Source of the pic.:

John Rupert Firth (1890-1960)


  • Language and context

Research Interests

  • Theories of meaning and prosodic analysis

Notable Ideas



"After receiving an M.A. in history from the University of Leeds (1913), Firth joined the Indian Education Service in 1915 and served intermittently until 1928. From 1919 to 1928, he was professor of English at the University of the Punjab at Lahore. In 1928 Firth became a senior lecturer in phonetics at University College, London. He held teaching positions at the London School of Economics and at the Indian Institute, Oxford; in 1944 he was appointed to the first chair of general linguistics in Britain at the University of London, where he taught until his retirement in 1956."
source of biography
"John R. Firth." Encyclopędia Britannica. Encyclopędia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopędia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 15 May. 2013. <>.

Contribution to Linguistics

Firth is noted for drawing attention to the context-dependent nature of meaning with his notion of 'context of situation'. His work on prosody, which he emphasised at the expense of the phonemic principle, prefigured later work in autosegmental phonology.

Central Knowledge

  • Firth developed an idiosyncratic view of linguistics that has given rise to the adjective 'Firthian'. Central to this view is the idea of Polysystematism.

Main Publications

  • Speech. London: Benn's Sixpenny Library, 1930.

  • The Tongues of Men. London: Watts & Co, 1937.

  • Papers in Linguistics 1934-1951. London: Oxford University Press, 1957.

Categories: People