Kenneth Lee Pike

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Pike, Kenneth Lee


Born June 9, 1912, in Woodstock, Conn. American linguist.

Pike studied under Edward Sapir. He became a professor at the University of Michigan in 1955 and president of the Linguistic Society of America in 1961. He occupies a unique place in the Ann Arbor school of American descriptive linguistics.

Pike is a specialist in general phonetics and phonology, general linguistics, and the teaching of foreign languages. He developed a “unified theory of the structure of human behavior” based on behaviorism and also devised the tagmemic theory, an original model for the grammatical description of languages of various systems. Pike does fieldwork in the little-studied languages of Asia, Africa, Central and South America, and Oceania. As a phonetician, Pike is known for being the first English-language linguist to propose a system of discrete modeling of intonation (intonational levels); he also introduced the concepts of contour and register in musical tones. Pike proposed the theory of three types of speech units: “particles,” “waves,” and “fields.” He also formulated the distinction between emic and etic linguistic units.


The Intonation of American English. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1946.
Phonemics. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1947.
Tone Languages. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1948.
Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Behavior, 2nd ed. The Hague-Paris, 1967.


Osnovnye napravleniia strukturalizma. Moscow, 1964.
Vereshchagin, E. M., and A. A. Leont’ev. Review of K. L. Pike, Language in Relation.…” In Voprosy psikholingvistiki i prepodavanie russkogo iazyka kak inostrannogo. Moscow, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.