Peter Ladefoged

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Peter Ladefoged

Peter Nielsen Ladefoged [ ˈlædɪfəʊgɪd ] (born September 17, 1925 in Sutton (London) , † January 24, 2006 in London ) was a British phonetician .


During his studies (MA 1951) he married his wife Jenny. He had three children with her, including the later archaeologist Thegn Ladefoged . With a doctorate, Ladefoged successfully completed his studies at the University of Edinburgh in 1959 . He then went to the University of Ibadan ( Nigeria ) for a year . From 1961 to 1962 he worked for the West African Language Survey .

In 1962 Ladefoged accepted a professorship at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and worked there until his retirement in 1991. Until his death, he was a sought-after guest speaker at universities in many parts of the world and was considered one of the most famous scientists his subject.

In 1964 Ladefoged was hired as a consultant for the film production of the musical " My Fair Lady " by Alan Jay Lerner (music by Frederick Loewe) with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison . "My Fair Lady" is based on George Bernard Shaw's " Pygmalion ". This film is about the phonetics professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison), who bets with Colonel Pickering, a Sanskrit specialist (Wilfried Hyde-White), the flower seller Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), who uses an ordinary London “gutter jargon “ Speaks of being able to pretend to be a duchess after six months of language lessons at a diplomatic ball.

Ladefoged's advice on phonetics as the science of sound formation is evident in the fact that Professor Higgins lets Eliza “ talk on the roller ” during the sound recordings in his London film-language studio . He records their pronunciation according to "Bell's visible language". Henry Higgins is said to be the author of Higgins' Universal Alphabet, a work that Ladefoged had in mind at the time. Eliza needs to practice the alphabet and sentences with the correct pronunciation of the vowels and consonants (“It's green so green”) to improve her articulation .

According to Ladefoged's information, the studio was equipped with contemporary equipment, several phonographs with funnels, an apparatus for recording and playback, tuning forks of various sizes, a metronome (metronome), a xylophone with a clapper, a gas burner for the B exercise (“Ich se- he crows in the vicinity ”) and, following the example of Demosthenes, pebbles that are put into the mouth for speech exercises (“ flowerpots, encrusted with tough black moss, stand close together ”).

Ladefoged died on January 24, 2006 after a stroke in London, where he had stayed after a research stay in India and before his planned return to Los Angeles.

Offices and Awards

  • since 1978: President of the Linguistic Society of America
  • 1983–1991: President of the Permanent Council for the Organization of International Congresses of Phonetic Sciences
  • 1987–1991 President of the International Phonetic Association
  • since 1990: Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 1991: Gold medal of the XIIth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences
  • 1992: Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy
  • 1993: Honorary Doctorate from Edinburgh University
  • since 1993: Foreign Member, Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters
  • 1994: Silver Medal from the Acoustical Society of America
  • 2001: Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • 2002: Honorary Doctorate from Queen Margaret University , Edinburgh


Ladefoged's work comprises over a hundred publications, including nine books, some of which are standard works of phonetics. One of Ladefoged's priorities was the phonetic research and description of numerous languages ​​threatened with extinction. His research activities included languages ​​in Africa, India, Australia, Brazil and the USA. Ladefoged's goal was, according to his own statement, all speech sounds in the world, i. H. about 900 consonants and 200 vowels to hear and describe. He approached this goal in the book The Sounds of the World's Languages (1996), which he wrote with Ian Maddieson . Ladefoged was one of the editors of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association .

Selected Works:

  • Elements of acoustic phonetics. University Press, Chicago 1995. ISBN 0-226-46764-3
  • A phonetic study of West African languages: an auditory-instrumental survey. University Press, Cambridge 1968.
  • Three areas of experimental phonetics: stress and respiratory activity, the nature of vowel quality, units in the perception and production of speech. Oxford University Press, London 1967. ISBN 0-19-437110-7 (reprint)
  • Preliminaries to Linguistic Phonetics. University Press, Chicago 1971. ISBN 0-226-46786-4
  • Language in Uganda. (with Ruth Glick and Clive Criper) Oxford University Press, London 1972. ISBN 0-19-436101-2
  • A course in phonetics. (with CD-ROM) English Heinle, 2005. ISBN 1-4130-0688-4
  • The sounds of the world's languages. (with Ian Maddieson) Blackwell, Oxford 1999. ISBN 0-631-19815-6
  • Vowels and consonants: an introduction to the sounds of languages. Blackwell Publishers. 2004. ISBN 0-631-21412-7
  • Phonetic data analysis: an introduction to phonetic fieldwork and instrumental techniques. Blackwell, Malden / Mass. 2003. ISBN 0-631-23270-2


  • Victoria A. Fromkin (Ed.): Phonetic Linguistics: essays in honor of Peter Ladefoged. Academic Press, Orlando 1985. ISBN 0-12-268990-9
  • Alan Jay Lerner: My Fair Lady. German by Robert Gilbert. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt / M. 1962.

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