Tributes and Memories

dsc_0004We invited friends, colleagues, past and present, students and former students to post tributes and share their memories of Geoff. 

Tributes are now closed, thank you.

96 thoughts on “Tributes and Memories

  1. Below is the text of my Notice concerning Geoff’s passing, which will appear in the next issue of the European Narratology Network newsletter, Michael Toolan.

    Geoffrey Leech (1936 – 2014)
    Linguists of many subfields, including those who research the language of literary narratives, are mourning the sudden death this summer of Geoffrey Leech, at the age of 78. Geoff (as everyone seemed to call him) made a huge contribution to not one but several fields of language study, but principally four: English grammar, corpus linguistics, linguistic pragmatics, and stylistics.

    With regard to the first of these, English grammar, he contributed to both the ‘Contemporary’ and the ‘Comprehensive’ Grammars of English in a team led by Randolph Quirk, and then also to the corpus-based Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English, prepared by a team led by Douglas Biber; but long before these had come his immensely useful Meaning and the English Verb, now in its 3rd edition. He was a champion of computational and corpus linguistic methods as soon as these were feasible, being instrumental in the design and preparation first of the Lancaster-Oslo/Bergen corpus, and later of the indispensable British National Corpus, in particular working on the difficult challenges of automated tagging of the corpus data; fruits of those labours include a co-authored books on corpus annotation and on word frequencies in modern English. An interest in pragmatics was latent in his early books on English in Advertising (1966: his first monograph) and on the English verb, and in his Semantics (1971), which followed shortly after; but it emerged fully-developed in his Principles of Pragmatics (1983); just two weeks before his death, The Pragmatics of Politeness appeared from OUP, which promises to be a landmark study of what Leech called the pragmalinguistic phenomena concerning politeness. Finally in the field of stylistics, three books stand out especially: his 1969 Linguistic guide to English poetry, the justly celebrated Style in Fiction 1981, co-written with his long-time colleague Mick Short, still a mainstay of English literary stylistics the world over; and his apologia for his own approach to stylistics, seeing it as an invaluable bridge subject, negotiating between linguistics and literary criticism, Language in Literature (2008). His publications in each of those areas earned him a wide circle of international admirers, so having achieved this four times over reflects a quite exceptional versatility.

    Geoff Leech was born and raised in Gloucestershire, where he attended Tewkesbury Grammar School, before proceeding to University College London for his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees (the latter enriched by the award of a prestigious Harkness Fellowship, spent at MIT, in 1964-5). Leech also taught at UCL briefly, before moving to the new university at Lancaster in 1969, where he was one of the first members of the English Department to be a language and linguistics specialist. Although he must have had numerous lucrative offers, he never left, devoting his entire career to Lancaster. In 1974 a separate Linguistics Department was created, and Leech became its first Head, and was instrumental in its development as one of the leading centres of English linguistics research. He retired early in 1996, but there seems to have been no diminution whatsoever in his research or academic activity. Recognition came to him in many honours, including being made a Fellow of the British Academy and the award of honorary doctorates from Lund University and Charles University.

    I saw Geoff as recently as late July, only a few weeks before his untimely death; indeed we were part of a quintet singing a madrigal to captives at the conference dinner of the Poetics and Linguistics Association meeting in Maribor (he was a gifted pianist and church organist). At the Maribor conference Geoff had given another fine plenary, concerning his revisions to his view of pragmatics. He was as friendly, approachable and unassuming as ever, a fount of knowledge modestly imparted. Personal anecdotage corner: when in my first degree at Edinburgh University I was first excited by the prospect of a systematic, linguistically-informed analysis of literary technique and effect, it was because books like Geoff’s Linguistic Guide to English Poetry had begun to appear. His work in pragmatics and corpus linguistics was equally pioneering, leading the way where many since have followed. Just as inspiringly, he remained fascinated by and devoted to English linguistics to the end of his life: non scholae, sed vitae. Our sadness at his passing is tempered by memories of his grace and good humour, and the wisdom copiously displayed in his many important publications.

  2. I find it hard to believe that Geoff is no longer with us. As a postgrad in linguistics in the 1980s I had the immeasurable good luck to be involved in co-lecturing with him and Mick, and his unfailing patience and gentleness helped overcome my awe at his intellect and productivity. He is missed.

  3. Rest in peace Professor Geoffrey Neil Leech: distinguished academic, eminent scholar, erudite and doyen. Definitely, you have left footprints in the sands of time – footprints that all budding academics like myself would aspire to follow, even if it means achieving half of your achievements.

    We don’t mourn you; rather, we celebrate you because you’ve been a real gift and talent to the world. Do rest in the bosom of the Lord, sir. Our heartfelt condolences and commiserations to the immediate family. #LeechIncredibleLegacy.

    Nartey, Mark.
    Postgraduate student of Linguistics
    Norwegian University of Science and Technology

  4. In Professor Geoffrey Leech, true scholarship and humility meet. A proliphic thinker, he was very generous and charismatic, He left no one indifferent to both the depth and of his research or the integrity of his person. of his

    Rest In Peace, Geoff!,

    Ali Boumoussa,
    Former Student at Lancaster University .

  5. Geoffrey Leech’s death is a great loss. He has been and will be a key figure in fields such as the descriptive grammar of English, pragmatics, discourse analysis, and corpus linguistics, but beyond that, he was a gentle man who was really passionate about his work and did not mind sharing his time with students.

  6. Prof Geoffrey Leech’s contribution to the areas of language and linguistics is immense. When I received the sad news about him, his Style in Fiction, a co-worked treatise with Michael Short, was just within my hand’s reach on the desk as a reference book for use. Thank Geoff for dedicating himself to the academia and greatly expanding the branch of knowledge of linguistics. His words and knowledge will always stay with us in this world.

  7. Geoffrey Leech was one of the giants of linguistics in the English-speaking world. Maybe better, in the world, period. He was a gentle, extraordinarily kind man, generous with ideas, at peace with the world around him in a way that few academics are. I first met him in the summer of 1970, and then at his invitation “replaced” him in 1972 for the term he spent at Brown. Of course no one could “replace” Geoff Leech. He had obviously affected his colleagues and his students very positively, and they lamented his absence. It was impossible for me to fill the vacuum Geoff left behind, a task made more difficult because that period was a very stressful one in the history of Lancaster University, the Craig Affair of storied memory. Geoff mentored people who became prominent in linguistics both in Britain and around the world. Margaret’s and my condolences go out to Fanny and to Geoff’s many colleagues and friends in Lancaster.

  8. I have benefited a great deal from Professor Leech’s work and effort in stylistics and corpus linguistics. He is such an eminent, active and approachable researcher like always in my memory. His sudden passing made me feel shocked and sorrow.
    My heartfelt respect to Professor Leech and condolences to his family.

  9. I met Geoff for the first time at the end of July, 2014. We had a very brief talk, I felt he was a very nice person because I asked to pay a visit to him next time, and he happily agreed. What a loss for the linguistics department!

  10. Geoff’s sudden death came to me as a great shock. I feel privileged and honoured to have known him ever since I joined the Poetics and Linguistics Association (PALA) in 1980. I will always remember him as an outstanding scholar in many areas of linguistics, who had a profound influence on my academic career. Though he was world famous, Geoff was always remarkably unassuming and, as Mick Short once said to me, “the kindest man in world”. Personally, I met with his great kindness and warmth when I was staying at his house in Kirkby Lonsdale during a symposium in Lancaster.
    I offer my heartfelt condolences to Geoff’s wife Fanny, and his family.

