Professor Vivian Cook (1940-2021)

  • Date

    Fri 21 Jan 22

Professor Vivian Cook, who died in December 2021, was a Lecturer, Senior Lecturer then Reader in the Department for 26 years before leaving to take up a chair at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 2004.

When he arrived at Essex Vivian was already a prolific writer of language textbooks for non-native learners of English, but his appointment as Lecturer in Applied Linguistics gave him the opportunity to explore the linguistic foundations of language learning, particularly in bi- and multilinguals. This work culminated in numerous articles and the books Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition and the widely read Chomsky’s Universal Grammar: an Introduction (co-authored with Mark Newson). The latter brought the rather specialised work of generative linguistics to the attention of a general audience.

Vivian was known for his enthusiasm for and wide-ranging interest in all aspects of language. In 1989 he organised an international meeting at Wivenhoe House that led to the founding of the European Second Language Association, of which he became the first President. He authored or co-authored some 25 books and over 100 articles. He would probably wish to be remembered best for his development of the concept of ‘multi-competence’. This is the idea that if one speaks more than one language these are not represented as discrete entities in the brain but interact, influencing each other and potentially affecting the way that a speaker thinks.

Vivian was a popular invited speaker in many venues around the world and a welcoming and supportive teacher of thousands of students, for whom he was the epitome of the English academic: wise, warm, open-minded and generous with his time. He will be greatly missed by all those working in the field of Applied Linguistics.

Published on behalf of the Department of Language and Linguistics.

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