Anyway, I admired him, and his textbook is a classic.
Excerpts from the obituary in the LA Times:
By Valerie J. Nelson, Times Staff Writer
Peter Ladefoged, a leading linguist phonetician who traveled the world to document the distinct sounds of endangered languages and pioneered ways to collect and study data, has died. He was 80.
Ladefoged, a UCLA professor emeritus, died Tuesday at a London hospital after becoming ill following a research trip to India, the university announced.
When Ladefoged entered the field in the late 1950s, he married linguistic fieldwork and phonetics in a new way, said Pat Keating, a UCLA linguistics professor.
"He did extensive linguistic fieldwork on a scale it had not been done before; and when he brought it back from the field, he found ways to use sophisticated laboratory equipment to analyze his recordings," she said.
Director George Cukor wanted him to teach the film's star, Rex Harrison — who would win an Oscar for the role of Professor Henry Higgins — to behave like a phonetician.
"My immediate answer was, 'I don't have a singing butler and three maids who sing, but I will tell you what I can as an assistant professor,' " Ladefoged told The Times in 2004.
Ladefoged helped set up the film set's phonetics laboratory, taught Harrison to read phonetic symbols — and ate the cookies that the film's co-star, Audrey Hepburn, baked for crew members.
"I'd never heard of Cukor. It just struck me as the chance to earn a fortune each week," Ladefoged said. "It was just so much more than a professor's salary. It paid me enough to buy my first car in America."
The professor's voice is preserved on the soundtrack. When Professor Higgins stomps down the stairs, he knocks a record player that starts playing a recording of Ladefoged making vowel sounds.
He intended to study English literature but soon became fascinated by the sounds of speech.
"I wanted to find out why Shelley could write better-sounding poetry than I," he told The Times in 1970.
Ladefoged never answered that question but earned a master's degree and then a doctorate in phonetics in 1959 at Edinburgh.
He returned to Nigeria, where he had already spent a year, to record speakers of about 60 languages.
Within a few years, he had traveled to Africa, Mexico, India and Uganda. Later, he went to Australia, Papua New Guinea, China, Brazil and many other countries.
When he married in 1953, his wife, Jenny, became his collaborator. He promised they would visit every continent, and they did.
Edited by Nonny, 29 January 2006 - 10:32 PM.