Geoffrey Leech, 1936-2014

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Geoffrey Leech, one of the giants of corpus-based computational linguistics, passed away yesterday. With the death of Chuck Fillmore in February, the field has lost two of its pillars this year.

The following tribute was posted by Andrew Hardie on the blog of Lancaster University's Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS).

It is with great sorrow that we report the death on 19th August of Professor Geoffrey Leech.

Geoff was not only the founder of the UCREL research centre for corpus linguistics at Lancaster University, he was also the first Professor and founding Head of the Department of Linguistics and English Language. His contributions to linguistics – not only in corpus linguistics, but also in English grammar, pragmatics and stylistics – were immense. After his retirement in 2002, he remained an active member of our department, not only continuing his own research but also, characteristically, providing advice, support and encouragement for students and junior colleagues.

All our thoughts are with Geoff’s wife Fanny, and with his family.

It is still hard for us to find the right words at this time. For many of us he was an inspirational teacher and mentor, but for all of us, he was a kind and generous friend.

The video below was recorded by Tony McEnery in conversation with Geoff in late 2013 for Lancaster’s online course in corpus linguistics. In it, Tony and Geoff discuss the history of the field. We present it now publicly as a first tribute to Geoff’s life and work.


  1. John Coleman said,

    August 20, 2014 @ 4:51 pm

    Very sorry to hear this. Geoff was a giant and a pioneer in corpus-based computational linguistics, and a towering figure in the UK linguistics scene in particular. Hisintellectual influence will be felt for a long time, I think. He definitely shifted the field.

  2. Raf Uzar said,

    August 21, 2014 @ 1:11 am

    I was lucky enough to be taught by Geoff – he truly was a giant in every sense of the world. A wonderfully brilliant academic and a wonderfully warm and charming man. He will be greatly missed by us all. My thoughts go out to Fanny, his family and the Lancastrian family.

  3. Dr Jochen L Leidner said,

    August 21, 2014 @ 4:14 pm

    Geof was a warm, generous, and unassuming man, and I'm privileged to have benefitted from his books, lectures, feedback and company hiking in the Lake District.

    Beyond his pioneering contributions in English descriptive grammar, linguistic theory, corpus methodology, pragmatics and stylistics, he was also an accomplished pianist.

    My condolences to the Leech family.

  4. ronnie knotts said,

    August 28, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

    Sad to hear of the passing of Geoffrey Leech. One of his books provided me with many years of work. I am grateful for his major contribution to language. I have the book next to me now. Thank you Geoff. R.

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