In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Daniel Jones

  • Introduction
  • General Surveys
  • Landmark Works
  • Description of English and EFL
  • International Phonetic Association and Le Maître phonétique
  • Lexicography
  • Romanization
  • Historical Reconstruction of Pronunciation
  • Teaching of Phonetics and Pronunciation
  • Instrumental Phonetics
  • Spelling Reform
  • Work for the BBC
  • Non-European Languages Including Tone Languages
  • European Languages

Linguistics Daniel Jones
Beverley S. Collins, Paul Carley, Inger M. Mees
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 July 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0198


Daniel Jones, the preeminent British phonetician of the 20th century, was born in London on 12 September 1881. He was educated at University College School and Cambridge University. His entire career was spent at University College London (UCL), where in 1912 he founded the first British university phonetics department. Valuable documentation concerning Jones’s life and career, correspondence, and published and unpublished work is to be found in the Daniel Jones Papers stored at University College London (“Special Collections, London, WC16BT”). Jones’s early books included extremely influential surveys of English phonetics and work on English intonation. He also produced notable lexicographical work in the form of pronunciation dictionaries. Jones’s pioneering research on non-European languages featured groundbreaking descriptions of tone languages. In 1917, he became the first Western linguist to use and promulgate the term “phoneme,” and in his later years he devoted much time to honing his views on the phoneme concept. In 1921, Jones was granted a chair at UCL, and for almost three decades until his retirement in 1949, ran the Phonetics Department there, which was acknowledged worldwide as a leading center for teaching and research; the group of scholars and researchers at UCL, with Jones at their head, would later be referred to as the British School. Jones’s system of Cardinal Vowels is one of his most lasting legacies. Developed by 1917, it is still to this day employed in much current linguistic descriptive work. Jones also defined a socially determined type of British English (which he labeled “Received Pronunciation,” or “RP”) which could be used as a standard for phonetic description and as a model for non-native learners. Jones joined the International Phonetic Association (IPA) in 1906, and was successively its Assistant Secretary, Secretary, and eventually its President. He was the major force in promoting the Association and furthering the evolution of the International Phonetic Alphabet, and also edited the IPA’s influential journal, Le Maître phonétique. Jones was primarily an applied linguist, something most clearly shown by his constant concern for the application of phonetics to the real world, in particular to the teaching and learning of foreign languages. He continued working long into his retirement, devoting himself in particular to the revision of his earlier publications. He died at his home in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, on 4 December 1967.

General Surveys

In total, the following books provide an overview of Jones’s life and work, together with background information on the linguistic world in the early 20th century. Biographical detail is provided by Collins and Mees 1999, and in concise form by Collins 2004. The only easily accessible collection of Jones’s own publications, including early editions and previously unpublished papers, is Collins and Mees 2003. Abercrombie, et al. 1964 and Jones and Laver 1973 contain papers by Jones’s contemporaries and colleagues reflecting his views and those of the British School of phonetics he founded. Collins, et al. 2013 is a collection of mostly book-length publications by pupils and followers of the British School. For a general survey of phonetics as a discipline, including many items of historical interest, see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article by Michael Ashby on Phonetics.

  • Abercrombie, David, D. B. Fry, P. A. D. MacCarthy, N. C. Scott, and J. L. M. Trim, eds. 1964. In honour of Daniel Jones: Papers contributed on the occasion of his eightieth birthday. London: Longmans.

    A festschrift containing over fifty contributions, most of which reflect some aspects of Jones’s work, from phoneticians and phonologists worldwide. Contains a chronological bibliography and discography of Jones’s work.

  • Collins, Beverley. 2004. Daniel Jones: New dictionary of national biography. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    A concise outline of Jones’s life and work.

  • Collins, Beverley, and Inger M. Mees. 1999. The real Professor Higgins: The life and career of Daniel Jones. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

    The only full-length detailed account of Jones’s life and work. Contains a chronological bibliography and discography.

  • Collins, Beverley, and Inger M. Mees, eds. 2003. Daniel Jones: Selected works. 8 vols. London: Routledge.

    A selection of Jones’s most important published works, with introductions, together with much valuable previously unpublished material (vols. 4 and 8) and including the original editions of three of his landmark works, Jones 1909, Jones 1918 (both in vol. 1), Jones 1917 (vol. 3), all cited under Landmark Works.

  • Collins, Beverley, Inger M. Mees, and Paul Carley. 2013. English phonetics: Twentieth-century developments. 6 vols. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

    A selection of 20th-century works written by linguists who were all in some way influenced by the British School of phonetics. The majority were either colleagues, pupils, or followers of Jones, including such figures as Harold Palmer, Arthur Lloyd James, and Ida Ward.

  • Jones, W. E., and J. Laver. 1973. Phonetics in linguistics: A book of readings. London: Longman.

    A notable collection of articles, dating from 1931 to 1963, written (as the editors state in the preface, p. v) by “authors . . . who could be thought of as members of the British school of phonetics.” Five pieces are by Jones himself, and the remainder by his pupils and colleagues.

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