September 20th, 1930; Stockton, California --
March 7th, 1971; Los Angeles, California
Richard Merett Montague was a linguist who specialized in natural language semantics. His most important work in this area, which started in the late sixties and continued until his death, extended upon his realization that lambda calculus could be used to model natural languages. He developed this idea into a formal theory of semantics (now known as Montagovian Semantics), which became crucial in allowing linguists and logicians to work together in natural language research. In 1999 Jean-Louis Krivine built upon this work while proving that all natural languages are subsets of lambda calculus.
Montague studied at UC Berkeley from 1948, until 1955, when he began teaching at UCLA - at first as a graduate student; then after 1957, as a professor. Students and associates of his described him as creative, intelligent, and compassionate; but also exact, rigorous, and opinionated.
There has always been a certain measure of controversy surrounding the details of Montague's death, which today remains an unsolved murder case. In the early seventies his followers and he had clashes with other linguists (among them, followers of Noam Chomsky, with his Chomsky hierarchy) who did not agree with him on various subjects. Also, around this time, there were rumors of misconduct with other male students. It is generally suspected that one of these issues led towards his death.
Montague was beaten to death by an unidentified assailant, early on a Sunday morning, in his Los Angeles home.