Peter Ladefoged

Peter Nielsen Ladefoged (/ˈlædɪfɡɪd/ LAD-if-oh-ghid,[1] Danish: [pʰetɐ nelsn̩ ˈlæːðfoʊ̯ð]; 17 September 1925 – 24 January 2006) was a British linguist and phonetician.[2]

Peter Ladefoged
Peter Ladefoged, 2004, Duncanville, Texas
Born(1925-09-17)17 September 1925
Sutton, England
Died24 January 2006(2006-01-24) (aged 80)
London, England
Alma mater

He was Professor of Phonetics at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he taught from 1962 to 1991. His book A Course in Phonetics is a common introductory text in phonetics, and The Sounds of the World's Languages (co-authored with Ian Maddieson) is widely regarded as a standard phonetics reference. Ladefoged also wrote several books on the phonetics of African languages. Prior to UCLA, he was a lecturer at the universities of Edinburgh, Scotland (1953–59, 1960–1) and Ibadan, Nigeria (1959–60).[3]

Early life

Peter Ladefoged was born on 17 September 1925, in Sutton (then in Surrey, now in Greater London), England. He attended Haileybury College from 1938–43, and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, Cambridge University from 1943–44. He received an MA (1951) and a PhD (1959) in Phonetics from the University of Edinburgh in 1959.[4][5]


Ladefoged was involved with the phonetics laboratory at UCLA, which he established in 1962. He also was interested in listening to and describing every sound used in spoken human language, which he estimated at 900 consonants and 200 vowels.[6] This research formed the basis of much of The Sounds of the World's Languages. In 1966 Ladefoged moved from the UCLA English Department to join the newly established Linguistics Department.[7]

While at UCLA, Ladefoged was hired as a consultant on the movie My Fair Lady. He wrote the transcriptions that can be seen in Professor Higgins's notebook, and his voice was used in the scenes where Higgins describes vowel pronunciation.[8]

Ladefoged was also a member of the International Phonetic Association for a long time, and was President of the Association from 1986 to 1991. He was deeply involved in maintaining its International Phonetic Alphabet, and was the principal mover of the 1989 International Phonetic Association Kiel Convention. He was also editor of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association. Ladefoged served on the board of directors of the Endangered Language Fund since its inception.

Ladefoged was a founding member of the Association for Laboratory Phonology.[7]

Personal life

Ladefoged married Jenny MacDonald in 1953, a marriage which lasted over 50 years.[9] They had three children: Lise Friedman, a bookseller; Thegn Ladefoged, archaeologist and professor of anthropology at University of Auckland;[10] and Katie Weiss, attorney and public defender, residing in Nashville, Tennessee.[9] He also had five grandchildren Zelda Ladefoged, Ethan Friedman, Amy Friedman, Joseph Weiss, and Catherine Weiss.


Ladefoged died on 24 January 2006 at the age of 80 in hospital in London, England after a research trip to India.[7] He was on his way home to Los Angeles, California from his research trip.[11]

Academic timeline

  • 195355: Assistant Lecturer in Phonetics, University of Edinburgh
  • 195559: Lecturer in Phonetics, University of Edinburgh
  • 195960: Lecturer in Phonetics, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
  • 196061: Lecturer in Phonetics, University of Edinburgh
  • 196162: Field fellow, Linguistic Survey of West Africa, Nigeria
  • Summer 1960: University of Michigan
  • Summer 1961: Royal Institute of Technology, [Kungliga Tekniska högskolan or KTH], (Stockholm, Sweden)
  • 196263: Assistant Professor of Phonetics, Department of English, UCLA
  • 1962: Established, and directed until 1991, the UCLA Phonetics Laboratory
  • 196365: Associate Professor of Phonetics, Department of Linguistics], UCLA
  • 196591: Professor of Phonetics, Department of Linguistics, UCLA
  • 197780: Chair, Department of Linguistics, UCLA
  • 1991: "retired" to become UCLA Research Linguist, Distinguished Professor of Phonetics Emeritus
  • 2005: Leverhulme Professor, University of Edinburgh
  • 2005–06: Adjunct professor at the University of Southern California (USC)

Academic honours

Selected publications

  • Ladefoged (1962). The nature of vowel quality.
    Monograph supplement to Revista do Laboratório de Fonética Experimental da Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Coimbra
    (Journal of Experimental Phonetics Laboratory of the Faculty of Arts, University of Coimbra).
  • Ladefoged (1962). Elements of acoustic phonetics. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46764-3. Paperback edition 1971. Translation into Japanese, Taishukan Publishing Company, 1976. Second edition, with added chapters on computational phonetics 1996.
  • Ladefoged (1964). A phonetic study of west African languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University. ISBN 0-521-06963-7. Reprinted 1968.
  • Ladefoged (1967). Three areas of experimental phonetics. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-437110-7.
  • Ladefoged, Peter; Ruth Glick; Clive Criper (1969). Language in Uganda. Nairobi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-436101-2.
  • Ladefoged (1971). Preliminaries to linguistic phonetics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Ladefoged (1975). A course in phonetics. Orlando: Harcourt Brace. ISBN 0-15-507319-2. 2nd ed 1982, 3rd ed. 1993, 4th ed. 2001, 5th ed. Boston: Thomson/Wadsworth 2006, 6th ed. 2011 (co-author Keith Johnson) Boston: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning. Japanese translation 2000.
  • Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-631-19815-4.
  • Ladefoged (2001). Vowels and consonants: An introduction to the sounds of languages. Oxford: Blackwells. ISBN 0-631-21412-7. 2001, 2nd ed. 2004.
  • Ladefoged (2003). Phonetic data analysis: An introduction to instrumental phonetic fieldwork. Oxford: Blackwells. ISBN 0-631-23270-2.
  • Ladefoged (2006). Interactive CD-ROM for "A Course in Phonetics". ISBN 1-4130-1420-8.
  • Ladefoged (2006). Representing linguistic phonetic structure (PDF). Faculty profile: UCLA, draft, in progress before death.

Works involved in or about

  • George Cukor (director), Alan Jay Lerner (lyricist): My Fair Lady. Motion picture film. (1964).
  • Fromkin, Victoria A.; editor (1985). Phonetic linguistics: Essays in honor of Peter Ladefoged. Orlando: Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-268990-9.


  1. Vowels and consonants: an introduction to the sounds of languages. 2001. p. 74.
  2. "Peter Ladefoged's home page". Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  3. "Obituary: Peter Ladefoged". UCLA Newsroom. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  4. Nelson, Valerie J. (28 January 2006). "Peter Ladefoged, 80; Documented Endangered Languages". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  5. Ladefoged, Peter (1959). "The perception of vowel sounds". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. "Peter Nielsen Ladefoged | American linguist". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  7. Fox, Margalit (8 February 2006). "Peter Ladefoged, 80, Linguist Who Was Immersed in Speech, Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  8. Peter Ladefoged, in Phonetic data analysis: An introduction to fieldwork and instrumental techniques (Wiley-Blackwell), 2003, p. 28
  9. "Peter Ladefoged's home page". Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  10. "Professor Thegn Ladefoged – The University of Auckland". Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  11. "LINGUIST List 17.353: Obituary: Peter Ladefoged". The LINGUIST List. 1 February 2006. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
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