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Stanley Ellis; OBITUARY.

FEW abstruse academic studies of language have as much appeal as the study of dialects.

It is a combination of history, learning and gentle nostalgia that hits the button every time.

Sometimes it can even be of far more practical use, as Stanley Ellis tried to point out at the height of the Yorkshire Ripper serial killer investigation, 30 years ago.

A cassette tape had landed on the desk of George Oldfield, leading the investigation into the ripper attacks in Yorkshire.

Oldfield felt it was genuine, and given the man's strong accent passed the tape to Ellis.

His opinion was that the speaker came from the Castletown district of Sunderland, and for a while the Ripper hunt moved to Wearside.

But Ellis was sceptical about whether the voice was truly that of the Ripper. His doubts proved to be justified when Peter Sutcliffe, from Bradford, was arrested and convicted of the killings, but it was to be another 25 years before the voice was identified as that of John Humble, from Castletown, duly jailed for wasting police time Ellis had been spot on, confirming his position as a real-life Henry Higgins, who could place a Londoner's accent to within a couple of streets.

Like almost all British dialectologists of his generation, Ellis had studied with the father of British research in the subject, Professor Harold Orton, at Leeds University.

A Yorkshireman himself from Bradford, he came to Leeds after taking his first degree at Cambridge, and was Orton's principal fieldworker throughout the 1950s for what became a series of authoritative volumes through the 1960s and 70s.

Concentrating on elderly countrymen who had lived all their life in the same area, the Leeds team caught the end of an era of demotic speech before the mass post-war migrations.

Stanley Ellis left Leeds University in 1983 to pursue a second career as a forensic voice recognition expert, and also as a lecturer and broadcaster.

He was also a natural for the radio with his amiable personality and easy communicative style, delivered in a Yorkshire accent he never lost. Stanley Ellis, dialectologist; Born, February 18, 1926, died, October 31, 2009
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 23, 2009
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