Obituary: Alan Cruse

Posted on June 22, 2020 by

David Alan Cruse

by Alan Cruttenden

Alan Cruse, a member of the Department of Linguistics for thirty years and a leading figure in linguistics in the field of lexical semantics, died on 13 June 2020. His research in this area was marked by deep and original thinking. His book, Lexical Semantics (CambridgeUP, 1986) provided for the first time a rigorous foundation for the analysis of lexical relations such as antonymy, taxonomy and meronymy. It was extremely influential, not just in theoretical research on semantics but also in computational linguistics. He also influenced generations of linguistics students through his introductory textbook on semantics Meaning in Language (OxfordUP, 1999, third edition 2011). There were other volumes: joint editorship of the two-volume Handbook of Semantics (de Gruyter, 2002) and A Glossary of Semantics and Pragmatics (Edinburgh UP, 2006). His later work converged with the new theoretical movement of Cognitive Linguistics, where he authored with William Croft another widely-used textbook (CambridgeUP, 2004).

Alan was born in Newcastle of Plymouth Brethren parents, went to the local grammar school and did a degree in Biology and Botany at Imperial College, London. A brief spell of teaching found him a French wife (catholic, much to the outrage of his parents) after which he changed direction and taught English in Cyprus and in Iraq where, in both cases, he had to be hurriedly evacuated under military escort because of imminent wars. His travels in the Middle East ended with Arabic, Greek and Turkish added to his already fluent French, German and Spanish (as well as his languages he was a fine musician playing piano, violin and guitar). Returning to the UK he became a student, then a lecturer in the Department of Linguistics.

He was devoted to his students, whom he helped without exception in ways both academic and personal. In particular, with his broad knowledge of overseas societies he was able to help foreign students who were somewhat lost in a foreign land.

Alan’s health was never the strongest and was not helped by suffering from concussion after being knocked down by a car. He gradually became very deaf and suffered with breathlessness after walking short distances. But, even in difficult years after retirement, he was still revising his books and enjoying learning languages, becoming totally proficient in Welsh and polishing his Arabic.

He is survived by his wife Paule, a son Pierre and a daughter Lisette.

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