Peter Martin, 1949-2009

June 4, 2009

Peter Martin, a leading authority on Asian languages and multilingual education, has died.

He was born in Singapore on 18 April 1949, grew up in Bradford and read environmental studies at what was then Plymouth Polytechnic. After graduating, he taught in schools and universities in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia as well as the UK.

His earliest field research was on the sociolinguistics of the Austronesian communities in Borneo, where he compiled a dictionary of Kelabit, an unwritten language spoken by around 5,000 people in the uplands of the country.

After obtaining a PhD from Lancaster University, Professor Martin took up a teaching post at the University of Brunei Darussalam between 1985 and 1998, where he published numerous papers on multilingual education, examining classroom interaction; language policy, planning and practice; and the evolution of new forms of English.

He then returned to the UK as a reader at the University of Leicester, continuing to research multilingualism and the relationships between language, culture and identity.

Despite his extensive travels, Professor Martin was a lifelong West Ham supporter and, in 2005, moved to the University of East London as professor of education and linguistics in the Cass School of Education, where he refined his research, supervised PhD candidates and set up a professional doctorate in education.

As well as producing more than 60 published papers, written alone or with others, Martin co-edited a number of books, including Decolonisation, Globalisation: Language-in-Education Policy and Practice (2005), Multilingual Learning Stories in Schools and Communities in Britain and a volume on "the ecology of language" in the Encyclopedia of Language and Education (both 2007).

Alongside colleagues from the University of Birmingham, Birkbeck, University of London, and King's College London, he also produced an Economic and Social Research Council-funded study of multilingualism in complementary schools in four different communities.

Angela Creese, professor of educational linguistics at Birmingham, recalls how she, like Professor Martin's many other collaborators, "depended on him for his generous encouragement, insight and intellectual rigour. He was always quietly determined to finish a project to the highest standard ... His tongue-in-cheek sense of humour kept him and those around him grounded in the real world. We were always in his safe keeping, always in his care."

A swimmer, sports and classical music enthusiast, Professor Martin also loved hill-walking, particularly in the Lake District, where he was on holiday a few days before he died of a stroke on 24 April 2009. He is survived by his wife Ubong and children Anis, Lian, Supang and Sarah.

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