R. W. Burchfield
He is credited with modernising the OED and his original remit of producing a single volume of 1,275 pages eventually ran to four volumes with 6,000 pages and took 29 years to complete instead of an initial seven years. Said modernisation included incorporating, not without polemic, taboo words previously excluded from the work. Said delay was almost directly due to the publication of Webster's Third New International Dictionary in 1961, and which was marketed as "the greatest vocabulary explosion in history", "the first to attempt a policy of honest descriptivism in relation to language", and "included vast numbers of words used on a daily basis in (American) English that had never before been included in respectable dictionaries". Burchfield commented that 'the sheer quantity of words included in [Webster's Third] made it apparent at once that I had seriously underestimated the task of collecting modern English vocabulary wherever it occurred. The whole editorial process had to be delayed - in the event by several years - until my editorial assistants and outside readers had assembled evidence on this majestic scale".
He also edited, again, somewhat polemically, the third edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage, published as The New Fowler's Modern English Usage. Among his observations there was that "No other grammatical issue has so divided the nation since the split infinitive was declared to be a solecism in the course of the 19th century." In his earlier work, The English Language (OUP, 1985), he had referred to people "suffering from the 'split infinitive' syndrome".
- The Spoken Word (1981)
- The English Language (OUP (1985)
- Unlocking the Language (1989)
- The New Fowler's Modern English Usage (1998)
- The New Zealand Pocket Oxford Dictionary