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Hans Jørgen (John) Uldall's correspondence with Daniel Jones

British Daniel Jones (1881-1967) is often referred to as the person who invented the cardinal vowel system as an applicable instrument within the realm of phonetics. His work in phonetics and phonology was primarily focused on the English language, however he worked on many other languages too. Till this day he is considered to be revolutionary in phonetics. Jones’ book “English Pronouncing Dictionary” (1917), was the first dictionary with phonetic transcriptions of more than 50.000 English words.

We can find his interest for phonetics and phonology in the letter correspondances between Jones and Hans Jørgen (John) Uldall. Their letter correspondence comes to an end though, when they agree to disagree. ”We are all different from each other, & whatever the goal of human existence may be, we all approach it by different paths”.  The quote is from a letter from Jones to Uldall in 1938 where they have realised that their work derives from two different ontological positions. Jones approaches phonetics and linguistics as a means to an end, in opposition to Uldall (along with Hjelmslev and their glossematics) who worked with linguistics to ensure it as an autonomous science; that language is an end in itself.

Nevertheless Jones and Uldall had a good working relationship which is portrayed when Jones asks Uldall to take over the secretary work for IPA (International Phonetic Association) as well as the role of editing the journal Le Maître phonétique. Jones’ health was not particularly good in 1935 and Jones clearly entrusted these roles to Uldall, and Jones respected Uldall’s comprehension of “the phoneme idea & the importance of broad transcriptions”. Their fellowship revolved and evolved around phonetics, and this fellowship had to be promoted.