Distinguished Guyanese linguist Dr Richard Allsopp has died. He passed away on Wednesday evening at a hospital in Barbados following a long illness. He was 86-years-old.
According to the brother of the deceased, Philip Allsopp, Dr Richard Allsopp had been experiencing ill health for some time but was hospitalized earlier this week after there had been some deterioration in his health.
At the time of his death, Dr Allsopp was a retired Reader and Honorary Professor of Caribbean Lexicography at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies. He joined the staff there in 1963 as a lecturer in English and then proceeded to distinguish himself as one of the region’s premier linguists. While at the University he designed and taught the Use of English programme which was subsequently taught at all three campuses of UWI. He was also Chairman of the division of survey courses of Social Sciences and was appointed as the first person to the post of Cave Hill Campus Dean in 1964. In 1971, he launched the Caribbean Lexicography Project and became its first Director and Coordinator. He also had the distinction of being the only West Indian invited to serve on the editorial board of the Oxford English Dictionary and the American Heritage Diction-ary. Additionally, Dr Allsopp also served as the English language consultant to the Church of the Province of the West Indies for the Book of Common Prayer.
Dr Allsopp also authored several notable publications on linguistics and lexicography, including the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage which was published in 1996 and A Book of Afric Caribbean Proverbs published in 2005.
Prior to taking up his post at the Cave Hill campus, Dr Allsopp served as the Acting Principal at his alma mater Queen’s College for one year. This was after he had completed his studies for his PhD at the University of London.
During his career Dr Allsopp was the recipient of several awards. In 1958, he was awarded the Crane Gold Medal for his distinguished service in the field of Education in British Guiana. In 2004, the Barbadian Government acknowledged his sterling contribution in the field of education, by awarding him the Companion of Honour of Barbados (CHB), the country’s second highest national award. He was also the recipient of the Doctor of Letters by the University of the West Indies.
Minister within the Ministry of Education and Linguist Dr Desiree Fox described the passing of Dr Allsopp as a great loss to the linguistic community in the region especially as it related to the study of the Creole language.
She described him as “a people’s linguist” who was “the first to realize that the Creole language was the language of the people and should be recorded.” “He was a great stalwart”, she emphasized.
Dean of the School of Education and Humanities at the University of Guyana Al Creighton said that the passing of Dr Allsopp was a “severe loss to a number of important areas including linguistics, study of language, language in the Caribbean and other cultural areas.”
Creighton opined that Allsopp would be best remembered for his dictionary, which he said “was only the end of a massive lexicology project that he had undertaken.” According to the Dean, the project may have taken “some 25 years”. He described this work as being very substantial and said that the Guyana Prize for Literature in acknowledgement of this awarded Dr Allsopp the Guyana Prize Special Award in 1998.
Creighton said that Allsopp’s contribution to the local linguistic studies could be dated to 1949 when he made his first written contributions on the Guyanese language. “He was a pioneer in this area of study”, the Dean said.
According to Creighton, although Dr Allsopp was never employed at UG, the lexicography project which he started began at the local university. “The first grant he received towards this project was from the Guyana Government,” he said.
The Dean also said that in recent times, Dr Allsopp seemed to be conscious of the fact that there was need for the work that he had started to be continued. And according to Creighton this came to the fore during a small conference he had convened a few years ago. Creighton said that with the passing of the distinguished linguist, he could only hope that others continue from where Allsopp left off.
Allsopp leaves to mourn his wife Jeannette and four children- Sophia Cambridge, John, Disa and Marie Allsopp. He is also survived by his two younger brothers Philip and Bertie Allsopp.