  11. Like many people, I was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Prof. Geoffrey Leech.
    He is such a broad-minded, kind person.
    It was very fortunate for me to be supervised by him.
    He has the foresight to create annotated corpora and initiate corpus-based approaches in Linguistics, one of the greatest contributions to the discipline and empirical sciences.
    I wish I could pay my last respects to him.
    I deeply express my grief, and hope to visit my mentor’s grave in the near future.

  12. I was shocked to hear the sad news. I didn’t believe at first. Geoffrey Leech was such a great man! Despite his scholarship, research and contributions, I had never seen such a humble man. The students of linguistics in the Department of English, University of Karachi know him only through his books and ideas. Geoff’s death has definitely caused a great loss to Linguistics.

  13. This summer I attended the PALA conference in Maribor and to my great joy found that Geoff and Fanny were there. I am grateful for that last meeting, I cherish the time we had together; we talked, we walked, our large group had dinner in the open air on a hill and we sat next to each other, we laughed, I listened and learned, and I could also listen to Geoff lecture again.
    When I first went to Lancaster the presence of Geoff I felt was like sunshine, making the dark and rainy campus a school of revelations, interest and hope. There are very few people one meets and feels that one is in the presence of greatness, both intellectual and moral.
    Geoff is a blessing for us all, an everlasting encouragement to think, work and be good. Thank you, Geoff Leech. Fanny, please accept my heartfelt sympathy and respect.

  14. Wonderful to have known Geoffrey, and I cherish many fond memories of him. For me, he provided an extremely warm welcome to the University when I came to work in Lancaster, and was a constant enthusiast and encouragement to all his fellow researchers, at all stages in their development. He was never short of an excellent question on even the most esoteric topic, and could make the most nervous speaker giving their first talk completely at ease – sitting near the front, smiling and nodding throughout.

  15. I am sunk in such a deep sorrow, remembering his friendly smile and gentle voice, which always warmed my heart when I was a MA student under his supervision at Lancaster University, and which remained exactly the same after over ten years; when I saw him again at one of his lectures in Japan this spring, he kindly talked to me just as he did in Lancaster, and his unchanged warm-heartedness made me full of emotion. It seems impossible to find any words to fully express my gratitude and sorrow, but I hope this tribute in words will convey my sincere condolences at least.

  16. Professor Leech makes use of every minute of his life to help others either verbally or through his publications. He treats everyone equally regardless of their race, nationality or religion. His lifelong learning pursuit and spirit of compassion will never leave us.

  17. I am deeply saddened by the loss of our prominent and well-known professor Geoffrey Leech’s sudden death. I was honored to be introduced to him by Mick Short in the university of Huddersfield before his talk starts. It is worth saying that before being introduced to this eminent personality, Geoffrey Leech’s books of Grammar were very popular and being read by enormous students and researchers in my country and I was one of those who admire his work. During the time I started my PhD in Stylistics in Huddersfield University I began to realise that Geoffrey Leech has also offered enormous research and books in Stylistics.
    My condolences to his family, Mick Short, Paul Simpson and all PALA Members.

  18. On behalf of the members of Sophia Linguistic Institute for International Communication, I want to express heart-felt condolences for the family of Professor Geoffrey Leech. Professor Leech visited our institute several times, giving insightful thought-provoking lectures on the topic that is relevant to the interest of all the members of the institute. Meanwhile, he proved to be an outstanding scholar with a great sense of modesty. He was sincere but humorous, serious but friendly, and far-famed but approachable. By means of an exceptional combination of scholarship and character, he helped us not only deepen our knowledge about languages, but also unite the entire humanity.

    August 2014

    Sophia Linguistic Institute of International Communication
    Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan
    Yoshinori Watanabe, PhD

  19. I was a student at Lancaster University between 1981 and 1984. I wanted to study English Literature. However, because of the Lancaster degree structure, I chose Linguistics as a ‘minor’ subject and entered a world of study that I didn’t know existed.

    Geoff Leech’s lectures on grammar and stylistics were a revelation to me. As a result, linguistic study became a core part of my degree, of my subsequent teaching in schools, and of my ongoing writing and public speaking about literature and literacy.

    Unwittingly, Geoff did what great teachers do: he changed the course of my life. I am so pleased to have been able to attend July’s fortieth anniversary of the Department, and to have been able to tell him, in person, just how much I learnt from him.

  20. Although I have not had any personal contact with Geoff Leech, I cherish great admiration for and deep gratitude to him, since I have benefited immensely from his work. I was truly saddened by the news of his passing. My heartfelt condolences to his family.

  21. I met Geoff Leech during the LIAR II conference and I will always remember him as a very generous person devoting much of his time to giving extremely constructive feedback to novel researchers. I will always remember his kindness, generocity and professionalism. A really great man and scholar.

  22. We are so sad to hear that Geoffrey passed away suddenly. Through the latter half of the twentieth century, he was one of the best known English scholars in our century. The width of his research coverage, ranging from grammar, semantics and pragmatics to stylistics and poetics, coupled with his clear ways of presentation, had an immense impact on so many students and scholars of English in our country. Yoshihiko, together with some colleagues of his, translated several books by Geoffrey into Japanese, and he remembers he always found it a great joy to be translating so cogently organized writings as Geoffrey’s. We only regret that he passed away so soon. May his soul rest in peace!

  23. I was deeply saddened by the loss of our well-known professor Geoffrey Leech’s sudden death, the news was a shock for me. I was honoured to meet Geoff when he gives a talk in the university of Huddersfield on the 19th of March 2014.
    My condolences to his family, Paul Simsion, Mick Short and all PALA Members.

  24. He was a very nice man; I only met him a couple of times, but like many of us, I knew and was much influenced by his work, and on the day I heard of his passing, by chance I had been consulting his Linguistic Guide (for what he had to say about rhyme and alliteration); he also helped me get one of my first research grants, for which I am most grateful.

  25. Prof. Geoffrey Leech’s sudden death has brought back my vague memories of the London days I spent half a century ago. In 1967-68 I was a visiting student at UCL. Prof. Quirk advised me to take a course in semantics during the spring term. The teacher was Geoffrey Leech, a young lecturer. Therefore, I was his rare Japanese student in his UCL days, though I was by three years his senior. In his class he never talked about ‘corpus’ or ‘computing.’ I was only interested in historical syntax. He made the following witty remark about this: “Neither he (=Saito) nor I were immediately inspired by Quirk’s corpus work. ….Nevertheless, we must have both caught from Quirk a latent ‘corpus bug’ which came to fruition when our careers had progressed further.” (Leech’s Foreword to my Festschrift, Yamazaki & Sigley eds., Approaching Language Variation through Corpora, 2013)

    This year Prof. Leech stayed in Japan, making a lecture tour, from May to June at the invitation of Soka University. On 24 May, he gave a lecture at a meeting held in Tokyo by Japan Association for English Corpus Studies (JAECS). And then he was surprised with the presentation of a Certificate of Appreciation in praise of his long-time dedication to the promotion of corpus linguistics in Japan.I was away from the meeting owing to my continuing bad health. Next day he emailed me, saying, “I was very moved and honoured to receive the certificate of appreciation,” and added, “I will frame the certificate and proudly put it on my office wall, but I will hardly feel I deserve such an honour.” Indeed, he was a man of modesty. So I replied to him: “Of course you deserve our appreciation and gratitude. When we founded JAECS in 1993, we had to fight against the strong computer-allergy prevalent among traditional philologists as well as the Chomskian paradigm still predominant in Japan. We would have lost the fight without the lectures, encouragement and advice given by the pioneers in corpus linguistics, esp. you, . . .”

