John Ohala


John Jerome Ohala (July 19, 1941[1] – August 22, 2020[2]) was a linguist specializing in phonetics and phonology. He was a Professor Emeritus in linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley.

John Ohala
BornJuly 19, 1941
DiedAugust 23, 2020
Spouse(s)Manjari Agrawal (m. 1969)
Academic background
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley (PhD)
ThesisAspects of the control and production of speech (1969)
Doctoral advisorPeter Ladefoged
Academic work
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Berkeley
Doctoral studentsJohn Kingston


He received his PhD in linguistics in 1969 from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); his graduate advisor was Peter Ladefoged. He is best known for his insistence that many aspects of languages' phonologies (a.k.a. "sound patterns") derive from physical and physiological constraints which are independent of language and thus have no place in the "grammar" of a language, i.e. what speakers have to learn inductively from exposure to the speech community into which they are born.

He also proposed that ethological principles influence certain aspects of languages' prosodic patterns, sound symbolism, and facial expressions, such as lip and brow movements.


  1. ^ "John Ohala, Emeritus Lab Director". University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  2. ^ Ashby, Michael (August 24, 2020). "Professor John Ohala, 1941–2020". International Phonetic Association. Retrieved August 24, 2020.

Further readingEdit

  • Johnson, Keith (2020). "In Memoriam: John J. Ohala (1941–2020)". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 50 (3): 452–455. doi:10.1017/S0025100320000316.