He was educated at the Perse School and Christ"s College, Cambridge.
He is notable for composing an Indo-Aryan comparative dictionary. He is also the author of some publications concerning the Romani language. In 1913, he joined the Indian Educational Service as a lecturer at Queen"s College, Benares.
From 1920 to 1922, he was Professor of Indian Linguistics at Benares Hindu University.
In 1922, Turner returned to England as Professor of Sanskrit at the School of Oriental Studies at the University of London. Between 1924 and 1932, he also published several papers on Romani Studies in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, including "On the position of Romani in Indo-Aryan" (1927).
He was director of the school from 1937 to 1957, although he continued to occupy his chair as well until 1954. He was knighted in 1950.
His magnum opus, the Comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan languages was published in 1966.
The British memorial in London to the Gurkhas was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on 3 December 1997. The legend on the Gurkha memorial is taken from the following quotation written by Sir Ralph:.