    JAECS started with a membership of about 60 in 1993, when computing in the humanities in Japan was at least ten years behind the Western level. However, we were very fortunate to have had as guest speakers such famous corpus linguists as J. Svartvik and G. Kennedy in 1997, G. Leech in 1999, D. Biber and R. Reppen in 2000, J. Aarts in 2002, S. Johansson in 2003 and so on. Their presence contributed very much to raising in Japan the profile of corpus linguistics as well as that of JAECS.

    As Prof. Masahiro Hori says in his tribute, Prof. Leech was a missionary of (English) corpus linguistics. Once he gave a lecture at JAECS in 1999, he got interested in this small national organization, and gave us a kind and generous helping hand in various ways, such as his returned lectures, his contribution of attractive forewords to T. Saito, J. Nakamura, and S. Yamazaki (eds.) English Corpus Linguistics in Japan (2002), and the above-quoted Festschrift (2013), etc. Thanks to such help and moral support from Prof. Leeeh and the other pioneers as well as our own efforts, JAECS rapidly grew to be awarded honorary institutional membership by ICAME in 2002. That’s why Prof. Leech deserves the Certificate of Appreciation.

    When Prof. Leech flew back home, finishing his lecture tour with great success, I sent him a thank-you email (16 June), adding a line: “I hope you will have a good rest for now.” Alas! I never thought he would be gone earlier than his older Japanese student. I was looking forward to receiving the photo of the framed Certificate in his office with him standing beside it! I will miss him.

    Prof. Geoffrey Leech was, in the true sense of the word, a scholar—to the core.

    Toshio Saito
    Professor Emeritus, Osaka University
    Ex-President (1993-2001) & Adviser, Japan Association for English Corpus Studies

  26. I had the privilege of knowing and working with Geoff for over 30 years, in my capacity of publisher at Longman Dictionaries. Geoff was Deputy Chair of our advisory committee, Linglex (Randolph Quirk being the Chair), and Co-chair of our advisory committee (with Professor Y. Ikegami) of the Longman English-Japanese bilingual dictionary (published in 2006), and I worked with him also on the two large Longman grammars. His understanding of language and linguistics were, of course, second to none, and his contribution to semantics and pragmatics were groundbreaking, in particular in terms of their elegance and comprehensibility. Geoff would take a poorly expressed half-idea, and make it comprehensible, and then examine it with his penetrating intellect, always treating everyone fairly. He helped the team at Longman greatly in formulating the design and structure of the British National Corpus in the 1990s: we will all remember his ‘buckets’ theory and hand-drawn diagram.

    Our colleague in Longman (Pearson Education) Japan, Kawahara-san, said this when he heard the sad news:

    “How terrible! He was such a good and fair person, even to Japanese untutored sales reps like me, considering he was such a great academician. We loved him very much. I cannot express my thoughts well enough in English.”

    Many people in the publishing world would wish to join Geoff’s academic colleagues and students in paying tribute to this great linguist.

    Della Summers
    (ex-Director, Longman Dictionaries and Reference)

  27. Henceforth thou art the Genius of the shore,
    In thy large recompense, and shalt be good
    To all that wander in that perilous flood.

    He touch’d the tender stops of various quills,
    With eager thought warbling his Doric lay;
    And now the sun had stretch’d out all the hills,
    And now was dropp’d into the western bay;
    At last he rose, and twitch’d his mantle blue:
    To-morrow to fresh woods, and pastures new.

    – Thank you, Geoff.

  28. The first time I met Geoff was at 17th ICAME, Stockholm 1996, and the last time I saw him and said ‘Good-bye’ to him was on 12 June, 2014 after the last Japanese lecture at Daito Bunka University. His boundless kindness and generosity to Japanese corpus linguists helped a lot for the development of Japanese corpus linguistics, and his several worthwhile lectures at my university were loved by many participants from all over Japan. I shall never forget his gracious and lovely smile, and he will be greatly missed. My deepest condolences to Fanny and the family.

  29. Geoffrey Leech was my mentor since I first read his book on stylistics, and I was so happy when he helped me study at Lancaster University in 2000. He was my one-term-only supervisor and also my internal examiner when I did research on historical pragmatics. This field is related to stylistics, pragmatics, corpus linguistics and historical linguistics, all of which I learned from Geoff. He was always gentle and modest and everyone in the department couldn’t admire him more. We used to say ‘He is an angel.’ I will miss him greatly and I will always remember his smile. May his soul rest in peace.

  30. Geoffrey’s love for linguistics could be felt in every page he wrote. His views were always sound and deep, but also natural and remarkably easy to remember. I met him in Madrid in 2010, and had the opportunity to know that he was a great person as much as a great linguist. My deepest condolences to Fanny.

  31. The last time I said good-bye to Geoff was after a guest lecture he had given in Zürich, trusting full well that I would see him again at a conference. Sadly, this won’t be the case now. But the ISLE conference in Zurich this week, which we dedicated to the memory of Geoff, was a good opportunity to share memories with people, memories of the inspiring, enthusiastic but unassuming scholar that he was and the “nice guy”, as David Crystal put it. It was also good to see how many papers made reference to his work. He played a major role in shaping the way I work as a corpus linguist, and I feel privileged to have known him and to have had the opportunity to work with him. My condolences to Fanny and the family, for whom the loss must have come as an even greater shock.

    Marianne Hundt

    “Decirse adiós es negar la separación, es decir: Hoy jugamos a separarnos pero nos veremos mañana. Los hombres inventaron el adiós porque se saben de algún modo inmortales, aunque se juzguen contingentes y efímeros.” (J.L. Borges, from ‘Delia Elena San Marco’, 1954)

  32. What a shock to hear about Geoff’s passing away. He was so full of energy and interest when I saw him before the summer break. As a new colleague at LAEL, I only met Geoff recently but was lucky enough to supervise a PhD student with him and for the 40th anniversary of LAEL, I had the chance to enjoy some joint musical sessions too. Both were very pleasant experiences.
    I will keep him in my memory as a role model for my own days after retirement. It was a great honour to have known Geoff. Very many condolences to Fanny and his family and friends.

  33. I was a student at Lancaster and met Geoffrey Leech in the early 1970’s. He was inspirational and his work helped me very much in my own job over a period of more than forty years. I am very sorry to learn that he has gone. My condolences to his family.

  34. Geoff was an inspiration to me as a student on the MA in English Language course from 2005-7. I had the pleasure of attending several of his lectures during that time. His pioneering corpus work, including its beginnings when computers were in their infancy, was a revelation. Last month at the department’s 40th anniversary event, I learned he is also an accomplished pianist. For all his brilliancy, he was so humble and thoughtful. To Geoff’s family, friends and colleagues, I am very sorry for this great loss.

  35. I have had the privilege to have Prof. Geoffrey Leech as my PhD supervisor. His knowledge of English grammar and of other areas of linguistics was boundless and inspiring. He was my Linguistics hero, my greatest mentor, and he has changed the way I think about grammar. I loved his personality; his modesty was remarkable, his encouragement and interest in my work enabled me to complete my thesis, his kindness and generosity helped me achieve the best of my potential and his great sense of humour kept me cheerful. I thank God for having been given the opportunity to be supervised by such a humble genius. Geoffrey, I will always miss you. Thank you ever so much for everything! My deepest sympathy goes out to Fanny and the rest of Geoffrey’s family who have to deal with such a sudden loss.

