Brief Biography

I was born in Watford, an outer suburb northwest of London, on September 1 1942 as the youngest of four siblings. My family had been evacuated from the Kent coast because of the fear of invasion and spent the war years in that area. In 1946 we returned to the coast and I grew up in the town of Lydd. My family ran Maddieson's Holiday Camps and were sufficiently well-off to afford to send us to private schools. After completing secondary education at Sutton Valence School, I was fortunate to win a minor scholarship ("the Moxham Exhibition") to study at Exeter College, Oxford. Initially planning to complete an English Literature degree, I switched after a year to a track emphasizing the history of the English language .... and thus came into contact with linguistics.

Following graduation in 1964 I spent a year in Ghana with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) teaching English and French at Prempeh College, Kumasi before enrolling in the graduate program in Linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London. After completing the courses required for a Master's degree, I had run out of money so returned to Oxford to work as a tutor for a year. In 1968 I was fortunate to be appointed a Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. My colleagues there were a stellar group, including Ayo Bamgboá¹£e, Kay Williamson, Carl Hoffman and Ben Elugbe.

Meeting Charles Bird and Vicki Fromkin at the West African Linguistics Congress in Accra in 1971 led to the next phase in my career. Both asked if I would be interested in spending a year in the US, and I said yes. As a result I spent the 1972-3 academic year at Indiana University teaching introductory Linguistics and Yoruba courses, and the 1973-4 academic year at UCLA as part of a team working on Vicki Fromkin and Peter Ladefoged's research project on tone. I returned to the UK hoping to complete my Ph. D. at SOAS, but was told by SOAS authorities that I would have to start again from scratch with coursework. This was an unattractive option.

Good fortune was again on my side. I applied to join the Language Universals Project directed by Joseph Greenberg and Charles Ferguson at Stanford University and was accepted, and applied to UCLA to complete my Ph. D. there and was accepted. I spent the first half of 1975 in Palo Alto working on universals of tone, and then moved south to Los Angeles. After completing remaining requirements (notably taking a course on the syntax of verb-first languages from Ed Keenan), I filed my dissertation in 1977. During this period I re-experienced the incomparably stimulating atmosphere of the UCLA Phonetics Laboratory under Peter Ladefoged.

Following graduation I was able to stay at UCLA in a research capacity, supported by a succession of grants from NSF and NIH. Initially I was employed on grants headed by Peter Ladefoged, especially one on the linguistic use of phonation type, but later I had my own grants or was a Co-P.I. with Peter. From 1987 to 1991 we had a grant to work on "Sounds of the World's Languages", and in part guided by the gaps in knowledge we discovered during this project followed this with grants extending from 1991 to 1999 for work on the phonetics of endangered languages. When Larry Hyman invited me to move from UCLA to Berkeley I was able to transfer a renewal of this grant to Northern California. The World Atlas of Linguistic Structures project at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig led to a three-year grant on "Phonological Typology in Geographical Perspective" from 2003-2006.

In 2004 Caroline Smith and I were married (in Vermont, just after the Vermont 100 mile race) and looked forward to living in the same town. She had a sabbatical from the University of New Mexico (UNM) in 2004-2005 and we were able to be together in California, but the following year we were separated by a couple of thousand miles. In 2006 I retired from the University of California system to move to Albuquerque, where I am now Adjunct Research Professor at UNM. I typically teach one course a year there. In addition to sharing a nice house in the foothills of the Sandia mountains with Caroline, other pleasures of this situation are collaboration with my colleague Bill Croft and with associates at the Santa Fe Institute.