Eli Fischer-Jørgensen

(For The Phonetician)

At the age of ninety-nine Emeritus Professor Eli Fischer-Jørgensen died at her home in Denmark in February 2010 at the end of a very long and distinguished career that had begun in 1929 with studies of the French and German languages which were firmly in the Danish tradition stemming from great scholars of the linguistic sciences such as Otto Jespersen. While still a student she was accepted into the Linguistic Circle of Copenhagen which was famous for the "glossematic" theories of Louis Hjelmslev a scholar of whom it may be easy to overlook the fact that he could collaborate with a colleague (Poul Andersen) to produce a practical textbook for their students of phonetics. While still a student Eli developed her lifelong passion for integrating observational and instrumental phonetic work with phonological theory. Graduating MA in 1936 she set off on travels to and sojourns in places which included Marburg (for German dialectology), Paris to work with Martinet and Marguérite Durand and Berlin to study with Eberhard Zwirner. Returning home just before the outbreak of World War II, she got work in the Department of German which in due course morphed into a lectureship in phonetics created for her under the aegis of Hjelmslev.

After the War she extended her experience by visits to London to the Phonetics Department at University College to study with Jones and Hélène Coustenoble and also to the School of Oriental and African Studies to attend lectures by J. R. Firth and on Yoruba and Chinese as well. Other journeys took her to America to the Haskins Laboratories and to Stockholm to co-operate with Gunnar Fant. At home her work became recognised by the creation for her in 1966 of a Chair of Phonetics and an associated institute. Fruitful connections with colleagues at Lund also followed.

As time went by she became in turn the host herself of researchers from abroad including from Japan, from Edinburgh, from Berkeley and from Germany. A most memorable and brilliantly managed (very much by her) occasion was the 1979 visit to Copenhagen of the Ninth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. This was something of a swan song for her since two years later, on her reaching seventy, regulations no doubt required her to relinquish her post.

Her varied publications were far too many to detail here. They included a classic account of the Danish stød, the historical Tryk i ӕldre dansk (on Stress in Old Danish), Trends in phonological theory and her accounts of the phonetic symbolisms of vowels. Nor should her modest concise clear summary of general phonetics for her Danish students, Almen Fonetik, be quite forgotten. She was held in high esteem amongst her friends for her gifted water colours. She'll be remembered for a long time to come.