  36. In memory of Prof. Geoffrey Leech
    There are no appropriate words to express our sense of personal sorrow and professional loss on the sudden death of Prof. Geoffrey Leech,August 19,2014. For over 30 years Prof.Leech had been a frequent and valued contribution to the Japanese TESOL community .Prof.Leech was first invited to Japan in 1980 by the Japan Association of College English Teachers (JACET) as chief lecturer, and since has often lectured at Japanese universities,including Meikai University and Soka University in the recent year. His contributions to education are most notable,as thousands of Japanese high schoool and university teachers of English were instructed and inspired by his lectures, and over ten young Japanese linguists were awarded their doctorates under his guidance.
    His empathy for Japan and Japanese did not go unnoticed, and he was loved by the Japanese people.Prof.Leech was an internationally respected researcher and educator,but particularly so among Japanese scholars and teachers of English. We wish his soul peace. Our thoughts are also with Fanny and his children.
    Ikuo Koike
    President Emeritus, JACET
    Professor Emeritus, Keio University and Meikai University,Japan 

  37. Geoffrey was a great colleague, who gave me my first job in corpus linguistics, and has always been a huge inspiration and guide. I was always struck by the huge amounts of hands-on work that he did on the numerous UCREL projects in which I participated, and by his extreme generosity. My first opportunity to attend an overseas conference came when Geoff paid out of his own personal departmental travel budget for me to attend the PALA conference in Granada in 1996.

    I would also like to add on behalf of everyone in Oxford who worked with Geoff on the British National Corpus that we are very sad to hear about his passing. Geoff was undoubtedly the intellectual driving force behind the BNC, and carried out an enormous amount of the work to make it a reality. It was a great honour for us all to have worked with him, and he will be greatly missed.

  38. I am so sorry to learn of Prof. Leech’s death. I attended one of his talks when I studied in an MA program in our department in 2005 and he left a deep impression on me both as a scholar and as a very warm human being. I wrote him an email in 2006 when I was back in Beijing and he replied within a couple of hours. Now, I’m teaching the course of pragmatics to MA students at a university in Beijing, with the same kind of rigor, warmth and efficiency that I’ve learned from this teacher and many others from the department of linguistics in Lancaster. The great intellectual legacy left by Prof. Leech will be with us and give us strength to move forward.
    Capital University of Economics and Business

  39. Leech, a familiar name in the circle of linguistics, China.His book Smantics was translated in Chinese, over 30 years ago and won high praise.
    In 1999,I was accepted as a Ph. D candidate by the Dept. of Linguistics, University of Lancaster. My would-be supervisor is Anna Siewierska. My choice of University of Lancaster was associated with Leech, who played an important part in the department, enjoying prestige in the field of linguistics all over the world.
    In the past, I taught stylictics to undegraduates in China, and his Style in Fiction is among my favourite reference books.
    Forever I will remember Leech!

  40. About a month ago, Geoff had been good enough to attend my talk at TaLC 2014 and I was delighted that he was there – my talk looked back at 20 years of the Teaching and Language Corpora conferences that he and colleagues at Lancaster had initiated, and for me and many others he had been right at the heart of work in corpus linguistics, an inspiration and a pioneer. We all owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, for his vision, his enthusiasm and his powerful intellect. He will be greatly missed.

  41. Adieu,
    Dear Mr. Leech.
    Inches beyond inches,
    English linguistics you drew,
    Unremittingly in your 78 years.
    Even the world turns off ears,
    Involuntarily your voice
    Deepens heart

  42. Among a lot of memorable moments I most clearly recall a pretty long lake side walk we had along the Coffin Path. Before that beautiful summer day Geoff played the piano to the happy participants of ICAME 30. There are innumerable things we Japanese corpus linguists owe to him. My heart is filled with Geoff’s
    smile and walks again with him along a sunny way surrounded by the blue bells.

    Takeshi Okada
    executive member of Japan Association for English Corpus Studies

  43. As a student once studied at Lancaster, I still remember the time when I meet Pro. Leech at a seminar in the winter of 2012. It was at noon and he came with homemade sandwiches. It was so delighted to meet such a respected linguist. So amiable and so modest. It’s a great shock to us all, but it is sure he won’t leave those who loved him. May his soul rest in peace.

  44. Professor Leech was a kind and thoughtful gentleman as well as one of the most distinguished scholars in the field of Linguistics. I have long benefited from his works about semantics and pragmatics before I became a PhD student in this department. I was fortunate to have attended his several lectures and got the chance to take a photo with him. My deepest memory of him is the day when he chaired my confirmation panel and gave me lots of inspiring suggestions about my project last December. Besides, I will never forget the moment when I got his thank-you email for my Christmas card. Though he has passed away, his sweet smile, his good manner and his great works will live forever in our hearts!

  45. My Dearest Geoff,
    How are you there in Heaven? You never know how much I miss you.
    How can I believe you left us all of a sudden? It took me several days to accept the cruel truth. It is the first seventh day today after you left. According to the Chinese custom, it is a very important day for the deceased. That is why I choose to write to you today.
    Whenever I close my eyes, your smiling face is there. Eyes swollen with tears, I am looking at sweet photos we took 12 days before you left. Thank you and Fanny for driving all the way from Lancaster to Oxford to invite me for dinner with your family on the last night before I left for Beijing. It was an almost fail-to-make appointment but finally it was proved to be an Appointment of Life! What a pleasant family dinner we had that day! You were very proud of giving a speech at the 40th anniversary of Department of Linguistics and English Language as the founding department head. You were looking forward to your visit to Beijing next year. After my return to Beijing, I got your email on 13th, the last email you sent to me, making sure I got back safely and telling me you would send my daughter Tongtong some books for her birthday. You always moved me so much with your father-like kindness and care. I also see it as a kind of predestined relationship between us when you told me I shared the birthday date with your daughter Camilla, who treated me well like my elder sister.
    Thank you for sharing your office with me when I did my postdoctoral research at LAEL, Lancaster University as a British Academy Visiting Fellow in 2010. Thank you for enlightening my research and encouraging me to give several talks at Lancaster, UCL and Cardiff. Thank you for spending time on proofreading the proposal, report and paper for me with patience. Thank you for all your efforts devoted to the proposed collaboration between Lancaster and my university (Beijing Technology and Business University). Thank you for Christmas cards and gifts for Tongtong who has long been looking forward to seeing Grandpa Geoff. Just as what you said to me, you love your research and work and will never retire. Your last minute was still spent in your office. The spirit of passion, commission, devotion and tenacity for the work is the treasure you left for me.
    I miss you, Geoff. Wish you live a peaceful life in another world.

    All the best

  46. We are extremely sorry to hear that Dr Geoffrey Leech has passed away. Dr Leech was staying, last May and June, at Soka University as a visiting professor and he delivered to us a series of lectures which provisionally concluded his studies in English over fifty years. Not only with his great insight into language were we deeply impressed but also with his personality, kindness, and gentlemanliness. We are so much obliged to Dr Leech. May Leech-sensei rest in peace!

    MATSUSHIMA Ryutaro
    President of the English Language and Literature Society of Soka University.

  47. It is hard to find the words to describe what we will miss about Professor Leech now that he has gone. As his former students, we will miss his expertise, wisdom, his kindness and generosity. As members of the community of linguists which he worked so hard to build, we will miss his courage and ferocious energy. As researchers and teachers, we will miss the example of his scholarship. But in the end, the absence that is most present is his sunny smile, the greatness of his heart.

