Linguistics and English Language

Obituary: Jim Miller

We are sad to announce the death of Jim Miller, Professor Emeritus in Linguistics

James Edward Miller (Jim to friends and colleagues) was Professor Emeritus in Linguistics from 2003 until his death on the 8th of February 2019. Jim spent most of his career at the University of Edinburgh, taking an MA in Russian and French in 1965, a Diploma in Linguistics in 1966 and a PhD on Tense and Aspect in Russian in 1970.

He joined the Department of Linguistics as an assistant Lecturer in 1967, subsequently becoming full Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader. During this period he was also involved in various interdisciplinary ventures involving linguistics, as associate member of the Centre for Cognitive Science and a researcher in the early days of the Centre for Speech Technology Research.

In 1997, he was awarded a personal chair in Linguistics and Spoken Language and continued to work in the various manifestations of Linguistics at Edinburgh until 2002. From 2003 to 2007 he was Professor of Cognitive Linguistics at the University of Auckland, after which he returned to Scotland and retirement.

Although he had a lifelong interest in the nature of grammatical categories, particularly case, aspect and transitivity, it was his work on the syntax of spontaneous spoken language that is most likely be best remembered. Developing out of project work on spoken Scots with Keith Brown in the 1970s, his thoughts on the distinctiveness of spoken and written language and the need to model grammatical theories on empirical data culminated in a monograph, Spoken and Written Language, co-authored with Regina Weinert and published by OUP in 1998.

Jim was a popular teacher and a good and collegial colleague whose contribution to the academic life in the various linguistic departments at Edinburgh was immense.

Our thoughts are with his wife, Margaret, three sons and grandchildren and great grandchildren.