It is with great sadness that I report the death last Saturday of Larry Trask, who combined impeccable linguistic credentials with a fine writing style and a sense of humor not often encountered in academia. The obituary linked above is a fine tribute:
He was a popular teacher, generous with his time and knowledge to students and staff alike. His publications include many guides to ideas about language for the benefit of students and the serious general reader which are models of clarity and accuracy. This same desire for rigour informed his research. He was one of the world’s foremost scholars of Basque, and he wrote a history of the language which is both outstanding in its own terms and a superb vindication of the methods of classical historical linguistics, of which he had also written a fine textbook. Larry’s interests were wide, and he had recently been involved with the question of the origin of language in general and with the relation between different language families, as well as writing guides to Internet etiquette and punctuation. He wore his learning with real modesty and never sought the front of the stage he found himself on in the last eight years or so of his life, though he held his own there with distinction… The respect and love which Larry evoked in us are mixed with sadness and bitterness at the cruelty of his illness which robbed him of his speech and then broke his health bit by bit. We will deeply miss his part in our lives as a colleague and friend, and we will not forget that, true to himself, he was still entertaining us with comments on his reading emailed from his bed two days before he died.
(Thanks to Tim May for the news.)