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LINGUIST List 17.306

Sun Jan 29 2006

All: Death of Peter Ladefoged

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        1.    Patricia Keating, Death of Peter Ladefoged


Message 1: Death of Peter Ladefoged
Date: 27-Jan-2006
From: Patricia Keating <keatinghumnet.ucla.edu>
Subject: Death of Peter Ladefoged


Peter Ladefoged died on Jan. 24 in London. On his way home from a field
trip to India, he suffered a stroke in Heathrow airport and died in a
nearby hospital.

Peter was born on Sept.17, 1925, in Sutton, Surrey, England. He attended
Haileybury from 1938 to 1943, and Caius College Cambridge from 1943 to
1944. His university education was then interrupted by his war service in
the Royal Sussex Regiment from 1944 to 1947. He resumed his education at
the University of Edinburgh, where he received an MA in 1951 and a PhD in
1959. At Edinburgh he studied phonetics with David Abercrombie, who
himself had studied with Daniel Jones and was thus connected to Henry
Sweet. Peter's dissertation was on The Nature of Vowel Quality,
specifically on the cardinal vowels and their articulatory vs. auditory
basis. At the same time, he began important research projects with David
Broadbent, Walter Lawrence, M. Draper, and D. Witteridge, with his first
publications appearing in 1956. His 1957 paper with David Broadbent,
"Information conveyed by vowels", was particularly influential. In 1953,
he married Jenny MacDonald; he told her that if she married him they would
travel to every continent.

In 1959-60 Peter taught in Nigeria, and thus began his lifelong commitment
to instrumental phonetic fieldwork. He returned to Africa in 1961-62 to do
the work that resulted in A Phonetic Study of West African Languages.
Peter himself wrote in its introduction, "I do not know of any previous
attempt to use data provided by palatograms, linguagrams, casts of the
mouth, photographs of the lips and spectrograms all of the same utterance,
supplemented by tracings of cine-radiology films and pressure and flow
recordings of similar utterances of the same word"; and this was for 61
languages! Ian Maddieson has noted that nothing like it has been done since.

When not in Africa, Peter was teaching at Edinburgh. After summer research
visits at the Royal Institute of Technology and the University of Michigan,
the Ladefogeds decided to move to America permanently. Peter joined the
UCLA English Department in 1962, and in 1966 he moved to the newly-formed
Linguistics Department. He established, and directed until 1991, the UCLA
Phonetics Laboratory, which became the most prominent linguistic phonetics
laboratory in the world.

Not long after he arrived at UCLA, he was asked to work as the phonetics
consultant for the 1964 movie My Fair Lady. He advised on equipping Henry
Higgins's phonetics lab, he made all the phonetic transcriptions seen
on-screen, and it is his voice heard producing the vowel sounds. A picture
of him on the movie set is on the UCLA Phonetics Lab's home page, and Peter
gave a multimedia lecture about his experience to the UCLA Friends of
Linguistics in Spring 2004.

During his career Peter became a world-wide field linguist, visiting
Nigeria, Botswana, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Senegal, India,
Yemen, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, Korea,
Scotland, the Aleutians, and China . Much of Peter's fieldwork remains
unique to this day. Many data collection and analytic techniques in the
field were originated or refined by Peter (and often tried out on himself).
His instantly-classic 1996 Sounds of the World's Languages (with Ian
Maddieson) summarized his knowledge of all the sounds he had studied and
remains the definitive reference work. Ian Maddieson summarized this
aspect of Peter's career in this way: "Among many distinctive
contributions to phonetics by Peter Ladefoged is an insistence on the
immense diversity of phonetic phenomena in the languages of the world,
particularly at the segmental level. (...) Perhaps more than any other
phonetician he has always expected to find surprises, and has gone to far
corners of the world in search of them." [from his 2005 Acoustical Society
presentation; punctuation added].

