David Trotter, 1957-2015

A leading expert on medieval French language and lexicography has died

October 1, 2015
Obituary: David Trotter, 1957-2015

David Andrew Trotter, the son of a university lecturer, was born in Bristol on 27 July 1957.

He got a first in French and German at The Queen’s College, Oxford, and stayed on there to complete a doctorate, later published as Medieval French Literature and the Crusades, 1100-1300 (1988). A travelling fellowship allowed him to carry out much of the research in Paris.

After gaining his PhD, Professor Trotter rose rapidly up the academic ladder. In 1985, he was appointed lecturer in linguistics and medieval French at the University of Exeter. Eight years later, and for the rest of his career, he was appointed professor of French – and head of the department of European languages – at Aberystwyth University.

Pan-European in his linguistic skills, range of interests and network of academic contacts, Professor Trotter published widely on the development of the French language. Perhaps his greatest achievement was the online Anglo-Norman Dictionary, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, on which he served as chief editor. This tracks the variety and development of French that was introduced to Great Britain by the Norman Conquest, which remained a language of record into the 15th century and greatly influenced the English language.

For an academic, recalled Andrew Rothwell, professor of French and translation studies at Swansea University, “David Trotter was a highly practical man. He was more interested in medieval building and farming techniques than in Arthurian literature, and turned his hand successfully to a daunting range of DIY jobs around his own house and garden in Aberystwyth.

Before university he worked as a labourer on the M5 construction site in Devon, and, as postgraduates in Paris, he and I spent a Clouseau-esque fortnight chauffeuring American arms manufacturers and their spouses to and from the air show at Le Bourget, a job he found through contacts in the London minicab business.”

At his funeral, continued Professor Rothwell, “the eminent German lexicographer Franwalt Möhren generated some hilarity at the idea of himself and David progressing from bar to bar around Heidelberg aboard his tandem – in the event of a mishap, the loss to medieval French scholarship doesn’t bear thinking about”.

Professor Trotter was a fellow of the Learned Society of Wales and president of the Société de Linguistique Romane (2013-15), for which he also organised a major conference in Aberystwyth in 2004. He died of cancer on 24 August and is survived by his wife Allyson and four daughters, Sarah, Lucy, Sophie and Penny.


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