Associated Press Ladefoged Obituary

Obituary distributed by the Associated Press.

LOS ANGELES — Peter Ladefoged, a pioneering linguist who consulted on the 1964 film “My Fair Lady,” in which actor Rex Harrison plays a phonetician, has died. He was 80.

Ladefoged, who made it his life’s work to record and study the various parts of speech, died Tuesday at a London hospital, said Stuart Wolpert, a spokesman for the University of California, Los Angeles.

Wolpert said Ladefoged became ill while traveling home from a research trip to India.

Ladefoged was a UCLA linguistics professor emeritus who moved to Los Angeles in 1962 to become an assistant professor.

Director George Cukor recruited him to teach Harrison, the star of “My Fair Lady,” to behave like a phonetician. Harrison went on to win an Oscar for the role of Professor Henry Higgins.

When Ladefoged entered the field in the late 1950s, he combined 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.

Peter Nielsen Ladefoged was born Sept. 17, 1925, in Sutton, England.

After serving in the British army during World War II, he enrolled in the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He planned to study English literature but soon became fascinated by the sounds of speech. He ultimately earned a doctorate in phonetics at the university.

“I wanted to find out why Shelley could write better-sounding poetry than I,” he told The Los Angeles Times in 1970.

One of the first countries Ladefoged did extensive work in was Nigeria, where he recorded 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.