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Daniel Jones

(1881—1967) phonetician


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British linguist and phonetician who developed the idea of an international phonetic alphabet and described the influential Received Pronunciation. After obtaining a degree in mathematics at Cambridge University, Jones read law and finally became interested in phonetics, which he studied in Paris (1905–06) under Paul Passy (1859–1940). Passy, with A. J. Ellis (1814–90) and Henry Sweet (1845–1912), had been working on the concept of an international phonetic alphabet, and when Jones returned to England in 1907 he continued to develop and refine the principles for such a system at the first British department of phonetics, at University College, London.

A key step forward in Jones's work came with his invention of a system of ‘cardinal vowels’, used as reference points for transcribing all vowel sounds. In his An English Pronouncing Dictionary (1917), Jones set out his description of Received Pronunciation – the socially prestigious dialect that is ‘most usually heard in everyday speech in the families of Southern English persons whose men-folk have been educated at the great public boarding-schools’. This guide was widely used and much revised, although Jones never intended it as a practical reference book that would influence the future development of the language. Other major works produced by Jones include An Outline of English Phonetics (1918), contributions to The Principles of the International Phonetics Association (1949), and The Phoneme: its Nature and Use (1950), in which he tried to classify the nature of phonemes (sound units of a language).

From Who's Who in the Twentieth Century in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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