    My heartfelt condolences to his family

  48. Dr. Geoffrey Leech was always welcomed in Japan. The last time I met him was at Kusatsu Summer Workshop held by JALT Gunma Chapter in 2009. He was invited as the keynote speaker. He gave us two most enlightening and informative lectures on English grammar and Politeness. His gentle personality was also very impressive. He kindly made friends with all the participants there. May his soul rest in peace and God provide consolation to his family. My deepest condolences.

    Hideto D. Harashima, then co-president of Gunma chapter of JALT

  49. As so many other friends and colleagues have already said, Geoff was a truly remarkable man. He was kind and generously shared with colleagues and students his passion for language. He was also one of the finest linguists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Like so many others, I owe a considerable intellectual debt to him. His work on pragmatics was a major inspiration to me in my doctoral thesis on politeness in modalised directives in English, and he was one of my external examiners. His pioneering studies in corpus linguistics have also formed an important part of the background to my own work in that area. One of my fondest memories of him is that we were both at a conference – I think it was in the US – many years ago now, where he delighted a group of us by playing the piano for us. He will be sorely missed.

  50. Professor Geoffrey Leech, who was a world-renowned linguist, had a strong connection with Japan. He visited Japan many times and gave lectures in various places. Thus he had a great impact on the development of linguistics in Japan, especially on corpus linguistics and pragmatics. Professor Leech also had a close connection with JACET (Japan Association of College English Teachers), which included being a main lecturer of the JACET seminar multiple times (most recently, in 2009). There are many members in JACET who had personal connections with Professor Leech, as friends, colleagues, and students. Of course, every one of them respected Professor Leech as a great scholar, but at the same time, they really loved his warm and modest personality. We will always remember him for his great contributions to linguistics and his wonderful personality.

    Hisatake Jimbo, President
    Japan Association of College English Teachers

  51. My first encounter with Geoff was on reading his ‘Grammar of Contemporary English’, back in the early 1970s, while I was doing a PGCE with TEFL. It was, of course, a real eye-opener, not least because I found it to be model of clarity, despite its highly complex subject-matter. A few years later I came across his ‘Communicative Grammar of English’, which was yet another big breath of fresh air in terms of my understanding of how English can be described. Then, shortly afterwards, on coming to Lancaster, I first heard him give a talk – a stylistic analysis of Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’. I can still vividly recall how wonderfully he laid bare the verbal intricacies of that great poem and made its sonorous sounds echo in my head ever since.

    I could go on recounting many academic encounters of this kind with someone who was a truly outstanding scholar of the English language. But I would like to finish on a more personal note. Among his many other duties, Geoff found time during the 1980s and 1990s to act as Chair of my then department, the Institute for English Language Education, which he steered through those sometimes turbulent years with great wisdom, insight and kindliness, much to my benefit as well as that of other colleagues. And then in so many chance encounters in daily life – in the corridor, by email, at social gatherings – I found Geoff to be unfailingly friendly, approachable and helpful, never seeming to be too short of time to listen and advise. This considerateness on the part of one so distinguished in our field towards even someone of my standing is another memory I will always very fondly cherish.

    It was a great honour to have known Geoff. Very many condolences to Fanny and the rest of his family.

  52. It was such a terrible shock for me and Dave, my husband, to hear about Geoff’s tragic and sudden death this week. We had recently seen him at the Department’s 40th anniversary celebrations, surrounded by Fanny, his wife, and his many friends, colleagues and students. Geoff and Fanny looked so happy throughout the two days, and Dave and I were fortunate to have plenty of opportunity to chat to them, which we both found very enriching.

    Geoff was my supervisor on the MA in Language Studies and for the PhD. I admired his immense knowledge of so many areas of linguistics, his modesty, his generosity and his characteristic gentle manner. I feel very privileged to have been supervised by such a wonderful and knowledgeable scholar.

    Dave and I also enjoyed Geoff’s and Fanny’s kind hospitality when they invited us and other students to their beautiful home in Kirkby Lonsdale whilst I was a student at Lancaster, and Geoff also visited us at our home in Nottingham.

    Our heart goes out to Fanny and the rest of Geoff’s family during this time of great sorrow for so many.

  53. In my time in the Research Councils I have met countless academics. Geoff stands out as one of the nicest people I have had the privilege to meet and to spend time with. Much of what I would want say has been said already – the world is a lesser place for his passing.

  54. He has inspired much of my work on the cognitive modeling of illocutionary meaning. Great scholar and a sad loss. I had the chance to meet with him and discuss linguistics after we both gave plenary lectures at the 7th International Conference of the Romanian Society for English and American Studies, in Galati, Rumania, back in 2004. He was congenial, open-minded, and encouraging. He has been, is, and will be a central part of my undergraduate and graduate courses on pragmatics. He has been, is, and will be an essential ingredient of PhD work under my supervision and of my own published research. Thank you, professor Leech.

  55. I would wish to add one more stone to this cairn marking the life and achievements of Geoff Leech. Geoff was always so very unassuming, not a man to rest on his numerous laurels but a true scholar — in the sense that it was the issues which interested him that drove his enthusiasm, not status or personality issues. I too was there in Lancaster at the end of TALC this year and we chatted. It was a great shock to read of his sudden disappearance from our community.

  56. I offer my deepest sympathy on this too early death of Professor Geoffrey Leech.
    I was really astonished at the news as I just heard his special lecture at Kyoto Univ. in May this year. It was very fruitful but full of wit. After the lecture, I asked him for his autograph as a memento on his book “Meaning and the English Verb”. He gave one in a kind manner with that warm smile. Moreover he answered to my question on the spot. It was a memorable experience for me and my first time to meet him in person, but I did not even imagine this would be my last time. The autographed copy has become one of my treasures.
    I would like to express my deepest condolence here again with highest respect and tribute to the last Professor Geoffrey Leech.

  57. How I miss Prof. Leech, or Geoff. I first met him at the JACET Seminar in Tokyo, Hachoji. I translated the first and the sedond editions of A Communicative Grammar of English into Japanese (Tokyo: Kinokuniya, 1977~93 and 1988). I met him several times at his stimulous and well-organized lectures at Seijo University and Daito Bunka University, both of which I taught as a full-time prof. The last lecture I attended was the one on 11th June, 2014 at Rikkyo University.
    As my main field is historical studies of Middle English period, I did not have a chance to receive his academic instruction as a student, but his boks and article on ‘style’ were impressive. He was always helpful, for example, writing a recommendation letter for the Lambeth Palace Library, encouraging, and kind. I am very much grateful to him for kindly contributing an article on the place names of the districts he loved so much for my festschrift, Text, Language and Interpretation (2007, Tokyo: Eihosha).
    Though I seldom met him in England because whenever I went to England I was always confined in the libraries or attended conferences on the topics different from Geoff’s, I once ivisted his office at Lancaster University and he gave me a wonderful dinner of duck. When we met in June, we promised to see each other again either in England or Japan. When I said “See you again” I really thought it would be possible.
    May I wish peace on him and the same for Mrs. Leech and the rest of the family.
    Keiko Ikegami, Prof. em. Seijo Univ.

  58. On behalf of Soka University, I would like to express my deepest condolences on the unexpected passing of Doctor Geoffrey Leech.

    I am deeply sorry to have lost such a great and distinguished scholar, who has made monumental contributions to the development of the English linguistics field.

    Doctor Leech kindly accepted our invitation to Soka University as our visiting professor from May to June this year. It gave me great pleasure to enjoy talking with Doctor Leech. It seems only yesterday. I will never forget his friendly smile. Words cannot express my profound grief to lose him.

    Doctor Leech’s huge contributions are well known in Japan, and our students were impressed by and proud of attending his wonderful lectures. Further, during his stay in Japan, Doctor Leech gave lectures at many other academic institutions, and I believe that people throughout Japan were delighted to receive him.

