Ian A Gordon Trust Fund

The Ian A Gordon Trust Fund supports scholarships, fellowships and other research-related awards in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies.

The I.A. Gordon Trust was set up in 2003 as the result of a generous bequest of half a million dollars from Victoria’s Emeritus Professor Ian Gordon to support the study of English language and linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington. It was Professor Gordon’s wish that income from his endowment be used in perpetuity for scholarships, fellowships and other awards to support and recognise outstanding research in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies.

Professor Ian A. Gordon (1908-2004)


Prof Gordon graduated from the University of Edinburgh and taught there before being appointed to the Chair of English Language and Literature at Victoria, a position he held from 1936 to 1974. He was instrumental in establishing at Victoria the study of the structure, history and use of English, and the teaching of the English language.

Ian Gordon was Vice-Chancellor of the University of New Zealand from 1947 to 1952, Chair of the New Zealand Literary Fund from 1950 to 1974, and a member of the University Grants Committee from 1961 to 1971, in addition to holding many other academic and administrative posts. He was made a CBE and received several honorary doctorates.

The breadth of his scholarship was remarkable, including his book, The Movement of English Prose (1966) a widely-recognised survey of the continuity of English prose style from the 9th to the 20th century, definitive studies on Katherine Mansfield and 18th century Scottish writer John Galt; and as one of the founding fathers of New Zealand English lexicography, editing New Zealand editions of Collins dictionaries. He undertook much teaching, writing and broadcasting on the evolution of English, problems of usage, and the teaching of English. He was widely regarded as an excellent teacher.

One outstanding contribution was his work to encourage and foster his own passion for language in others. Among his former students are Bob Burchfield, who became editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, Bill Ramson, who edited the Australian National Dictionary, and Harry Orsman, who compiled the celebrated Dictionary of New Zealand English. He encouraged the development at Victoria of a strong tradition of lexicography which has continued through his students and through the establishment of the New Zealand Dictionary Centre. He was instrumental in the establishment of the English Language Institute in 1961 (now part of the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies), and with Professor Frank Brosnahan, he supported the introduction of the teaching of Linguistics at Victoria from 1970, initially under the aegis of the Department of English, and later as a distinct discipline. He had his own show on National Radio and wrote popular columns on language in the NZ Listener, New Scientist and Readers Digest. He wrote 20 books, including A Word in Your Ear and Take My Word for It.

Management of the Trust Professor Gordon’s endowment is administered by a Trust Fund Committee on behalf of the Victoria University of Wellington Foundation. From time to time a suitable language researcher is invited to spend time as a fellow in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies and contribute to its teaching, research and seminar programme.

I.A. Gordon Fellows

2017 Professor Mark Steedman

Professor Mark Steedman from the University of Edinburgh was the 2017 IAG Fellow. Prof Steedman is Professor of Cognitive Science in the School of Informatics at Edinburgh. Prof Steedman gave a series of three public lectures on ‘The Evolution of Language’ (10th Oct), ‘The Acquisition of Language by Children’ (17th Oct) and ‘Computers, Minds, and Language’ (19th Oct). The series was highly interdisciplinary, reflecting Prof Steedman’s interests in language, computer science, cognitive science and philosophy. The lectures were well attended, both by the public and by staff and students from a range of disciplines. Prof Steedman also gave presentations to Philosophy and Computer Science. In addition, Professors Steedman met with staff and postgraduate students in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies to discuss research issues.

2016 Professor Tom Farrell

Tom Farrell's interests include reflective practice, and language teacher education and development. He has published widely in academic journals and has presented at major conferences worldwide on these topics. His latest books are Promoting Teacher Reflection in Second Language Education: A Framework for TESOL Professionals (Routledge, 2015) and From Trainee to Teacher: Reflective Practice for Novice Teachers (Equinox, 2016).

2015 Professor Deborah Cameron

Deborah Cameron is currently the Rupert Murdoch Professor of Language and Communication at Oxford University. A sociolinguist and discourse analyst, her research interests include language attitudes, media language and the relationship of language, gender and sexuality. She is the author of The Myth of Mars and
Venus, which was published in 2007.

Listen to Deborah's public lecture titled "Sex, lies and stereotypes: Do we ask the right questions about language and gender?"

Please note this recording is available to Victoria staff and students only.

2014 Letuimanu’asina Dr Emma Kruse Va’ai

Letuimanu’asina Dr Emma Kruse Va’ai is the Deputy Vice Chancellor at the National University of Samoa. Dr Va'ai has published poems and short stories for young adults and children.  She maintains a strong interest in Linguistics, particularly in the use of language in bilingual Samoa. Her book, Producing the Text of Culture, documents the appropriation and use of English in various domains in contemporary Samoa. Listen to Emma's public lectures below in mp3 format.

