Professor of Linguistics, 1965–2001
Guns or Butter (1938), by Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart (1887-1970). This is about his travels as a secret agent in Europe before World War II. I read it when I was about sixteen. Somehow, this work inspired in me the ambition to become a foreign correspondent of a newspaper. I gave up that career when I discovered that I was not good at learning French and German but when I graduated from university I did not hesitate to take a position in Lisbon, teaching English as a foreign language.
Collected Poems (1930), by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965). In January 1962 I was teaching for the British Council in Buenos Aires. There was an Anglo-American summer program put on by the Cultura Inglesa, where I was teaching, and its American counterpart ICANA (the Argentine North American Cultural Institute). I was asked to give a lecture and I chose as my topic T. S. Eliot, thinking that he was appropriate for both sides of this venture. There was a party at the end of the series and I spotted two outstandingly beautiful women in the crowd. Before I could work out a way to speak to them, the husband of one of them came up and talked to me. I did not know then that this would have major impact on my future life. He was an American history graduate student down in Argentina to collect material for his dissertation on San Martin, the Libertador of Argentina. That meeting began a friendship with Jim and Valerie Levy that has lasted more than fifty years and led to my being offered a position at Pitzer College in 1965.
The Social Stratification of English in New York City (1966), by William Labov (1927-). I had read an article by Labov when I was at University College, Bangor and I realized that his way of looking at language variation in its social context was truly revolutionary. I couldn’t wait to buy a copy of his book as soon as it was published. I knew that I wanted to use the methodology he had developed in my own work. I based my investigation of language and social class in Glasgow on Labov’s model. His work has been a continuing source of inspiration for me and I am grateful for his example and friendship.