    We were all impressed not only by his profound, foremost intelligence but also by his kind, warm personality, which we felt when he was talking with our students. This, we thought, was what a truly eminent scholar could show.

    Doctor Daisaku Ikeda, founder of Soka University, too, extends his deepest condolences on the unexpected passing of Doctor Leech.

    Once again, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences and sympathies on the passing of Doctor Leech whose great accomplishments and dedicated life we will forever remember.

    Yoshihisa Baba
    Soka University

  59. The last time I met Geoff was just on 30th June this year when he gave his lecture at Waseda University. He has been a very cheerful, friendly, modest and great scholar and educator since I met him at Lancaster University in 1988. It is one of the most wonderful things I met him in my life. I will treasure all his memories and works.

  60. My deepest condolences is with his family during this sad time. May his soul rest in peace.

  61. Words are speechless and silent. They are now unable to describe a man who conquered many hearts throughout the world.

    Still in an incalculable sadness and will be forever. It is not long time ago, only a few weeks ago, on the 10th of July 2014, we said goodbye to each other in tears and I came back home after my viva session. I am very proud of being Goeff’s last student at Lancaster and also very honored to say that he heard my graduation news from the Registry only a few hours before he died. Immediately after that, this is the last message I got from Geoff on the 18th of August at 12.42 pm:

    Dear Sadegh,

    I’m glad Jonathan accepted your corrections so quickly. Now I can truly call you Dr Sadegh Sadeghidizaj! Congratulations again!


    I was admitted to Lancaster University in 2009. The day I received an email from Marjorie Wood confirming that I had been offered a place at Lancaster University under the supervision of Geoff Leech and Gila Schauer was unforgettable moment of my life since to have Geoff as my supervisor was my only ambition in my educational life. I couldn’t believe my eyes seeing Geoff as my supervisor at Lancaster. The dream has turned into reality. Geoff was my supervisor. A worry, then, filled my soul, how can I interact and move forward with such a great, reputed, talented scholar. I was very nervous about our first meeting. However, Geoff was professional at putting people at comfort as I experienced myself that day. He invited me for a lunch and a very great day. Unforgettable.

    I and those who have met and worked with him will always remember his enthusiasm, generosity of spirit, unassuming and affable manner. They will unanimously agree that he was a really remarkable, lovely and caring man.

    His wife, children and family must be proud of Geoff as the world may never see a man like him. I hope that they deal with this great loss.

    Finally, Geoff: I miss you forever.

  62. What a loss! At the IV Congreso Internacional de Lingüística de Corpus in Jaén in 2012, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to have some longer discussions with Geoffrey Leech and so much enjoyed his wit, warmth, intellectual breadth and non-ideological perspective on language and linguistics. His enthusiasm and positive energy was so evident – and sometimes paired with his apparent love of nature and hiking: after a full conference day, an evening reception, and a beautiful but long guided Jaén-at-night tour, in the early morning hours the organizers were getting us taxis, when Geoff and his wife remarked: “It’s such a beautiful night, we’d like to walk the half hour to the hotel!”

  63. It was 3 a.m. Boston, MA. Unable to sleep because of the jet lag, I opened the email box, immediately shocked by a piece of message from a colleague: Leech passed away yesterday in his office. Can’t believe it is real, for just a month ago he was still so energetic, telling me that he would pay a visit to China next year.

    That day was July 23, the last day of TaLC11. When I noticed Geoff sat quietly, giving his full attention to the final plenary speech presented by Paul Thompson, I was quite excited and decided not to miss the opportunity to ask questions that had occupied my mind over a decade. After the presentation was over, I seized the opportunity and had a forty-minute interview with him. It started from a question I had asked John Sinclair in 2003 regarding the major difference between his work and Leech’s in the field of corpus linguistics. … I didn’t expect he would stay so long with me, addressing each question with great patience and sincerity. And I would never, ever forget how lovely he IS when using “Oh really?”, along with a childish smile, in reply to an unexpected idea.

    Today I’m going to MIT, a place the young Geoff had visited fifty years before, as a special tribute to this well-rounded linguist.

  64. I first met Geoff in 2005, shortly after I had started in the department. I was rather nervous about meeting a scholar whose clear and accessible writing had made such an important contribution to my understanding of pragmatics, and felt a bit jittery when I first met him in person for tea. Geoff was great at putting people at ease, as I experienced myself that day and then witnessed many times since.

    Geoff was a remarkable man. A great but very modest scholar, whose voice will be missed in many linguistic disciplines, a wonderful colleague, who was an inspritation to those who worked with him, and a very experienced supervisor and teacher, who was very supportive and kind.

    There are many things to remember about him and many to be grateful for.

    When thinking about him in recent days, the first thing that I always remembered first was his laugh and how happy he was when we spoke a few weeks ago, at the end of a successful viva.

    He will be missed very much.

  65. I am a Chinese linguist who visited and stayed at Lancaster University for one year from 2011 to 2012, when Prof. Geoffrey Leech acted as one of my mentors. I heard the sad shocking news about him yesterday and still I can’t believe it.

    I am not intending to make this a formal or sentimental writing in memorial of Prof. Leech, but since I was a college student 25 years ago, I, among a huge number of college English majors and linguists in China, have known or heard of him as a respectable master of linguistics. His books were widely used as classic course-books and his papers widely read and discussed. We young students were fascinated when hearing and reading stories about the new “Gang of Four”. I had the great honor to do research under his personal instruction. He was a man full of charm, so gracious, so friendly, modest and amiable, gentle and easy to approach, and always ready to help others. He was of my father’s age, but he even apologized to me one day, like a pupil to a headmaster, for being 15 minutes late for an appointment made with me earlier. I feel very sorry that he passed away ‘quite young’ considering his living conditions and life style. I thought he would live much longer than that, at least over 90. He looked so healthy, active and fine, quick in thinking. And the sad news brought every meeting, lecture and talk between him and me/the students back to me. They are so vivid and true. We exchanged emails regularly in the past two years and he had been so patient in giving me instructions, advice and comments on linguistic studies. I even gladly thought I could make it to visit him again next year when I complete my post-doc program. Alas! We suffer a big loss! He was a priceless treasure not only to the United Kingdom, but also to the human kind as a whole! He was a model to aspire to, a monument people in the world will remember always!

    I remember giving him a big black umbrella as a gift upon returning to China three years ago, and he in return asked me to pick out any one book written by himself from the bookshelf in his office and gave it to me with his fresh signature in the front page. I will cherish it for ever.

    Geoff is gone. At this sad and hard time, my heart stays with his family. Though we have never met each other, we all love him, so dearly, not only as a family member, but also as an inspiring teacher, a loyal friend, a wise guide and a loving person with talents in a wide variety of areas. More importantly, we all must remember what a great scholar he was and that many of his students and friends can pass on his knowledge to the benefit of others in this world.

  66. It took me several days to accept the shocking and sad new of Geoff’s passing away, which is a huge loss not only to his family and friends personally but also to the world of linguistics intellectually. It was Geoff’s name that attracted me to Lancaster in the first place for my PhD nearly 15 years ago (though I became Professor Tony McEnery’s student upon my arrival because of Geoff’s expected retirement), and it has been a great pleasure and honour for me to become Geoff’s colleague in the linguistics department at Lancaster. I’ll miss Geoff’s knocks on my door and chats with him when he passed my office in the corridor in the department. Professor Leech will not only be remembered as one of the world’s greatest scholars who has shaped a number of areas of modern linguistics including corpus linguistics, pragmatics, semantics, stylistics as well as descriptive grammar of the English language; he will also live in the memory of his colleagues, students, and friends forever for his sweet personality.

