The Vivien Law Prize

In memory of Dr Vivien Law (1954-2002), and thanks to her generosity, a prize has been established by the Henry Sweet Society for the best essay submitted on any topic within the history of linguistics. Topics may include the history both of the major subject areas of linguistics and also more specialised topics, such as writing systems, literacy, rhetoric, and the application of linguistic ideas within professional and technical fields.


The competition is open to all currently registered students, and to scholars who have received their PhD or equivalent qualification within the last five years. Members of the Executive Committee of the Society may not apply. Applications from non-members are welcome.

The prize consists of £200, one year’s free membership of the Society and a free copy of Vivien Law’s The History of Linguistics in Europe from Cambridge University Press.

The prize will be awarded by the Executive Committee on the recommendation of a Prize Committee drawn from its members. The committee will be looking for an exciting and original approach to the history of linguistics, either in the choice of topic or in the way it is treated, and for the highest standards of research and presentation. The essay should not have been previously published.

The closing date for submissions is 30th September in each year.

The closing date for submissions is 30th September in each year. Entries may be written in English, French, or German, and should follow the style-guide for the journal Language & History. They should not exceed 8000 words, including references, footnotes, tables, appendices, etc. The essay should be sent in electronic form to the Honorary Secretary of the Executive Committee Dr Liv Walsh ( by the closing date. The Committee’s decision will be final, and all entrants will receive notification of the outcome by the end of December. The prize will be formally awarded at the next annual colloquium. Suitable essays may be forwarded to the editor of Language & History for consideration for publication.


Vivien Law studied Classics and German at McGill University, Montreal, before pursuing PhD studies at Cambridge. She was successively a Fellow at Jesus, Sidney Sussex, and Trinity Colleges in Cambridge, and held the only lectureship in the world dedicated to the history of linguistic thought (in the Cambridge Department of Linguistics). In the late 1990s she was made Reader in the History of Linguistic Thought and a Fellow of the British Academy. Her academic interests were wide-ranging, but she was associated above all with her work on medieval grammars.

This page was last updated on 10 September 2018 at 3:43 pm.