FOCUS ON CREOLISTS : RICHARD ALLSOPP

by Pauline Christie (UWI, Mona, Jamaica)

samedi 6 juin 2009

STANLEY REGINALD RICHARD ALLSOPP, Honorary Member and Past President of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics.

The Society for Caribbean Linguistics (SCL) mourns the passing of its beloved past President and Honorary Member, Prof Richard Allsopp, on Thursday 4 June 2009. He was a source of inspiration to all of us. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Dr Jeannette Allsopp, his family, friends and colleagues at the Cave Hill campus of The University of the West Indies (UWI).

Richard Allsopp served as the second President of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics from 1976 to 1978, and was elected an Honorary Member of the Society in 1994. The following was published in The Carrier Pidgin, and was written by Pauline Christie in 1998, in tribute to Prof Allsopp. His last SCL publication was The Case for Afrogenesis and The Afrogenesis of Caribbean Creole Proverbs (OP Nos.33&34, July 2006), edited by his former student and current SCL President, John Rickford.

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FOCUS ON CREOLISTS : RICHARD ALLSOPP

by

Pauline Christie (UWI, Mona, Jamaica)

The Carrier Pidgin : A newsletter for those interested in pidgin and creole languages (Vol. 26, Nos. 1–3, January–December 1998)

One member of the group of thirteen scholars who came together at the first ever international conference on Creole languages held at Mona, Jamaica in 1959, is mentioned in the report of the conference proceedings (Le Page, ed. 1961:123) as “S.R.R. Allsopp, Esq. (Georgetown, British Guiana).” This simple listing masks two highly significant facts : Allsopp was one of a mere three Caribbean-born participants and the only one of these who still resided in the Caribbean.

Stanley Reginald Richard Allsopp had received the M.A. degree with Distinction from the University of London a yar earlier for a dissertation on pronominal forms in the vernacular of Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana) and its environs. His dissertation was the first scholarly work devoted to a single English-related Caribbean language variety. Richard later gained the Ph.D from London in 1961, for his study entitled The Verbal Piece in Guyana Creole.

Allsopp also has the unique distinction of having served the University of the West Indies continuously throughout the fifty-one years of its existence. The carious roles he has performed testify to the wide range of his abilities and interests. He started as French Language Tutor in the Extra-Mural Department in his native Georgetown in 1948, and although officially retired, is currently Honorary Research Fellow and Director/Coordinator of the Caribbean Lexicography Project, his brain-child, on the Cave Hill (Barbados) campus of the University. In the interval he has been Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader and Senior Research Fellow at Cave Hill, and has also served as Vice-Dean (Campus Dean) and as Public Orator. In 1994 he was named Cave Hill’s Humanities Scholar of the Year.

Richard’s general comportment makes it easy to recall that he was once a school-master. Indeed, during the 1950s and early 1960s he served as Head of the prestigious Queen’s College in Georgetown. He was awarded the Crane Gold Medal in 1958 for his significant contribution to education, one of only two persons so honoured to date. In 1963 he left Guyana to take up the position of Lecturer in English at the newly-established College of Arts and Science in Barbados which was soon to become the Cave Hill campus of the UWI. Tehre he was responsible for, among other things, the introduction of linguistics in the early 1970s. He continued to design and teach linguistics courses in the Department for many years, including a graduate course in Caribbean Lexicography as recently as 1995.

Allsopp’s pioneering role in Caribbean linguistics is further evidenced by even a cursory glance at the titles of his conference papers during the 1970s and 1980s. Younger colleagues, among them Donald Winford and Hubert Devonish, have demonstrated the fact that topics which they have developed in their work, had initially been highlighted by him. These include recognition of the significance of tone and of the semantic expression of passivity in Caribbean language, as well as emphasis on the historical evidence of the Afrogenesis of Atlantic Creoles. Indeed, the first recorded use of the term Afrogenesis was in a paper he presented at the 1976 Conference of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics in Guyana. He was also one of the first to argue strongly for recognition of Caribbean standards in English, particularly with regard to the lexicon. In 1974, the Society for Caribbean Linguistics, of which he had been a founding member, publicly acknowledged his outstanding contribution by electing him its second president. He was made an Honorary Life Member of the Society in 1994.

It is as a lexicographer, however, that Richard Allsopp is now most widely known. In 1984, he was appointed a member of the Editorial Board of the New Oxford English Dictionary. His Dictionary of Caribbean Regional English [sic], published in 1996, has been his crowning glory, a fitting climax to a long and distinguished career. Among other things, it earned him the Guyana Prize for Literature (a Special Award) in 1998. The Dictionary, which marked the culmination of twenty-five years of painstaking research, is likely to remain one of the most significant landmarks in Caribbean Linguistics and to be an invaluable resource for many generations for many generations to come.

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

1958a. “Pronominal forms in the dialect of English used in Georgetown (British Guiana) and its environs by persons engaged in non-clerical occupations.” University of London : Unpublished MA dissertation.

1958b. “The English Language in British Guiana.” English Language Teaching 12 (2), pp. 59-66.

1962. The Verbal Piece in Guyana Creole. University of London : Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation.

1970. “Critical commentary on the Dictionary of Jamaican English .” Caribbean Studies 10 (2), pp. 90-117.

1972a. “Some suprasegmental features of Caribbean English and their relevance in the classroom.” Paper presented at the Conference on Creole languages and Educational Development, St. Augustine, Trinidad.

1972b. “The problem of acceptability in Caribbean creolised English.” Paper presented at the Conference on Creole languages and Educational Development, St. Augustine, Trinidad.

1976. “The case for Afrogenesis.” Paper presented at the Conference of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics, University of Guyana.

1977. “Africanisms in the idiom of Caribbean English.” In P.F.A. Kotey and H. Der-Houssikian, eds. Language and Linguistic Problems in Africa. South Carolina : Hornbeam Press, pp. 429-441.

1978. “Washing up our wares : towards a dictionary of our use of English. In J. Rickford, ed. A Festival of Guyanese Words. Georgetown : University of Guyana, p. 173–94.

1979. “Caribbean English and our schools.” In Caribbean Journal of Education 6(2), pp. 99–109.

1980. “How does the Creole lexicon expand ?” In A. Valdman and A. Highfield (eds.) Theoretical Orientations in Creole Studies. New York : Academic Press, pp. 89–108.

1983a. “The creole treatment of passivity.” In Lawrence Carrington with Denis Craig and Ramón Todd Dandaré (eds.) Studies in Caribbean Language. Trinidad : Society for Caribbean Linguistics, pp. 142–154.

1983b (with A. E. Burrowes). “Barbadian Creole : a note on its Social History and Structure.” In Lawrence Carrington et al. (eds.), pp. 38–45.

1996. Dictionary of Caribbean Regional English[sic]. Oxford : Oxford University Press.

1998. Language and National Unity. Georgetown : Guyana Department of Culture.

References in several works, including Devonish 1989, LePage 1961 and Winford 1993.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the editors of The Carrier Pidgin (ISSN : 0739–3474)


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