  67. I have never met him before. However, his books talk about that great person who dedicated his whole 78-year-life for the service of humanity and knowledge that his and next successive generations will definitely owe to his soul . Actions speak louder than words, this is what he proved and we need to learn from his long career and character how to be good examples of students of linguistics, stylistics, grammar and semantics. GEOFF, you are the example, you are the model one needs to follow. RIP Geoff.

  68. The news about Geoff’s death was a big blow for me. He was a truly great scholar in every way and one of the finest grammarians of the English language. Only a few days before de died he was engaged in a lively email discussion about a finer point of English grammar with a few fellow linguists. As ever, he was full of passion for his subject.

    As many have said already, what was so striking about Geoff was his modesty. His knowledge of English, and linguistics more widely, was boundless, but he would never behave in a self-important or haughty way. For me he was a great role model, as well as a friend.

    Geoff was due to be awarded an Honorary Degree from UCL on 29 August. I was tremendously looking forward to sharing the occasion with him and Fanny. He told me that he was too. It was not to be.

    Here are some pictures of Geoff as a member of the ‘Gang of Four’

  69. I started working for the department as a research associate since November 2013. On the very first day when I was in my office, it was Geoff who knocked at the door and said, “Hello! I am Geoffrey Leech from the next door.” He said that with such a gentle voice and smile that many people remember as the most lasting impression of him. I certainly knew who he was long before I got here, because he was not only one of the most well-known linguists to the Chinese people but also the instructor of some of the most prestigious Chinese linguists. I came cross Geoff on several occasions: in his talks, at a conference, and in two dinners with Friends of Confucius. I even had the great pleasure of having a shoulder-to-shoulder picture with him and of supplying a little suggestion to the Chinese transcription in one of his books at his request. I wish he was still there in his office clicking at the keyboard of his desktop so that I can knock at his door and say as gently as I can, “Hi Geoff. Thank you!”

  70. Professor Geoffrey Leech was a missionary of corpus linguistics from the United Kingdom to Japan. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to him for making highly significant contributions, over a period of many years, to the development of English corpus studies in Japan. On the 24th of May, 2014, when he had a lecture in Japan, on behalf of English corpus linguists in Japan the Japan Association for English Corpus Studies presented him with a certificate of appreciation in praise of his dedication. We shall never forget his unstinting dedication and his benevolent smile.

    Masahiro Hori, President
    Japan Association for English Corpus Studies

  71. I was so shocked. We met at his presentation at Hachioji, Tokyo in Japan on June. It was just 2 months ago.
    Dr. Leech gave me a comment with his beautiful smile that I remember clearly.
    I’ve never forget his feats, Thank you very much,
    Mio Sekiguchi, Ph.D (Linguistics) from Tokyo, Japan

  72. It took me three days to accept the fact that Geoff was no longer with me and my family! My memories of Geoff as my MA and PhD theses supervisor, a scholar, a gentleman and a heart-to-heart friend are so rich, vivid, and enduring that they will be part of my everyday life until I join him in Heaven.

    It was Geoff’s books on stylistics and semantics that converted me from literature to linguistics in the early 1980’s. In 1984, I considered myself the most fortunate man to be admitted to the Department’s MA in Language Studies programme, and became Geoff’s student. His supervision of my MA dissertation and Ph.D. thesis was mostly instructive, inspiring, helpful, and caring. It has served as my “saged” model in my own academic career ever since.

    Dear Geoff, I still want to talk to you, though I know you cannot hear me any more. My family and I will remember you in our Chinese way. We have set up an altar in our heart-mind where Heavenly money will be deposited to your credit just in case you may need some cash while shopping in Heaven.

    Dear Geoff, so much for now. I’ll talk to you from time to time, just to keep you updated of my doing.

  73. Not very long ago a colleague sent me a poem by Billy Collins (Forgetfulness) which includes the following lines:

    as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
    decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
    to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

    Though I increasingly have a tendency to forget things, I have not and will never forget the interest that Geoff took in everything and everybody. I liked him tremendously, am still in shock that I will never speak with him again, but am so grateful that I knew him.

  74. I was his MA student thirty years ago. He was a great teacher as well as a great researcher. He visited Japan often, and sometimes I attended his lectures. He remembered my full name whenever we met! My deepest condolences to his family.

  75. in many ways, prof. leech was my teacher. when i began my doctoral study in 1994, my supervisor prof. he ziran used prof. leech’s Principles of Pragmatics (Longman, 1983) as one of the few textbooks. in fact, the earlier readers in pragmatics in china all were based on prof. leech’s book and Pragmatics by Stephen Levinson (1983). To many of us, the two books published in the same year served as two earliest textbooks on pragmatics and they together have helped us all formulate the more concrete concept of pragmatics than anything. In this sense, Prof. Leech a teacher inpragmatics for generations of scholars. honestly, i was shocked at the news that Prof.Leech passed away. apparent enough, this is going to be heavy loss the world will largely feel. but it is our hope that the family Prof. Leech left over refrain from oversadness. Prof. Leech, may you rest in peace and enjoy starting your new career in the new world.

  76. I have never seen Geoffrey N. Leech, a founder of pragmatics as well as stylistics, in person, but he is one of my “intellectual parents” and great teachers. His Principles of Pragmatics, Style in Fiction (with Short) and A Communicative Grammar of English (with Svartvik) have shaped my linguistic/ pragmatic mentality. I owe a lot of knowledge and inspiration to his books as well as to his numerous articles and lectures. And I know for sure I am not alone here. May his soul rest in peace.

  77. Geoffrey Leech was my thesis examiner in 1970, and he was a generous mentor from then on. He welcomed me to Lancaster University on research and study leave several times and provided me with much intellectual stimulation, rich academic opportunities, and warm hospitality. He was a kind and gentle man and we will all miss him greatly.

  78. His book, Style in Fiction, taught me that linguistics and literary studies can go hand in hand. A great scholar with a kind heart. He is gone but his legacy remains.

  79. After nearly a decade of looking up to Geoff as a luminary in nearly every field I study, I was incredibly fortunate last year to become his colleague. To me, Geoff was an Emeritus Professor who, nearly forty years before, had founded the department I was joining, and an academic Titan who had changed the face of linguistics in the meantime. To him, I imagined that I was simply another new face in a large and rapidly expanding department; an early career researcher that he’d met once, briefly – if he even remembered that meeting. Imagine my surprise, then, when the afternoon that my appointment was announced, this email was waiting for me:

    Dear Claire,

    Many many congratulations – it is delightful to know that you will be joining us at Lancaster LAEL.



    For me, this simple, short email – my very first example of his character as a colleague – perfectly illustrates his kindness and generosity far more richly than any words I could ever write. I have known Geoff a very short time compared to many, but it took only a fraction of that to realise how remarkable he was. We have lost an academic giant who was unfailingly modest, a wonderful colleague who was principled and fair, and most of all, a funny, kind, thoughtful man who is simply irreplaceable. I replied that day with, “Thank you so, so much. Everyone has been so welcoming; it feels very much like joining a family.” As I write this today, I can’t help but feel that those words were truer than I ever realised, and that we have lost a member of that family. Thank you again for your kindness and welcome Geoff. I only wish that you were still here so that I could say that face-to-face.

