1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ellis, Alexander John

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16093771911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 9 — Ellis, Alexander John

ELLIS (originally Sharpe), ALEXANDER JOHN (1814–1890), English philologist, mathematician, musician and writer on phonetics, was born at Hoxton on the 14th of June 1814. He was educated at Shrewsbury, Eton, and Trinity College, Cambridge, and took his degree in high mathematical honours. He was connected with many learned societies as member or president, and was governor of University College, London. He was the first in England to reduce the study of phonetics to a science. His most important work, to which the greater part of his life was devoted, is On Early English Pronunciation, with special reference to Shakespeare and Chaucer (1869–1889), in five parts, which he intended to supplement by a sixth, containing an abstract of the whole, an account of the views and criticisms of other inquirers in the same field, and a complete index, but ill-health prevented him from carrying out his intention. He had long been associated with Isaac Pitman in his attempts to reform English spelling, and published A Plea for Phonotypy and Phonography (1845) and A Plea for Phonetic Spelling (1848); and contributed the articles on “Phonetics” and “Speech-sounds” to the 9th edition of the Ency. Brit. He translated (with considerable additions) Helmholtz’s Sensations of Tone as a physiological Basis for the Theory of Music (2nd ed., 1885); and was the author of several smaller works on music, chiefly in connexion with his favourite subject phonetics. He died in London on the 28th of October 1890.