
  • Archibald McArthur (father)
  • Margaret Burns (mother)

McArthur's most notable work was The Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992),[9] a 1200-page work with 95 contributors and 70 consultants, which was hailed by The Guardian as a "leviathan of accessible scholarship" and was listed on the Sunday Times bestseller list.[10] He published an abridged edition in 1996 and a concise edition in 1998. A second edition was published in 2018, co-edited with Jacqueline Lam McArthur and Lise Fontaine.[10][11]

McArthur also taught at the University of Exeter's Dictionary Research Centre,[10] which was established in 1984 by Reinhard Hartmann.[citation needed] In 1987 he collaborated with David Crystal to produce an 18-part radio version of a TV series The Story of English for BBC World Service.[10][12] and in 1997 he co-founded the Asian Association for Lexicography.[13] Earlier, he published books about Indian philosophy and the Bhagavad Gita,[14][15] and the languages of Scotland,[16] wrote unpublished novels,[17] served as an officer-instructor in the British Army,[13] taught in Sutton Coldfield and in Bombay Cathedral School, and reported for local newspapers.[10]

McArthur died aged 81 on 30 March 2020.[10]



  1. ^ McArthur, Tom (1998). "Chapter 5: The vocabulary-control movement in the English language, 1844–1953". Living Words: Language, Lexicography, and the Knowledge Revolution. University of Exeter Press. p. 50. ISBN 0859896110. my doctoral thesis 'The English word: a critical study of some aspects of lexicography and lexicology in the English language', approved at the University of Edinburgh in 1977 on the recommendation of the internal examiner David Abercrombie and the external examiner John Sinclair
  2. ^ Garner's Modern American Usage by Bryan Garner (2009), page xxxvii: "Shortly after the first edition of my Modern American Usage appeared in 1998, a British reviewer—the noted linguist Tom McArthur—remarked about it: "Henry Watson Fowler, it would appear, is alive and well and living in Texas."
  3. ^ Bolton, Kingsley; Graddol, David; Mesthrie, Rajend (December 2009). "Tom McArthur's English Today" (PDF). English Today. Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^ The Amazing World of Englishes: A Practical Introduction by Peter Siemund, Julia Davydova, Georg Maier (2012), page 29: "Tom McArthur is the author of a much discussed model of World Englishes published in the July issue of English Today in 1987. In his model, he proposes that Englishes should be organised into three different circles. At the very centre of the model there is World Standard English, which is an idealised variety of written English. The second circle of the model is allotted to those regional varieties of English that have developed or have started to develop their own standards. The third circle of the model is occupied by those forms of English that are not codified..."
  5. ^ Addison-Wesley, 1981, ISBN 0582556368.
  6. ^ Martin Stark (2011). Bilingual Thematic Dictionaries. pp. 167–168.
  7. ^ Tom McArthur (1986). Worlds of Reference. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-30637-9.
  8. ^ Tom McArthur (1988). Worlds of Reference (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-31403-9.
  9. ^ Tom McArthur, ed. (1992). The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-214183-5.
    • Tom McArthur, ed. (1998). Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford University Press.
  10. ^ a b c d e f McArthur, Roshan (12 April 2020). "Tom McArthur obituary". The Guardian.
  11. ^ Tom McArthur; Jacqueline Lam-McArthur; Lise Fontaine, eds. (2018). Oxford Companion to the English Language (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191073878.
  12. ^ David Crystal. "Broadcasting the nonstandard message" (PDF).
  13. ^ a b c d Lan Li. "The legacy of Tom McArthur". K Dictionaries.
  14. ^ Tom McArthur (1971). An Easy to Read Bhagavad Gita.
  15. ^ Tom McArthur (1986). Yoga and the Bhagavad-Gita.
  16. ^ A. J. Aitken and Tom McArthur, ed. (1979). Languages of Scotland. Chambers.
  17. ^ McArthur, Roshan (23 July 2020). "Tom McArthur: A personal remembrance". English Today. Cambridge University Press. 36 (4).