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bulletHonorary Members > S R Richard Allsopp


The Society for Caribbean Linguistics (SCL) mourns the passing of its beloved past President and Honorary Member, Prof Richard Allsopp, on Wednesday 3 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. 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 SCL Past President, John Rickford.

Passing of a Distinguished Caribbean Scholar

A Press Release from The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus

The passing of Professor Stanley Reginald Richard Allsopp retired Professor of Caribbean Lexicography who died Wednesday June 3rd, after years of failing health, brings to an end a long period of unique and brilliant service to the intellectual development of the Caribbean and Afric community around the world.

Principal Sir Hilary Beckles described the former Cave Hill academic as "the quintessential Caribbean man of words, a scholar steeped in the finest tradition of regional research who internationalised his discipline of lexicography in the way no other has done.

"He was not only a brilliant academic; he was a colleague who gave his entire energy supplies to the building of the UWI at Cave Hill," Sir Hilary added.

Speaking from abroad, Sir Hilary noted: "We will remember him as an unmatched advocate of the university's mission in Caribbean civilization and a prophet of reason; tolerance in the forging of cultured consciousness. In his passing we will miss his voice but will remain enriched by the enormous wealth of his legacy."

Former Cave Hill Principal Sir Keith Hunte who joined the University a year after Allsopp, said the region owes the late linguist a great debt of gratitude for his all-round contribution towards the building of the academic community and the promotion of scholarship, a debt "partially acknowledged when he was promoted to the rank of Reader and later Professor."

Andrew Lewis, a former Campus Registrar and a foundation student of Cave Hill in 1963, paid tribute to Professor Allsopp as an excellent teacher who instilled in his students the ways of logical and critical thinking.

Historians Professor Alvin Thompson, Professor Woodville Marshall, Dr. Karl Watson and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Dr. Pedro Welch were among many former colleagues who fondly recalled Professor Allsopp and paid tribute to his contribution to the academy.

Professor Allsopp joined the fledgling College of Arts & Science in Barbados of the University of the West Indies as its first Lecturer in English, in 1963; serving soon after as a significant member of its development and management team in his capacities as Vice-Dean and Chairman of the Division of Survey Courses and Social Sciences. He would go on to serve the University in a variety of capacities: as the Campus' first Public Orator, as a member of Council and of Senate, to name a few. At the College at its Harbour Site and later its permanent home on the Hill, many would describe Richard Allsopp - tall, handsome and elegant - as bestriding the Campus like a colossus.

He designed and developed a first year course in The Use of English as a compulsory University-wide course, and with it developed a reputation for rigorous teaching and examining, and insistence on exacting standards. His pioneering role as a Caribbean linguist/creolist had earlier resulted in his membership of a group of 13 scholars who gathered for the inaugural International Conference on Creole languages held at Mona, Jamaica, in 1959. His dissertations at the masters and doctoral levels were the first known theses in any Caribbean creole. His seminal work in Creole Studies and in particular on phonology, on structure and on the African origins of Caribbean creoles would later bring prestige to him and to the University.

Not surprisingly then, Professor Allsopp together with colleagues across the university was instrumental in the early 1970s in the introduction of linguistics studies at the UWI and in the design and teaching of a range of linguistics courses. His purpose, in his own words was "to use the discipline of linguistics, never as an end in itself..., but as an instrument for the study and appreciation of the usage and structure of the English Language as it has developed in the Caribbean; firstly as being basic to education in general and secondly as crucial to the proper acquisition of a foreign language by any Caribbean student." Over the years he served as Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Senior Research Fellow and Reader and ultimately as Professor, of the UWI at Cave Hill, in this field, reflecting a distinguished record of scholarly work.

In 1971, Professor Allsopp launched the Caribbean Lexicography Project and became its first Director and Coordinator. The product of this project, his landmark Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage (1996) was the culmination of over 20 years of dedicated and singular effort with limited resources. With this "stupendous work" (as described by the The Economist ) he sealed his reputation not only as a lexicographical scholar, but as a major contributor to Caribbean education and cultural understanding. His Dictionary was followed in 2005 by his well received work, A Book of Afric Caribbean Proverbs .

Further, at the international level, Professor Allsopp is the first and only West Indian invited to serve on the editorial board of the Oxford English Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary. He also served as the English language consultant to the Church of the Province of the West Indies for the Book of Common Prayer.

Richard Allsopp was born in Guyana in 1923, the eldest son of Stanley and Eloise Allsopp. He attended the prestigious boys' school, Queens College, and studied for his PhD at the University of London. On his return to Guyana he taught at Queens College and in 1962, became the first Guyanese to be the School's acting principal. In 1958 he was awarded the Crane Gold medal for the most outstanding contribution to education in British Guiana. In 2003 the University honoured his work and his signal contribution to Caribbean culture and scholarship by conferring on him the Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters, an uncommon distinction for a member of its community. In his citation, the University's Public Orator aptly described Professor Allsopp as a "gentle giant of a scholar and gentleman, [an] eloquent epitome of Caribbean cultural expression..., [a]human computer of the language, passions and culture of Caribbean people." In 2004, the Barbados Government awarded him this country's second highest national honour, The Companion of Honour - CHB, for his distinguished contribution to education.

Professor Allsopp leaves to mourn his wife Jeannette, his younger brothers Philip and Bertie Allsopp; children, Disa Allsopp, Sophia Cambridge, John and Marie Allsopp, along with five grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. The University deeply regrets his passing and extends its deepest condolences to his family.

Read also:
Personal tributes from Cave Hill colleagues
Stabroek News article



Focus on Creolists: Richard Allsopp
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 year 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.

Richard Allsopp: 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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