John Kelly (1936-2023)

John Kelly, phonetician, phonologist and Africanist, died in Leeds on 30 December 2023 at the age of 87. He was born in Davyhulme, a small town on the outskirts of Manchester on 23 August 1936.

John read French and German as an undergraduate at the University of Manchester and in 1961 began postgraduate study at Edinburgh in the Department of Phonetics under David Abercrombie. He was an assistant
lecturer in phonetics at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, from 1961 to 1964, and a lecturer in phonetics at the University of lbadan, Nigeria, from 1964 to 1965. He then became a lecturer in phonetics and linguistics at SOAS moving to the Department of Language, as it then was, at the University of York in 1972 to teach Swahili and Phonetics. He retired as Reader in Phonetics and Linguistics in 1998.

John was an astonishingly acute auditory and impressionistic phonetician as anyone who observed him working with language consultants will testify. He was also an innovative and creative phonologist working in the framework of Firthian Prosodic Analysis. He published on a variety of African languages including Swahili, Fang, Xhosa and Urhobo as well as North Welsh and English dialects. He was the driving force behind the series of York Colloquia in Prosodic Analysis and the creation of the Firthian Prosodic Archive at York. He had a longstanding interest in the History of Phonetics and in his retirement he was working on a study of the early phonetician Alexander Ellis.

A gentle, wise and caring man. He is greatly missed.

Obituary by John Local