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Kay Williamson (1935 – January 3, 2005, Brazil), born Ruth Margaret Williamson was a linguist who specialised in the study of African languages, particularly those of the Niger Delta in Nigeria, where she lived for nearly fifty years. She has been called "The Mother of Nigerian Linguistics." Her many publications include a grammar and dictionary of the Ijo language, a dictionary of Igbo and numerous articles on diverse topics. She is also notable for proposing the Pan-Nigerian alphabet.
Kay Williamson was known for her "concern for social responsibility in linguistics."
She devoted a substantial part of her time to the Rivers Readers Project, an exercise designed to introduce reading and writing in primary schools in about 20 dialects or languages in the predominantly Ijo-speaking area. As a byproduct, several books (including primers, readers, teachers' notes, spelling manuals, and collection of folk-tales) were compiled by Kay and her collaborators.
It did not bother her that such works do not earn plaudits as academic publications. She was totally convinced that a linguist must help speakers of the languages of her research to produce texts in their languages.
Professor Kay Williamson was born in Hereford, England, where she lived for the first 18 years of her life. Kay was the eldest of six children. Her father, Alfred Henry Williamson, also known as Harry, was the founder of Wyevale Nurseries. Her father and mother, Harriett Eileen Williamson, turned the Wyevale nurseries into one of the largest garden center chains in Europe. Kay was educated at Hereford girls' high school and St Hilda's College, Oxford, where she took a BA in English in 1956, followed by an MA in 1960.