FIRTH, John Rupert. Keighley, Yorkshire 17.6.1890 — Linfield, Sussex 14.12. 1960. British Linguist and Phonetician. Professor in London. From Yorkshire. Studied history at Leeds University (M.A. 1913). A brief time Lecturer in History at City of Leeds Training College, then in Indian Educational Service, in 1920-28 Professor of English at Lahore University. Returned to England, he was from 1928 Senior Lecturer at Department of Phonetics, London University College, until 1938. At the same time Special Lecturer in the Phonetics of Indian Languages at Oxford and in 1932-38 part-time Lecturer in Linguistics at S.O.A.S. In 1937-38 fifteen months in India studying on Gujarati and Telugu. From 1938 at S.O.A.S., first as a Senior Lecturer, then from 1940 Reader in Linguistics and Indian Phonetics, from 1941 head of Department of Phonetics and Linguistics and from 1944 Professor of General Linguistics (a new chair) at S.O.A.S./University of London. In 1956 emeritus. In his last years he was often ill, but died suddenly. He was a linguist and phonetician, who sought his material from Indian languages. He is said to have had a difficult nature.
Publications: Speech. L. 1930; The tongues of men. L. 1937.
– “The technique of Semantics”, TPS 1935, 36-72; “Alphabets and Phonology in india and Burma”, BSOS 8, 1935/37, 517-546; “The English School of Phonetics”, TPS 1946, 92-132; many other articles in BSOAS, TPS, etc.
– “Indian Languages”, Encyclopedia Britannica 1956.
– Papers in linguistics, 1934–1951. L. 1957.
Sources: *K. K. Raja, JOR 28, 1961, 164; R. H. Robins, Lex. gramm. 1996, 297-300; N. C. Scott, BSOAS 24, 1961, 413-418 (with bibliography); Wikipedia with photo; not in Who Was Who –1960.