Obituary: Emeritus Professor Michael Hoey

Professor Dinah Birch, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Cultural Engagement, pays tribute to Emeritus Professor Michael Hoey:

The University is saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Hoey (1948 – 2021), distinguished linguist, Emeritus Professor of English, and formerly Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Pro-Vice-Chancellor International. Michael passed away on 10 September 2021.

Michael was brought up in Hertfordshire, and after attending Berkhamsted School he became a student of Law at University College London.  He soon realised that his real interests lay elsewhere, and transferred to a degree in English.  His interest in the English language was stimulated by the tuition of the celebrated linguist Sir Randolph Quirk.

After completing his doctoral degree under Quirk’s supervision, Michael moved to the University of Birmingham, where he co-authored a successful research proposal for the world’s first computer-written dictionary of English.  This brilliantly innovative approach to research was to characterise Michael’s work throughout his career.

His award-winning books include Signalling in Discourse (1979), On the Surface of Discourse (1983), Patterns of Lexis in Text (1991) (awarded the Duke of Edinburgh English-Speaking Union Prize for the best book on Applied Linguistics in 1991), Textual Interaction (2001) and his ground-breaking Lexical Priming: A New Theory of Words and Language (2005), which proposed a radically new way of using evidence from corpus linguistics to understand linguistic patterns.

Michael’s association with the University of Liverpool, where he was appointed Baines Professor of English Language in 1993, was long and productive.  He was the Director of the Applied English Language Studies Unit between 1993 and 2003, and between 2008 and 2009 he was Dean of the University’s Faculty of Arts.

He also served as an energetic Director of Curriculum Development.  In 2010, he became Pro-Vice-Chancellor International, tirelessly travelling the world to promote and guide the university’s overseas activities.

But Michael’s contributions were not confined to his roles as a leader.  He was an exceptionally thoughtful and devoted teacher and supervisor, and many students owe a great deal to his generously-shared expertise.  Michael was also an unfailingly kind and supportive colleague, quick to offer advice and practical help to anyone who looked to him for support.

The enthusiasm that characterised all that Michael achieved as an academic leader was equally apparent in his full and active life outside the world of universities.  He was an impressively intrepid traveller (his role as PVC International was entirely suited to his peripatetic disposition), delighting in the exploration of little-known corners of the world in the company of his family.

His interests were extraordinarily wide. He served, for instance, as a member of the West Midlands Arts Council, the President of a philatelic society, and the editor of a Campaign for Real Ale Society publication (called ‘Ale and Hearty’).  He approached all that he did with the same exuberant spirit – keenly interested in all that he experienced, and always eager to share his pleasure with others.

The University of Liverpool sends its thoughts and deepest sympathy to Michael’s wife Sue, to his children Richard and Alice, and to all of his many friends and colleagues. His was a life well lived, and he will be very much missed by all who knew him.