It is with great sadness that we say farewell to Professor Ron Carter, who died after a long illness on 12th September 2018. Ron was Emeritus Professor of Modern English Language at the University of Nottingham and, since the late 1980s, his name has been closely linked with Cambridge University Press through his books, research projects and service as a Press Syndic.
Ron’s first book for CUP, The Web of Words, co-authored with Michael Long, was published in 1987. Ron’s passion for literature and his firm belief that knowledge of how language works was the key to unlocking the meanings of literary works stand as an enduring thread in his published works. While never abandoning his interest in stylistics and literary studies, over the next two decades, Ron turned his attention to the creation and exploitation of corpora, and in the 1990s we founded and co-directed the CANCODE and CANBEC spoken English corpus projects, funded jointly by the Press and the University of Nottingham. The impact of the CANCODE project was global, not only in terms of the wealth of linguistic insight gained from it, as reflected in Ron’s many academic articles, and those of his Nottingham colleagues and students, but also in the paradigm-shift it created through its emphasis on the grounding of English language teaching materials in empirical evidence. The culmination of Ron’s corpus research came in 2006 with the publication of the Cambridge Grammar of English, which I was privileged to co-author with him. The book attracted national and international media interest, an experience Ron was no stranger to, following his influential role on the government-funded LINC (Language in the National Curriculum) programme in the 1990s, with media interviews and debates and controversies, which Ron handled with his usual gentle, calm and highly professional manner.
Other books for CUP and academic papers followed from the corpus projects over the last 20 years, and I was greatly privileged to have been his co-author on many of them. They included Exploring Spoken English, Exploring Grammar in Context (co-authored with Rebecca Hughes), English Grammar Today (co-authored with Anne O’Keeffe and Geraldine Mark) and From Corpus to Classroom, which we co-authored with Anne O’Keeffe. The fact that many of Ron’s most significant works for CUP and other major publishers were co-authored is a tribute to the wonderful relationships he forged with his fellow academics in Nottingham and other universities. We who worked with him loved the humour, the razor-sharp insight, the gentleness, fairness and decency and the devotion to rigorous scholarship which were the hallmark of his approach to research and writing.
During the last years of his university career, Ron served as a Press Syndic, a role to which he brought all the qualities of a man determined to uphold academic standards and a man of great vision, one prepared to see what was around the next corner and not to be afraid to confront new challenges in scholarship and language pedagogy.
Ron will never be forgotten by his friends and colleagues, by the editors and others with whom he enjoyed such good relations at the Press, and, most of all, by the many hundreds of students who passed through his hands at the University of Nottingham and who received the gift of inspired teaching and nurturing from the humblest and the most decent of men.