As a phonetician and comparative philologist, Henry Sweet (1845–1912) produced work that was regarded as seminal, particularly in Germany, where he received greater academic recognition than in England. His textbooks on Old English have long been considered standard works. As well as theoretical and historical studies, he also became involved in more practical aspects of linguistics, devising a new kind of shorthand, discussing spelling reform, and promoting the teaching and learning of modern languages. He played a role in the early history of the Oxford English Dictionary and edited several works for the Early English Text Society. Shaw's Professor Higgins in Pygmalion is believed to be based at least partly on Sweet. The present work, first published in 1877, inspired European interest in phonetic studies. Sweet presents a general theory of phonetics, illustrated by examples of transcription from various languages. He also formulates the distinction between phonemic and allophonic transcriptions.
Preface; List of symbols; 1. The organs of speech; 2. Analysis; 3. Synthesis; 4. Sound-notation; Additional notes; Errata.