Harold Orton
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Harold Orton

Harold Orton
Born(1898-10-23)23 October 1898
Died7 March 1975(1975-03-07) (aged 76)
Occupationprofessor of English language, dialectologist

Harold Orton (23 October 1898 - 7 March 1975) was a dialectologist and professor of English Language and Medieval Literature at the University of Leeds.

Early life

Orton was born in Byers Green, County Durham, on 23 October 1898 and was educated at King James I Grammar School, in Bishop Auckland, and at the University of Durham. He left university in 1917 to enrol in the Durham Light Infantry in which he was commissioned as a lieutenant. He was wounded severely in 1918, never regained full use of his right arm, and was invalided out of the army in 1919.[1]

Academic career

After leaving the army, in 1918 Orton went to Merton College, Oxford,[2] where he studied under Henry Cecil Kennedy Wyld and Joseph Wright, author of the English Dialect Dictionary (McDavid, 1976). He then spent several years on the staff of Uppsala University in Sweden until 1928, when he was appointed to a lectureship at King's College, Newcastle (now the University of Newcastle). Between 1928 and 1939, he surveyed the dialects of 35 sites in Northumberland and north Durham, which became known as the Orton Corpus. It was not published until 1998, when it was edited by Kurt Rydland.[3] He became head of the Department of English Language at the University of Sheffield in 1939 but secondment to the British Council interrupted that work until the end of World War II.[4]

In 1946, he was appointed professor of English Language and Medieval Literature at the University of Leeds, succeeding Bruce Dickins, where he taught until his retirement as emeritus professor in 1964.[5]

Orton was a visiting professor at the Universities of Kansas (1965, 1967, 1968), Iowa (1966) and Tennessee (1970, 1972, 1973) and at Belmont University, Nashville (1971).

Orton is best remembered as co-founder of the Survey of English Dialects (SED). He developed the questionnaire for the survey together with Eugen Dieth. His pupil David Parry went on to apply the same principles used for the SED to Welsh English, founding the Survey of Anglo-Welsh Dialects (SAWD) at Swansea University in 1968.

Many who met Orton said that he had a driving passion for his subject. In the early part of his career, he was nicknamed "the phonetic fanatic". During the Survey of English Dialects, he worked even on Christmas Day[6]

Death and legacy

Orton died in Leeds on 7 March 1975 following a stroke.[7]

An overview of Orton's career was published by Craig Fees in 1991 as the first part in a series on dialect and folk studies.[8] In the same year, Fees wrote a strongly-worded defence of Orton against those who had criticised his work.[9]

Selected bibliography

  • Orton, Harold (1930). The Phonology of a South Durham Dialect, London.
  • Orton, Harold (1971). Editorial Problems of an English Dialect Atlas. In: Burghardt, Lorraine H. (ed.): Dialectology: Problems and Perspectives. Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee, 79-115.
  • Orton, Harold and Eugen Dieth (1952), A Questionnaire for a Linguistic Atlas of England. Leeds: Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society.
  • Orton, Harold and Nathalia Wright (1972). Questionnaire for the Investigation of American Regional English. Knoxville: University of Tennessee.
  • Orton, Harold and Nathalia Wright (1975). A Word Geography of England. New York: Seminar Press.
  • Orton, Harold et al. (1962-71). Survey of English Dialects: Basic Materials. Introduction and 4 vols. (each in 3 parts). Leeds: E. J. Arnold & Son.

References

  1. ^ Journal of the International Phonetic Association Volume 5, No 2, December 1975
  2. ^ Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900-1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 118.
  3. ^ Maguire, Warren (August 2003). ""Mr. A. J. Ellis - the pioneer of scientific phonetics in England" (Sweet 1877, vii): an examination of Ellis's data from the northeast of England" (PDF). University of Edinburgh. pp. 5-6. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ Journal of the International Phonetic Association Volume 5, No 2, December 1975
  5. ^ http://www.leeds.ac.uk/arts/info/20040/school_of_english/1253/history_of_the_school_of_english/2
  6. ^ Fees, Craig (1991). The imperilled inheritance: dialect and folklife studies at the University of Leeds, 1946-1962, 1: Harold Orton and the English dialect survey. pp. 50-53.
  7. ^ The Guardian, Obituary
  8. ^ Fees, Craig (1991). The imperilled inheritance: dialect and folklife studies at the University of Leeds, 1946-1962, 1: Harold Orton and the English dialect survey.
  9. ^ Frees, Craig (1991). "The Historiography of Dialectology" (PDF). Lore and Language. 10 (2): 67-74. Retrieved 2018.
  • McDavid, Raven I. Jr (1976) "Harold Orton: 23 October 1898 - 7 March 1975", American Speech, 51, 219-222

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