Emeritus Professor Tom Burton

Emeritus Professor Tom Burton
 Position Emeritus Professor
 Org Unit School of Humanities
 Email thomas.burton@adelaide.edu.au
 Telephone +61 8 8313 1490
 Location Floor/Room 7 ,  Napier ,   North Terrace
  • Biography/ Background

    Tom Burton was born in Barbados; grew up on a farm in Shropshire; studied English at the University of Bristol; and taught for three years in secondary schools in East Africa and England before coming to Australia in 1974 to teach at the University of Adelaide. He has read poems and short stories and given talks on linguistic and literary matters for BBC regional stations in England and on ABC Radio National and local and interstate radio in Australia. He is an occasional actor, has directed The Merchant of Venice and King Lear for the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild, and since 2009 has been putting on annual readings of William Barnes's dialect poems in the Adelaide Fringe (in aid of Alzheimer's Australia and the Barr Smith Library).

    Tom has the immense good fortune to have been married for over forty years to Jill Burton (Adjunct Associate Research Professor at the University of South Australia), whom he met when they acted together in a student play at the University of Bristol. They have two daughters, both graduates of the University of Adelaide: Rebecca Burton (author of Leaving Jetty Road, 2004, and Beyond Evie, 2010, both published by HarperCollins) and Sarah Burton (a Human Rights lawyer in the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg). Not surprisingly, Tom frequently feels himself the least literate member of this family.

  • Awards & Achievements

    2008 Citation from the Australian Council of Learning and Teaching for an Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning "For successfully stimulating deep learning by bringing to the study of English both rigour and a boundless enthusiasm that challenge and inspire students to achieve".

    1992 Stephen Cole the Elder Prize for Excellence in Teaching at the University of Adelaide.

    1968 Muljibhai Madhvani Prize for Postgraduate Students in the Faculty of Education at Makerere University College, University of East Africa.

  • Research Interests

    Tom's chief research interests are in medieval English literature, the history of the language, semantic change, and the pronunciation of regional varieties of English. He is the editor of Sidrak and Bokkus: A Parallel-Text Edition from Bodleian Library, MS Laud Misc. 559 and British Library, MS Lansdowne 793 (2 vols., Early English Text Society, Original Series 311 and 312, Oxford UP, 1998-99) and author of Words, Words, Words (University Radio 5UV, 1995) and Words in Your Ear (Wakefield Press, 1999), republished in one volume in the UK as Long Words Bother Me (Sutton Publishing, 2004). He is the founding director of the Chaucer Studio (a non-profit organization that makes recordings of historical and regional English and European texts, in period pronunciation, for use as teaching aids); general editor of a series of annotated bibliographies of medieval English literature published in the UK by Boydell & Brewer; and a member of the International Advisory Board of the journal English Studies. His pronunciation guide for the dialect poems of William Barnes (1801-1886) was published by the Chaucer Studio Press in 2010, and (in collaboration with K. K. Ruthven) he is preparing a 3-volume critical edition of Barnes's complete poems for Oxford University Press.

  • Publications



    William Barnes's Poems and Regional English Dialects


    The Complete Poems of William Barnes: 1. Poems in the Broad Form of the Dorset Dialect. Oxford University Press. 2013. [Book (pp. cxv + 540). Co-edited with K. K. Ruthven.]

    The Sound of William Barnes's Dialect Poems:

         1. Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect, first collection (1844). University of Adelaide Press. 2013. [Book (pp. xx + 593) and audio recordings).] http://www.adelaide.edu.au/press/titles/barnes-vol-1/

         2. Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect, second collection (1859). University of Adelaide Press. 2017. [Book (pp. 546) and audio recordings).] http://www.adelaide.edu.au/press/titles/barnes-vol-2/

         3. Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect, third collection (1862). University of Adelaide Press. 2017. [Book (pp.456) and audio recordings).] http://www.adelaide.edu.au/press/titles/barnes-vol-3/

    William Barnes's Dialect Poems: A Pronunciation Guide. The Chaucer Studio Press. 2010. [Book (pp. xx + 288) and audio CD (1 hour).]

    The Vâices That Be Gone: Selected Poems from William Barnes's Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect (First Collection, 1844) with phonemic transcripts. 2009. [Booklet (pp. vi + 49) and audio CD (1 hour), recorded live at the 2009 Adelaide Fringe.] http://www.adelaide.edu.au/press/titles/eclogues/


    'Manuscripts of William Barnes's Dialect Poems in the Dorset County Museum'. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History & Archaeological Society 138 (2017): 46-63.

    'What Sex Is a Mare? Horse and Mares in William Barnes's Dialect Poems'. Notes and Queries 63 (2016): 237-44.

    'Shrill Nightingales? Shill, Shrill, and Sh'ill in the Dialect Poems of William Barnes'. Anglia 134 (2016): 239-59.