Peter loved laboratory phonetics, and instrumental analysis was always a
key component of his fieldwork. Earlier in his career, the instruments
were back home in the Phonetics Lab, but later he brought the lab to the
field. His 2003 book Phonetic Data Analysis: An introduction to phonetic
fieldwork and instrumental techniques teaches other linguists his methods.
But his laboratory interests went beyond recording sounds of the world's
languages. He studied speech production in English speakers, from the
electromyography of speech respiration to tongue positions of vowels to
articulatory-acoustic modeling. And throughout his career he was
interested in speech technology, espeically speech synthesis. He also
consulted on many cases of forensic speaker identification.

Fieldwork on little-studied sounds and instrumental laboratory phonetics
were two cornerstones of Peter's career. The third was linguistic phonetic
theory. The ultimate aim of his studies of the world's sounds was to
understand what sounds are possible in languages. His particular passion
was the theory of phonetic features for representing phonological
contrasts: what features should be proposed in order to distinguish all the
contrasts of the world's languages? Should these features be articulatory
or auditory or some of each? A related concern was the International
Phonetic Alphabet: Peter instigated its expansion in the early 1990s to
include symbols for more sounds, he oversaw the preparation and publication
of a new Handbook describing the principles behind the alphabet, and he
worked to ensure that computer fonts of the alphabet would be widely
available. The current vibrant state of the IPA is part of Peter's legacy.

Over his career, he produced 10 books and over 140 other publications.
Among the books not mentioned above are Elements of acoustic phonetics (2
editions), Preliminaries to linguistic phonetics, and Vowels and consonants
(2 editions). He was working on "Representing linguistic phonetic
structure" in 2006.

Peter was also a dedicated and successful teacher. His classroom teaching
at UCLA, from introductory linguistics to advanced graduate courses, was
always exemplary. His 20 PhD students included such influential figures as
Vicki Fromkin, John Ohala, Ian Maddieson, Louis Goldstein, and Cathe
Browman. His textbook A Course in Phonetics, which recently released its
fifth edition, is the standard in phonetics. It has been one of the most
successful textbooks in the field of linguistics, having trained multiple
generations of linguists. It draws on his extensive fieldwork experience
and has shown generations of students the richness of linguistic sounds.
Peter developed computer-based teaching materials for this and other
courses, materials now used on-line all over the world. He valued the
daily interactions in the Phonetics Lab as an important aspect of his
mentoring. In Ian Maddieson's words, "Peter's legacies include more than
his writing - they include the development of a teaching style and the
creation of the UCLA Phonetics Laboratory. As Peter put it in the career
summary on his website, "For me, the people mattered more than the
equipment". Peter created a lab that remains a model of camaraderie,
intellectual challenge and pragmatism."

Among the ways in which his contributions have been honored by colleagues
are: a 1972 Distinguished Teaching Award from the UCLA Alumni Association;
the 1985 Festschrift edited by Vicki Fromkin, Phonetic Linguistics: Essays
in Honor of Peter Ladefoged for his 60th Birthday; the UCLA College of
Letters and Sciences Faculty Award in 1991; the Gold Medal at the XIIth
International Congress of Phonetic Sciences; a D. Lit. degree from the
University of Edinburgh in 1993; the Silver Medal in Speech Communication
of the Acoustical Society of America in 1994; a Doctor of Science degree
from Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh in 2002; and the special
session "Phonetic Linguistics: Honoring the contributions of Peter
Ladefoged" at the October 2005 meeting of the Acoustical Society of
America. He was president of the Linguistic Society of America in 1978,
and of the International Phonetic Association in 1985.

Although Peter retired in 1991, he never stopped working. At the time of
his death he was active as a Research Linguist at UCLA, especially with his
NSF grant "Broadening Access to UCLA Phonetic Data"; as one of three
editors of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association; as a
council member of the International Phonetic Association, and as an Adjunct
Professor of Linguistics at USC.

He will be deeply missed by many people.


-- Pat Keating, with help from Dani Byrd


Linguistic Field(s): Discipline of Linguistics


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