This year sees the retirement of Jack Windsor Lewis, widely renowned as a phonetician of English as a foreign language. He is also known for his talents as a lecturer, and is much in demand as a visiting speaker overseas.
Jack was born in 1926. As an undergraduate he read English at Cardiff and then embarked on a succession of overseas posts teaching English. He became especially interested in the study of pronunciation, and in 1954 wisely chose to enrol at University College London, the leading centre for English phonetics. There he was taught by A. C. Gimson and J. D. O'Connor, the most influential English phoneticians of the period. Further jobs overseas followed, including three years in Tehran and seven years at the University of Oslo. There he wrote his Guide to English Pronunciation (Oslo,1969), a book full of interesting insights and not as well known as it ought to be.
He was appointed to the Department of Phonetics at Leeds (now the Department of Linguistics and Phonetics) in 1970. Shortly after that, in 1972, his best-known work was published: A Concise Pronouncing Dictionary of British and American English (OUP). In some countries English as a foreign language means British English, in others American: this was the first pronouncing dictionary to cover both. Like Jack's other books, it is innovative and even daring in its readiness to abandon the outdated and embrace the new. This tendency had to be toned down though, when Jack acted as pronunciation editor for the widely used Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary.
In the 60s and 70s there was a controversy in phonetics over how best to represent the English vowels in transcription. Jack was a keen advocate of a 'qualitative' notation, ie one which made no use of 'length marks' to show show long vowels (unlike Daniel Jones's 'quantitative' notation) which had hitherto prevailed in EFL work but was now felt to be unsatisfactory. Unfortunately for Jack, he eventually lost this argument to a compromise proposed by Gimson, whose 'qualitative/quantitative' transcription has emerged victorious.
Jack's most recent book is a collection of intonationally transcribed texts, People Speaking (1977). As well as writing books, though, Jack has throughout his career contributed lively and informative articles and reviews to academic journals. As editor of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association I knew I could always rely on him for interesting copy. Let us hope he will keep up this flow in his retirement.
J. C. Wells (Professor of Phonetics University College London)