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Papers of David Abercrombie

Identifier: Coll-66

Scope and Contents

The Papers of Professor David Abercrombie held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consist of personal material such as documents and diaries etc, and material relating to his involvement in university or departmental administration; lecture and tutorial notes and other academic notes; material relating to areas of research; and, material relating to publications and broadcast talks. There is a great deal of correspondence, including personal and non-academic material; correspondence with particular individuals; correspondence on academic related matters; correspondence on spelling reform and basic English; and correspondence with publishers. There are also some personal documents and papers relating to the Abercrombie family.


  • Creation: 1937- 1993

Conditions Governing Access

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Biographical / Historical

The phonetician Professor David Abercrombie, son of poet Lascelles Abercrombie, was born 19 December 1909. He can be considered as one of the great phoneticians in the history of the discipline. Abercrombie was educated at Leeds Grammar School, Leeds University, University College London, and the Sorbonne. His first academic appointment as Assistant Lecturer in English at the London School of Economics (LSE) was in 1934. He returned there after the war, between 1945 and 1947. During the war, he worked in Athens, Cyprus, and Cairo. After the LSE, he lectured in phonetics at Leeds University. In 1948 however, he joined Edinburgh University and spent 32 years there, as Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, Professor of Phonetics (1964-80), and Emeritus (1980-92). He was also Lecturer in Linguistics and Phonetics at Glasgow University (1980-81). Abercrombie died in Edinburgh, 4 July 1992. He had lived at 13 Grosvenor Crescent in the city. His main influence on the broader world was hisElements of General Phonetics(1967). Other works wereIsaac Pitman: a pioneer in the scientific study of language(1937);Problems and principles in language study(1956);English phonetic texts(1964); and,Studies in phonetics and linguistics(1965). Before his death, he passed other personal notes and papers to John Kelly who in turn passed these on to the Department of Linguistics and Phonetics at the University of Leeds. In 1999 arrangements were being made to house these in Leeds Brotherton Library's Special Collections.


9 linear metre (70 boxes)

Physical Location

Gen. 986-1055

Papers of David Abercrombie
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379