    'Dialect Poetry, William Barnes and The Literary Canon'. ELH 76 (2009): 309-42. [Co-authored with K. K. Ruthven.]

    'What William Barnes Done: Dilution of the Dialect in Later Versions of the Poems of Rural Life'. Review of English Studies NS 58 (2007): 338-63.

    'William Barnes's River Flowers and the 1844 Edition of His Poems of Rural Life in The Dorset Dialect.' Script & Print 30 (2006): 138-54. [Co-authored with K. K. Ruthven.]

    'The English Dialect Dictionary and Dorset Usages Recorded by Notes And Queries.' Notes and Queries 53 (2006): 415-17. [Co-authored with K. K. Ruthven.]

    Semantic Change

    Long Words Bother Me, with illustrations by Michael Atchison. Stroud, Glos: Sutton, 2004. pp. xx + 242. [A revised reprint of Words, Words, Words (1995) and Words in Your Ear (1998), with new material added.] 

    Editing of Middle English Texts

    Sidrak and Bokkus: A Parallel-Text Edition from Bodleian Library, MS Laud Misc. 559 and British Library, MS Lansdowne 793. 2 vols, Early English Text Society, Original Series 311 and 312. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998-99.

    'Sir Gawain and the Green Hag: The Real Meaning of the Wife of Bath's Tale'. "Seyd in forme and reverence": Essays on Chaucer and Chaucerians in Memory of Emerson Brown, Jr. 2005. 75-80.

    'Mistranslation or Adaptation in Medieval Manuscripts: Can One Tell the Difference?' Lingua Humanitatis 2.2 (Oct. 2002): 129-41.

    'Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases from the English Sidrak'. Mediaeval Studies 51 (1989): 329-54.

    'The Crocodile as the Symbol of an Evil Woman: A Medieval Interpretation of the Crocodile-Trochilus Relationship'. Parergon 20 (1978): 25-33.

    'Late Fifteenth-Century "Terms of Association" in MS Pepys 1047'. Notes and Queries 223 (1978): 7-12.

    'Sidrak on Reproduction and Sexual Love'. Medical History 19 (1975): 286-302.

    Middle English Dialectology

    'On the Current State of Middle English Dialectology'. Leeds Studies in English NS 22 (1991): 167-208. [Discussing A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English, by Angus McIntosh, M. L. Samuels, and Michael Benskin (Aberdeen UP, 1986).]

    Middle English Lexicography

    'Drudgery, Bludgery, and Fudgery: Lexicography for Editors of Middle English Texts'. Lexicographical and Linguistic Studies: Essays in Honour of G. W. Turner. Ed. T. L. Burton and Jill Burton. Cambridge: Brewer, 1988. 19-30.

    'Defining Daftness'. Medieval Literature and Antiquities: Studies in Honour of Basil Cottle. Ed. Myra Stokes and T. L. Burton. Cambridge: Brewer, 1987. 165-74.

    Articles and notes on lexicographical discoveries in Middle English in the following journals:

    Neophilologus 72 (1988): 478-79;
    Parergon NS 5 (1987): 71-93;
    English Studies 68 (1987): 122-28;
    Die Sprache 33 (1987): 112-13;
    Notes and Queries 218 (1973): 269-75.

    Oral Performance of Old and Middle English Literature (and historical changes in English pronunciation)

    Founding director of The Chaucer Studio, a non-profit organisation that makes recordings of historical and regional texts, in reconstructed period pronunciation, for use as teaching aids.

    Recordings directed for the Chaucer Studio: The Parlement of Foules, The Book of the Duchess (Co-director with John Gray), The Clerk's Tale (Director and sole reader), The Franklin's Tale, The Manciple's Tale, The Man of Law's Tale (Director and sole reader), Chaucer's Tale of Melibee, The Merchant's Tale, The Prioress's Tale, The Reeve's Tale, The Second Nun's Tale, The Summoner's Tale, Sir Thopas; Extracts from Lawman's 'Brut', Dame Sirith, Horn Childe, Patience, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Selected Middle English Lyrics, Selections from Shakespeare in Early Modern English.

    Annotated Bibliographies of Old and Middle English Literature

    General Editor of Boydell & Brewer's Annotated Bibliographies of Old and Middle English Literature series. This is a series of some two dozen projected volumes, which aims to produce an annotated bibliography for every area of medieval English literary studies for which such a tool is not already in existence or in preparation.

  • Media Expertise

    CategoriesLiterature & Publishing, Language & Literacy
    ExpertiseThe English language (its history, usage, pronunciation, dialects, and varieties); dictionaries; medieval English literature; poetry (excluding Free Verse)
    NotesFounding Director of the Chaucer Studio (a non-profit organization that makes recordings of historical and regional texts in reconstructed period pronunciation) and of the associated Chaucer Studio Press.

    Member of the International Advisory Board of the European journal English Studies.
    After hours(08) 8272 4794

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Entry last updated: Tuesday, 29 Mar 2022

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