Brief description

This project produced a set of pedagogical web-pages using material from the Oxford Historical Thesaurus of English. The website vividly demonstrates how a knowledge of vocabulary, and of the ways words develop and inter-relate, can illuminate the study of texts and the cultures in which they are embedded. Through the use of electronic resources, they explore two major linguistic areas of relevance to students of English Language and Literature: the growth of the English vocabulary, and the vocabulary of literature. The site includes case studies on Shakespeare’s vocabulary, and the vocabulary of gender. Central to the project is the belief that students of English should experience both language and literature.


The project drew on techniques developed in Stylistics and Discourse Analysis, sub-branches of linguistics which provide a meeting ground for language and literature. It also built on a teaching package deriving from the Thesaurus of Old English Online previously compiled at Glasgow with English Subject Centre funding. This project extended the scope of the earlier project, focusing more specifically on literature.


The project website, Word Webs: Exploring English Vocabulary, has been designed to engage student interest through stimulating content and focused tasks and suggestions for project work.

Project Leader

Prof. Christian Kay
Department of English Language
University of Glasgow

Project partners

Jean Anderson, University of Glasgow
Dr John Corbett, University of Glasgow

Project status

Project completed June 2008.