Seton Sinclair Eustace
( 1930 - 2007 )

This is a very slightly extended version of what appeared in isssue Number 95 / 2007-I p.51 of
the Phonetician

Sinclair Eustace was born on the 30th of June 1930 and died in the south of England on the 20th of July 2007. As a boy he attended Eton College as a Scholar. From there he proceeded to Christ Church College Oxford where he took a Degree in Modern History. He lived most of his life in London where he had a house in South Kensington.

He took a great interest in language which led him to enrol for courses in the Department of Phonetics at University College, London. These culminated in his acquiring their exacting Diploma in Phonetics.

Among his many interests was spelling reform so much so that he joined the Simplified Spelling Society becoming its Secretary for some years. Amongst his activities in that field was included working with Sir James Pitman on his famous Initial Teaching Alphabet.

He became elected to membership of the Philological Society and contributed to their Transactions a classic prodigious almost-fifty-page article on ‘The Meaning of the Palaeotype in A. J. Ellis's On Early English Pronunciation’ which must rank as his greatest achievement. He became a member of the International Phonetic Association and contributed various significant papers to its journal. He also joined the Henry Sweet Society.

Shortly before he died he donated to UCL his extensive collection of pronouncing dictionaries, facsimile reprints from the Scolar Press and publications of the Philological Society, almost 200 books in all, which are now in the Rare Books Collection of the Library at University College London.

His 1969 article in Le Maître Phonétique on “The antiquity of some features of standard English” for the first time ever described a type of upper-class pronunciation notably of the mouth diphthong as [aɨ] which was in the following decade to become well known when it was, being noticed in the speech of the Prince of Wales, imitated by satirists etc.

His most famous paper "Present changes in English Pronunciation" given at and printed in the Proceedings of the 6th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences at Prague in 1968 gave surprising evidence of how Londonised the speech of young Etonians had become.

His output would certainly have been much greater had he not been a lifelong sufferer from the debilitating disease of multiple sclerosis. He will be remembered with affection by many who enjoyed stimulating discussions with him.