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George William Turner

MSS 0087


George Turner was born in Dannevirke, an early Scandinavian settlement in the Hawkes Bay area of New Zealand on the 26th October 1921. He received his early primary and secondary education in Dannevirke schools. His education at tertiary level continued at Victoria University, Wellington, Auckland Teachers’ College and the New Zealand Library School in 1948. Later, in 1963, he undertook post-graduate studies at University College, London where he gained a Diploma in English Linguistic Studies and a Certificates in Phonetics.

As a qualified librarian, he was first employed head of Acquisitions in the library of Canterbury University in Christchurch, followed by an appointment as Head of Reference at the Canterbury Public Library where he set up a New Zealand Reference Section, and innovation at the time. During his career as a librarian, he wrote a manual, German for Librarians, which was finally published by Massey University in 1972. Aside from his regular work in Christchurch libraries, he studied Ancient Greek and Russian with experts in those fields.

In 1955 he was invited to join the English Department at the University of Canterbury where he remained until his appointment first as Senior Lecturer, then as Reader in the Department and English Language and Literature at the University of Adelaide, a position he held until his retirement in 1986. His initial responsibility was for English Language and Medieval Literature. Later, he introduced Linguistics into the courses, but owning to University financial stringencies failed to get this new but widely accepted discipline established as a department in its own right.

Academically, George Turner had a foot in both camps of Language and Literature. His ambition was to reconcile the two. This aim he personally achieved in his retirement, when in a team of four, the seventeen years study of the Australian Classic, Joseph Furphy’s Such in Life was published in 1991. A second edition with revised annotations by Frances Devlin-Glass came out in 1999. This remains the definitive edition.

His first major work, The English Language in Australian and New Zealand, was published in Longman’s English Language Series in 1966. This was followed by a second revised edition in 1973. In 1972 he edited Good Australian English and Good New Zealand English for the publisher Reed. In 1973, Penguin Books launched his book, Stylistics, which sold worldwide and was repeatedly reprinted. It was translated into Japanese in 1985.

The 1980s decade saw the flourishing of his lexicographical activity which engaged him well into the 90s until the debilitating illness of Parkinson’s took over his life. In 1984 he edited the 2nd edition of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary, followed in 1986 by The Australian Oxford Mini Dictionary, in collaboration with former post-graduate students, Evelyn Forbes and Anne Knight. In 1987, The Australian Little Oxford Dictionary and a major work, The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary were both published. The 1989, his work jointly edited with his wife, The Australian Oxford Paperback Dictionary followed. During the 1990s his collaboration with Anne Knight ushered in dictionaries focusing on the school market.

As collateral activity with the production of dictionaries, Oxford University Press ran a service from Melbourne, Ozzie Owls, which invited queries and comments from the general public. George was in charge of this. At the same time, and dating from his employment in Canterbury, he supplied dated evidence of word usage to the O.E.D.

He published throughout his academic career number of scholarly chapters, articles, pamphlets, reviews and notes over a wide range of linguistic and lexicographical concerns. He kept up a correspondence with scholars in America, India, Japan, Iraq, Russia and Europe. His connections abroad let to lecturing assignment in Scandinavia, Slovenia, Croatia, France, Canada and the U.K.

During the 21 years as a member of the Adelaide English Department, he was honoured by election to a Fellowship of the Academy of Humanities in 1974. He was made an Honorary Life member of the Australasian Languages and Literature Association and in his retirement was appointed Visiting Research Fellow in 1990. In 1988, Drs Tom and Jill Burton edited a Festschrift in his honour. His interest in languages permeated his whole life, even to writing literary spoofs in the persona of the family’s pet cat.

The papers were donated to the University in March 2004 by Mrs. Beryl Turner. Biographical note written by Beryl Turner.


Series 1

  • Retirement, honours etc. 1974-90
  • Lumen article on retirement 1986
  • election as Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, 1974
  • appointment as Hon. Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of English Language and Literature, 1990
  • Obituaries and Tributes. Donated by Alan Brissenden, Sept 2008. 
  • Biographical note and information on George Turner written by Beryl Turner.

Series 2

  • Study leave 1963, 1978, 1984
  • Reports, correspondence and related papers

Series 3

  • Correspondence c1952-98. 10cm

Series 4

  • Writings (published and unpublished), reviews, conference papers, talks and reports. 1958-98. 15cm
    Including typescript and proofs of The English language in Australia and New Zealand, report on Linguistics in Australia (1974)

Series 4 Additions donated 2004

  • Marked proof set of The English Language in Australia and New Zealand
  • Manuscript copy of Stylistics, published Penguin 1973
  • Notes and correspondence towards a critical edition of Rigby's Romance
  • Ms notes to Rigby's Romance
  • Miscellaneous MS notes re Furphy
  • General file - correspondence, MS articles chiefly re Such is Life annotated ed
  • Notes and correspondence towards a critical edition of The Buln-Buln and the Brolga
  • Typescript of Frances Devlin-Glass' notes for an annotated edition of The Buln-Buln and the Brolga, published Halstead Press, 2001, and letter asking for Turner's assistance
  • Folder of Furphy articles, including drafts of publications and correspondence
  • Typescript of article: "'Who is She' The Image of Woman in the Novels of Jospeh Furphy"
  • 16 Verbatim issues containing articles by George Turner, 1980-1989.
  • Changes and queries re notes to The Annotated Such is Life
  • Draft contract with Halstead Press
  • Gallery proofs for The Annotated Such is Life.

Series 5

  • Lecture notes. 1938-39 and c1962-1992. 15cm.
    Including his own notebooks as a form VI student in English and Philology, 1938-39; lectures given by him in English I, Linguistics, Old English, Australian literature etc, at the University of Adelaide; and lectures to the WEA (1962) and to the University of the Third Age (1991-92)

Series 6

  • Dictionary projects: OED, APOD, ACOD etc., Australian national dictionary and other dictionary projects 1970s-1990s. 30cm

Series 7

  • Language files: Australian language, New Zealand language and dictionaries, Icelandic, Pidgin, Playground language, Reading, Words, Spelling reform, Stylistics etc. 1960s-1990s. 30cm.

Later additions

  • Buster book + photos
  • Turner, G.W. German for Librarians ; revised and edited by A.J.A. Vieregg and J.W. Blackwood. Massey University, 1972.
  • Offprints
    • Hoffman Lois. "Joseph Furphy's 1898 Such is Life, research paper by Lois Hoffman, Flinders University, October 1981.
    • Turner George W
      • "Sharing, Shaping, SHowing: the deep use of Language" 1984
      • "The Language of Literature"
      • "Time and Place Logic"
      • Samuel McBurney's newspaper article on colonial pronunciation
      • [Review of the book by A.S.C. Ross and A.W. Moverly, The Pitcairnese language]
      • "The grammar of newspaper headlines containing the preposition 'on' in the sense 'about'
  • Drafts - how to write clearly
  • Stray papers
  • Group Newsletters
  • Research papers
  • Miscellaneous

Listing updated
Marie Larsen

University Library

Barr Smith Library
South Australia 5005


Phone: +61 8 8313 5224