W. Sidney Allen

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William Sidney Allen (1918–2004)[1] was an English linguist and philologist, best known for his work on Indo-European phonology.

Allen was educated at Christ's Hospital and then at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a Classical scholar. He taught first at the School of Oriental and African Studies as a lecturer in Phonetics (1948–51) and then in Comparative Linguistics (1951–55), then held the position of Professor of Comparative Philology at the University of Cambridge until his retirement in 1982.[2] His teachers and influences included N. B. Jopson, Harold Bailey and J. R. Firth,[3][4] and R. H. Robins was a close colleague.[5] He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1971.

He was influential in the development of several important figures in British linguistics, including George Hewitt, John Lyons, John C. Wells, and Geoffrey Horrocks, who now holds Allen's former position as Professor of Comparative Philology.[6][7] He was also influential in developing linguistics as a distinct discipline in 20th-century Britain, lobbying the General Board of the University of Cambridge to set up linguistics positions in the 1960s, and in helping to found the section for linguistics (subsequently renamed 'Linguistics and Philology') at the British Academy in 1985.[8] The University of Cambridge has a prize named after him, awarded for distinguished performance by a linguistics undergraduate.[9]

Selected works

  • Phonetics in Ancient India (1953)
  • On the Linguistic Study of Languages (inaugural lecture) (1957)
  • Sandhi (1962)
  • Vox Latina (1965, 2nd edition 1978)
  • Vox Graeca (1968, 3rd edition 1987)
  • Accent and Rhythm (1973)


  1. http://www.trin.cam.ac.uk/index.php?pageid=192
  2. E. K. Brown & Vivien Law (eds.) (2002), Linguistics in Britain: personal histories, p14. Oxford: Blackwell.
  3. Brown & Law (eds.) (2002), p15.
  4. E. F. K. Koerner (2004), Essays in the history of linguistics, p199. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  5. Brown & Law (eds.) (2002), p18.
  6. Brown & Law (eds.) (2002), pp20–25.
  7. http://www.classics.cam.ac.uk/faculty/staff-bios/academic-research-staff/geoff_horrocks/
  8. Brown & Law (eds.) (2002), pp22–25.
  9. http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/so/2011/chapter12-section2.html#heading2-7