  80. Last time I talked to him -more than the usual short greetings- was the time I dashed out of my office confused and worried about being asked to do the index for a book. He was just coming out of his office which was right opposite mine in the ‘new’ department in County South . He paused and looked at me with an inviting expression as in what is the matter. I asked him what people normally do in these circumstances and he explained in details about his experiences with different publishers with such a calming smile, patience and care which immediately made me forget about the problem … like what you would expect of a good old friend to do 🙁 … I still remember his passionate debates on Skype in his office about linguistics with colleagues all around the world and remember thinking how wonderful it is for one to be this enthusiastic about their work ….

    I always felt honoured to have (half) an office next to his. One day, I decided to tell him that! … I clearly remember the expression on his face when I started to say that which was a mixture of shyness and uneasiness … a huge lesson of humility for me … he managed to mumble some words of appreciation between his nervious smiles and kindda cut my comment short by asking me about my work 🙁 …

    RIP Geoff, you will be missed 🙁

  81. In the memory of a great scholar such as Geoffrey Leech> the world of linguistics has lost his contributions but what ever he gave to the field will be forever as insight thoughts. God bless his soul

  82. Geoff was the first name I learned when i started doing stylistics. He was inspirational to me and to generations of young scholars thousands of miles away. Every time i emailed him, he wrote back. I hope the first book that comes out now is a collection in honor of Geoff, and hope i can contribute to it.

  83. Professor Leech was a great scholar and a great person. As a PhD student, I was struck by his kindness. and I liked the way he smiled with his eyes, when he saw you were taking the right direction.

  84. Linguistics has lost one of the shining lights of this and the last century. As I write this, I see Geoffrey Leech ‘Semantics’ on top of a pile, it is one of many works that show the diversity and knowledge of this great scholar. His achievements in so many areas of linguistics will be a lasting memorial.

  85. Before coming to Lancaster for my Masters by research, I sent an email to Prof. Leech, my supervisor to-be, introducing myself. The first line of his reply read: “Please call me Geoff”. This idea, to be able to call a senior and a very well-known professor by his first name, was at the time very strange to me and it took me forever to get used to it. But Geoff won’t have any “Professors”. Our weekly meetings in his office in the old Bowland college were full of chatting about the events featuring in the news (“Isn’t it wonderful that Kosovo became independent?” he said enthusiastically), methodological problems of my research (“Why don’t we use corpus?”), writer’s blocks (“you really need to send me something, even if only 5 words, every Friday”), problems of foreign students living on campus (“Do use sports centre, it is healthy to exercise”) and my PhD topic (“Cookbooks? Really?”) . Following the submission, he invited me and another visiting scholar for a tea to an inn somewhere in the countryside near Lancaster where he demonstrate the ‘proper’ way to eat scones, of course commenting on whether it should be first cream or jam. In 2008, he came to Slovenia as a speaker at a conference organised by Maribor University: it was really amazing that he and his wife could also find time to visit Trieste and the surrounding Karst vineyards, close to which I grew up. I took a picture of Geoff standing near the statue of James Joyce at Trieste Ponte Rosso. I found this picture yesterday, one great man of English language standing next to another: on it, he looks happy, but calm, humble and approachable – the person he was and the way l will always remember him.

  86. Geoffrey Leech was the reason I became a Corpus Linguistics researcher – he taught Semantics on my BA Computing and Linguistics back in 1980, then invited me to stay on at Lancaster as his research assistant on the LOB Corpus tagging project. Geoff was always encouraging, supportive, positive, and inspirational. Even after I moved on to a Lectureship at Leeds, Geoff continued to support and encourage me. I cherish a group photo at the Corpus Linguistics 2003 conference showing my own group of PhD students alongside Geoff as the “godfather” inspiring a new generation of researchers further afield. I just assumed Geoff would go on forever … it was a sad shock to hear of his death. I know that his work, including the Tagged LOB Corpus, will live on..

  87. Shortly after the news of Geoff’s death was released, I was contacted by Marianne Hundt on behalf of the organisation team of the ISLE-3 conference (International Society for the Linguistics of English) at the University of Zurich. The conference, next week, will memorialise Geoff in its opening ceremony. The ISLE-3 committee has also posted a tribute from David Crystal on their website, which I take the liberty of reproducing here:

    Geoffrey Leech (16.1.1936 – 19.8.2014)
    “The world of English linguistics has lost one of its really special people. Geoff Leech, who died on 19 August, aged 78, will be known to all members of ISLE by reputation, and to many as a warm and amiable colleague. An inspiration to generations of students for decades through his lively and enthusiastic presentations and his engaging and accessible publications, he was equally inspiring to fellow-researchers in the many fields where he made such important contributions – stylistics, semantics, pragmatics, grammar, and corpus linguistics. Those who met him, both in the UK and in his many visits abroad, will remember his unassuming and affable manner, which hid a sharp and incisive intellect. Those who worked with him will recall his combination of humility, curiosity, enthusiasm, reliability, and thoroughness that makes a truly great scholar. And those who studied under him will remember his generosity of spirit, giving a level of time, interest, and assistance that was universally appreciated. All will concur that he was, quite simply, a really nice guy. For my part, he was my oldest academic friend, our paths first crossing through the Survey of English Usage in 1962. Our careers have overlapped innumerable times since then, and I now recollect with both sadness and pleasure the two last occasions when we met this year, to celebrate the founding of Lancaster University and the institution of his Department. Our field is the poorer for his passing, but all the richer for his pioneering contributions. It is wholly appropriate that the 2014 ISLE conference should be dedicated to his memory.”
    David Crystal. A tribute to Geoffrey Leech, 20 August 2014

  88. Geoff was not only a remarkable and fantastic scholar; more importantly, he was a real ‘Mensch’: humble, kind, supportive, welcoming, and always interested and curious. A great intellectual, a scholar and also a wonderful musician!
    I cannot believe that I will not see him walking down the corridors of the department anymore, smiling, stopping for a chat…! Only 2 weeks ago, he still chaired a confirmation panel in the department where I was panellist and on Skype – he seemed full of energy and asked many challenging questions while supporting the candidate at the same time.
    I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to meet him and to be able to discuss a range of toopics with him.
    We will all miss him terribly!

    All my best wishes to Fanny in these hard times!

  89. Geoff was in a league of his own both as a scholar and as a person. For over half a century, he led the way in several different areas of linguistics, but remained approachable, supportive and self-effacing with everyone. It is an enormous privilege to have been his student and his colleague. When the shock of losing him subsides, I hope to remember his enthusiasm and pride in celebrating the 40th anniversary of Linguistics at Lancaster, only a few weeks before he died. We could not have celebrated without him, because we would not be what we are without him.

  90. I am Liu Runqing from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and I did my MPhil in your (our) department under the supervision of Mick Short during the year of 1985. G. Leech was my internal examiner. He visited China and our university several times on his lecture. I had a lot of personal contact with him when in Lancaster. Some Chinese classmates and I were at his house to cook Chinese food for him and Fanny. He was a great scholar and a great friend of China, particularly of the Chinese students in Lancaster. His passing away is a great loss not only to Lancaster, but to the whole field of linguistics as well. We have greatest respect for him. Please give my regards to Fanny.

  91. My lasting memory of Geoffrey Leech will be the sight of him striding across the quadrant to his office just a few weeks ago. It was the sight of a man full of energy and with a clear purpose.

    It’s a simple memory but one that I will treasure.

    Laurence Anthony
    Visiting Professor at CASS

  92. Geoff was dedicated and trailblazing as a scholar, but he also distinguished himself by being kind. I still cannot envisage us without him, but I am glad he had a happy and fulfilled life right up to the last moment.

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