Sweet, Henry

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Sweet, Henry,

1845–1912, English philologist and phonetician. An authority on Anglo-Saxon and the history of the English language, Sweet was also a pioneer in modern scientific phonetics. His History of English Sounds (1874) was a landmark in that study. In 1901 he was made a reader in phonetics at Oxford. Among his other writings are A Handbook of Phonetics (1877), A New English Grammar (2 parts, 1892–95), The History of Language (1900), The Sounds of English (1908), and works on Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, and Icelandic. Sweet was the model for Professor Higgins in G. B. Shaw's play Pygmalion.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sweet, Henry


Born Sept. 15,1845, in London; died Apr. 30, 1912, in Oxford. British linguist; founder of the British school of phoneticians. Member of the London Philological Society (1869–85).

Sweet studied at the University of Heidelberg in 1864 and, beginning in 1869, at Oxford University. In 1901 he became a lecturer of phonetics at Oxford. He made a major contribution to the elaboration of a theory of phonology and also worked on the typology of the phonological systems of the world’s languages. His principal works dealt with phonetics, English and German philology, and Old English dialectology.


A History of English Sounds From the Earliest Period, 2nd ed. Oxford, 1888.
A Handbook of Phonetics. Oxford, 1877.
A Short Historical English Grammar. Oxford, 1892.
Collected Papers. Oxford, 1913.


Wrenn, C. L. “Henry Sweet.” In Portraits of Linguists, vol. 1. Bloomington, Ind.–London [1966].
Jakobson, R. Selected Writings, vol. 2. The Hague-Paris, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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