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Hogg, Richard Milne (1944–2007), historian of the English language, was born on 20 May 1944 in the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion, Edinburgh, the son of Charles Milne Hogg, a linotype operator then serving as a lance-corporal in the Royal Corps of Signals, and his wife, Norenne, née Young. He grew up in Edinburgh and attended the Royal High School there and later Edinburgh University, where he graduated with first-class honours in 1967. In the same year he met his future wife, Margaret Kathleen White (b. 1947), at a party in the flat of Robin Cook, then the secretary of the university Labour Club. She was the daughter of Ronald Ernest White, civil servant. They were married at Emmanuel Church, Cheltenham, on 20 September 1969 and had two sons, Daniel and Robert.

Hogg remained at Edinburgh for his PhD which, at a time when the linguistic ideas of Noam Chomsky were especially influential, was a Chomskian analysis of current English syntax. He was also a research assistant on a project on Middle English dialects, established by the leading scholar of the English language at Edinburgh, Angus Macintosh. As this suggests, Hogg was soon at home in all periods of the language and could apply the most sophisticated theoretical constructs to its analysis.

Hogg's first academic position was as a lecturer in English between 1969 and 1973 at the University of Amsterdam. He then moved to the University of Lancaster, publishing in 1977 the book of his doctorate, English Quantifier Systems. In 1980, at a relatively young age, he was elected to the Smith chair of English language and medieval literature at the University of Manchester, the position he held for the rest of his career. From 1990 to 1993 he was dean of the arts faculty at Manchester, in which capacity he successfully administered a merger with the theology faculty. For a scholar of such wide interests and detailed knowledge, his lecturing style was notably easy and relaxed. But in this way he could reach all levels and all interests among his audiences and share with listeners his passion for language.

Over time Hogg came to specialize in Old English and its linguistic changes in the period up to the Norman conquest. He was also interested in phonological theory and co-wrote a textbook, Metrical Phonology (1987), with his former student and colleague Chris McCully. Five years later he published the first volume of his authoritative A Grammar of Old English, the second volume of which was nearly complete at the time of his death.

The first volume of the work for which Hogg became best known, the Cambridge History of the English Language, was also published in 1992. In six volumes and more than four thousand pages this multi-author work, published by Cambridge University Press over a period of nine years, charted the development of English from its provincial beginnings to the global language it had become by the late twentieth century. Hogg was the general editor of the History, a task that required very careful planning and much diplomacy, and also the editor of its first volume, to which he contributed a major essay on the morphology and phonology of Old English. The Cambridge History was more than a landmark in the study of English; it not only brought together the work of a generation of scholars in English but set a standard for the historical study of languages in general. It also helped to maintain the strong public interest in the development of English that was a notable feature of cultural life in Britain and other English-speaking countries in the 1990s and beyond.

Assisted by his Manchester colleague David Denison and Bas Aarts from University College, London, in 1997 Hogg went on to establish what rapidly became the leading academic journal in the field of English language scholarship, English Language and Linguistics. With Denison he also edited a History of the English Language (2006). His interests in the development of English dialects and in the way in which they had been studied resulted in a history of English dialectology, based on research carried out while Hogg was a Leverhulme senior fellow in 2000–02, but which was unfinished at his death.

Hogg was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1994. He was due to give the biennial Sir Israel Gollancz lecture at the academy in 2008. In 2004 he became a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: such recognition in his home city gave him special satisfaction. He shared his passion for Altrincham Football Club with his family; he also enjoyed the cinema, fine wines, and holidays in France, and he remained devoted to Scotland and its culture. He died of a heart attack on 6 September 2007 at Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, and was survived by his wife and sons. In 2008 the International Society for the Linguistics of English established the Richard M. Hogg prize for the best paper by a young scholar on a research-related topic in the fields of English language or English linguistics.

Lawrence Goldman


The Guardian (20 Sept 2007) · The Independent (10 Dec 2007) · www.royalsoced.org.uk/fellowship/obits/obits_alpha/hogg_richard.pdf, accessed on 13 Aug 2010 · WW (2007) · b. cert. · m. cert. · d. cert.

Wealth at death  

under £10,000: probate, 16 Nov 2007, CGPLA Eng. & Wales