Euan Reid obituary

Other lives: Sociolinguistics expert with a particular interest in the use of minority languages in the UK

My father-in-law, Euan Reid, who has died aged 81, was a language researcher who worked internationally to promote the discipline of sociolinguistics – the study of how language affects various aspects of society, including cultural norms.

Euan was born in Glasgow during the second world war to Isabel Whitefield and Alan Reid. His parents met at Glasgow University, where Isabel was secretary of the student Scottish Nationalist Party and Alan trained in medicine, later becoming club doctor for Chelsea football club.

They separated shortly after he was born, and he was raised by his mother, aunt and grandmother, going to Glasgow high school for boys before graduating from Glasgow University himself, with an MA in English language and literature.

After moving to London to study for a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification, Euan met Jennifer Maultby, a speech therapist, at London University’s Gilbert and Sullivan Society, and they married in 1962.

Euan taught English at a Turkish school in Cyprus, at Kennington College, London, and West Midlands College, Walsall, before devoting more than 25 years of his career to the Institute of Education in London, where he was initially appointed as a research officer and later moved to the roles of lecturer and senior lecturer. He went on to become director of community languages and education at the Institute, then head of its culture, communication and societies group, and finally its outreach lead on professional development programmes.

Minority languages in the UK were central to Euan’s research at the Institute, which led to his involvement in three books, including, as a joint author, The Other Languages of England (1985).

Euan was also a key player in the International Mother-Tongue Education Network, researching the relationship between the teaching of English in schools and perceptions of Englishness among ethnic minority students. His work was central to broadening people’s horizons beyond language teaching to culture and education, and beyond English to multiculturalism. He set up the UK’s first sociolinguistics symposium, mapping England’s multilingualism. A committed European and internationalist, he also lived and worked for short periods in India, South Africa and Australia.

After retirement in 2005 Euan became co-ordinator for University of the Third Age courses around Lewes in Sussex, and continued to play the viola in string quartets and orchestras.

A committed Guardian reader, he was once shocked to discover the newsagent had delivered next door’s Daily Telegraph to him by mistake. Using oven gloves and fire tongs, he handed it over to his bemused neighbour.

Euan and Jennifer divorced in 1991. Five years later he married Jill Bourne, and they co-edited the book Language Education (2003).

He is survived by Jill, by two children from his first marriage, Alison and David, two stepsons, Dominic and Matthew, and nine grandchildren.

Kevin Wilson

The GuardianTramp

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