  1. "Who speaks what to whom and when in Samoa?" An overview of language use in bilingual Samoa
  2. "Gaining new words, losing your aspirations, watching your P’s and B’s and other aspects of the Samoan/English relationship"

2014 Jenny McClure Ian Gordon Teacher Fellow

Jenny McClure a teacher from St Mary's College in Wellington was seconded to the School for a period of three months from April to June 2014.  During her time at the School Jenny worked on resources designed to facilitate and promote the inclusion of New Zealand English in the secondary curriculum. Find information on the Research Bank NCEA Level 3 resources.

2013 Associate Professor Shamila Pillai

Assoc Professor Shamila Pillai is from the Department of English Language at the University of Malaya. Associate Professor Pillai is an expert on Malaysian English, and delivered two public lectures in September 2013.

2012 Professor Nick Ellis

Professor Nick Ellis is Professor of Psychology and Professor of Linguistics at the University of Michigan. Before coming to Michigan in 2006, he was Professor of Psychology at the University of Wales, Bangor. His research interests include language acquisition, cognition, emergentism, corpus linguistics, cognitive linguistics, and psycholinguistics. He is an adviser to the Oxford University Press Applied Linguistics series and serves as the General Editor of Language Learning. Nick delivered a public lecture in July 2012 analysing how, as a complex adaptive system, language has evolved to be learnable.

Listen to Professor Ellis’ public lecture

2011 Professor Jack Richards

Professor Jack Richards is an international scholar with a long-standing relationship with Victoria where he taught in the 1960s. In 2011 he was made an honorary professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Sydney, Australia. The honorary degree of Doctor of Literature will be conferred by Victoria University in 2011 in recognition of his contributions to English language teaching and the arts. Jack delivered a series of three public lectures in August 2011 entitled English in the world, The world of English language teaching and The language teacher’s world.

2010 Professor Kate Burridge

Professor Kate Burridge is an expert on the English language and her books are full of fascinating facts about the ways in which English has changed over time. She certainly has a talent for striking titles. Her latest book is Gifts of the Gob: morsels of English language history, and earlier books are entitled Blooming English and Forbidden Words. Kate delivered a series of three public lectures in September 2010 entitled 'Frequent Coarse Language': Swearing and taboo language in antipodean English, The French influence on English: How different would it be if William had lost at the Battle of Hastings? and Blooming English — 'in forme of speche is chaunge'

2009 Regents' Professor Douglas Biber

Professor Douglas Biber is one of the world’s leading corpus linguists, and an excellent researcher and presenter. Prof Biber taught a two week intensive MA course at the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies on Corpus-based study of register variation.  He also delivered a public lecture which you can listen to below in mp3 format.

“Speech and Writing: Are there any real differences"

2008 Associate Professor Elizabeth Gordon

Associate Professor Elizabeth Gordon has published books and articles on New Zealand English, sociolinguistics, and attitudes to language.  She delivered a series of three public lectures at Victoria University entitled “I'll write a letter to the paper" - the lay person's view of New Zealand English, New Zealand English past and present - looking for the evidence and The New Zealand accent - a clue to New Zealand identity?

2007 Dr Sasha Calhoun

Dr Sasha Calhoun received her PhD from Prof Gordon’s alma mater the University of Edinburgh. A native of Wellington, she completed her Honours degree in Linguistics at Victoria in 2000. She has won a range of awards for her work, including a Commonwealth Scholarship and British Academy fellowship. Her research concentrates on how intonation and rhythm are used in speech and how they affect its meaning. During the Fellowship, Sasha contributed to the School’s teaching program and presented a research seminar; as well working on an original research project with Dr Paul Warren.

2006 Professor David Crystal

Professor David Crystal is one of the world’s leading scholars of language. He has published over 100 books including The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language, Pronouncing Shakespeare and Language and the Internet; as well as contributing to numerous radio and television series on language. In 1995 he received an OBE for services to the English language. Prof Crystal shared his love of language with audiences at Victoria in three public lectures entitled The Stories of English, Language Death: Writing the Obituary of Languages? and The Future of Language.

Linguistics Awards

In addition to the Endowment Fund,  Professor Gordon sponsored the Ian A. Gordon Prize in Linguistics, awarded annually (until 2014) for the best piece of completed research (essay, project or thesis) on any aspect of the nature, structure or use of the English language by an Honours or Masters student in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies. He also established in memory of his wife, May Gordon, an annual prize for the best female student in the introductory course in English literature.