UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


In Memoriam Neil Smith (1939 - 2023)

Neil Smith

Neil Smith was educated at Trinity College Cambridge and University College London, where he received his PhD in Linguistics (1964) for research which included a year's fieldwork among the Nupe in Nigeria. While lecturer at SOAS (1964-1972), he did further research at MIT and UCLA while holding a Harkness Fellowship. He was appointed Reader in Linguistics at UCL in 1972, taking over leadership of the Linguistics Section and then, in 1973, of the Phonetics and Linguistics department. After joining UCL, he was instrumental in setting up a Masters degree in Linguistics (1973), and a single honours BA (1977). From 1981 until his retirement in 2006 Neil was Professor of Linguistics at UCL and then Emeritus Professor. He was President of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain from 1980 to 1986, and President of the Association of Heads and Professors of Linguistics from 1993 to 1994. He was elected FBA in 1999, and an honorary member of the Linguistic Society of America in 2000.

His main books were: An Outline Grammar of Nupe (1967, Luzac); The Acquisition of Phonology (1973, CUP); Modern Linguistics: The Results of Chomsky 's Revolution (1979 - With Deirdre Wilson); The Twitter Machine: Reflections on Language; (1989);The Mind of a Savant [with Ianthi Tsimpli, 1995, Blackwell], Chomsky: Ideas and Ideals (1999, CUP; second edition 2004; third edition [with Nicholas Allott 2016]); Acquiring Phonology (CUP, 2010); The Signs of a Savant [with Ianthi Tsimpli, Gary Morgan and Bencie Woll, 2011]).

Neil has been the heart and soul of the Linguistics Group at UCL for more than 50 years, and he will greatly missed by his colleagues and students, past and present.

If you would like to leave tribute to Neil please complete this short online form.  All tributes will then be copied onto the Neil Smith tribute page.