While I was away I was saddened to hear that John Trim had died.
He was the teacher who first taught me phonetics and the one who advised me to pursue a master’s degree in phonetics and linguistics with Gimson, Fry and Fourcin at UCL.
Despite his modest and unassuming nature. he inspired me and many other Cambridge undergraduates to pursue the subject. My colleague (and predecessor as head of the UCL Dept. of Phonetics and Linguistics) Neil Smith says that it was because of Trim that he became a linguist.
For such a key figure in my own career and that of many others it is remarkable that he leaves behind very little in the way of publications: for EFL just his much loved English Pronunciation Illustrated (CUP 1965, second edition 1975), and for general and English phonetics really nothing more than his brief but brilliant 1959 article ‘ˈmeidʒər | ənˈmainə | \tounɡruːps | in\iŋɡliʃ ||’ (Maître Phonétique 112:26-29).
Despite being the founding Director of the Department of Linguistics at Cambridge, he was never promoted beyond the rank of lecturer. His main intellectual memorial is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, in the decades-long development of which he played a leading role (though he is not mentioned in the Wikipedia article).
Here is a scan of part of my notes from the 1959-1960 introductory phonetics course he taught at Cambridge: a fair copy of an ear-training test he gave us, in which you will see I succeeded in recognizing 83% of the tones, exotic consonants and cardinal vowels.
For us neophytes his most alarming mannerism was his silences. If you asked an apparently straightforward question, he would say nothing in reply. For five, ten, fifteen seconds you might look at him expectantly. Was your question so stupid that it didn’t deserve a reply? Had you made some terrible faux pas? Then at last the answer would come: carefully considered, beautifully expressed, full of insight.
You can see videos of a recent interview here.