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UWI honours lexicographers

The Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) yesterday recognized another distinguished former faculty member for his body of scholarly work by naming a section of the campus’ physical plant in his and his wife’s honour. At a special ceremony, the late Professor of English Dr Richard Allsopp and his wife, Dr Jeanette Allsopp, were recognized for their pioneering work in the Caribbean lexicography that resulted in the production of the first dictionary of Caribbean English.

Dr Jeannette Allsopp, wife of the late Professor Richard Allsopp (left) and Principal of the Cave Hill Campus  Professor Eudine Barriteau unveil the plaque that bears  the names of the two pioneers in Caribbean lexicography.

Dr Jeannette Allsopp, wife of the late Professor Richard Allsopp (left) and Principal of the Cave Hill Campus Professor Eudine Barriteau unveil the plaque that bears the names of the two pioneers in Caribbean lexicography.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Eudine Barriteau, Chairman of the Cave Hill Campus Council Sir Paul Altman, Professor Emeritus Sir Woodville Marshall and Professor Emeritus Sir Errol Waldron were among campus officials who participated in the ceremony.

In her tribute, Barriteau described Allsopp as “a man who loved words, who mastered, crafted, dissected and defined words, a renowned scholar, a distinguished Caribbean linguist and lexicographer and a man who, with his immense physical, academic and intellectual stature, bestrode the Cave Hill Campus like the proverbial colossus.”

Recognizing Allsopp’s contribution to Caribbean English Language, Barriteau said: “He studied its usage and both preserved and offered to posterity thousands of words that are unique to our Caribbean civilization, linguistic patterns and culture. Some of these were bequeathed through malapropism on the acquiring of foreign languages, some were even survivors of the African-originated Atlantic crossing.

She added: “Whatever their origins, the words on which Allsopp focused his intellect served to enrich the region’s verbal tapestry, a poly-vocal musical mosaic predominated by the English tongue in the Anglophone Caribbean islands and imbued with varying creole infusions.”

Barriteau announced that the headquarters of the Caribbean Lexicography Project would henceforth bear the names of Allsopp and his wife. She said the project was launched by him in 1971, eight years after he joined the staff of the Cave Hill Campus.

“The project became Allsopp’s labour of love, to which he remained dedicated for over two decades. His dedication and scholarly commitment bore fruit. In 1996, Oxford University Press published his magnum opus, The Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. This ground-breaking publication was launched under the expertise of both him and his wife.”

In his tribute, Sir Woodville said Dr Allsopp made a hugely significant impact on the University of the West Indies and on Caribbean scholarly activity. The former deputy campus principal recalled that it was as a lexicographer that Allsopp made his largest impact on the Cave Hill Campus and on the larger community.

Sir Woodville, a noted historian, contended that the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage was an indispensable work of reference for every literate Caribbean person and should occupy the shelves of every educated Caribbean person.

“The Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage decolonizes both the approach to and the concept of the English Language. So you will understand why it is so important. At the same time, since it is such an impressive pioneering work, it did put Caribbean Lexicography on the world stage. So it should be clear why the Allsopps’ name should appear on the Centre for Caribbean Lexicography,” he explained.

In her response to the many commendations, Jeannette Allsopp said the lexicography project would have started as far back as the 1940s when her late husband began to write and her input would have begun from the 1980s. (NC)

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