John Okell

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John Okell

John Okell (1934–2020).jpg
Born1934 (1934)
Brighton, England
Died (aged 86)
NationalityBritish
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Oxford (B.A., M.A.)
Academic work
DisciplineLinguist
InstitutionsSOAS (1959–1999)
Main interestsBurma studies

John William Alan Okell OBE (/ˈkɛl/; 1934 – 3 August 2020) was a British linguist notable for his expertise in the field of Burma studies.

Life[edit]

Okell was born in Brighton and was educated at The Queen's College, University of Oxford, where he read Literae Humaniores ("Greats").[1][2]

In 1959, an inquiry about language courses through the British Foreign Office led to his joining the School of Oriental and African Studies as a trainee lecturer in Burmese: "They were looking for someone to be taught Burmese. I applied to the program as I was interested in languages and they chose me and trained me."[3][2]

At SOAS, he studied Burmese with Hla Pe and Anna J. Allott, phonetics with R. K. Sprigg and N. C. Scott, and general linguistics with R. H. Robins and Eugénie Henderson.[2] After eighteen months of study, he travelled to Burma, where he spent a year (1960–1961) immersing himself in the country's language and culture.[3][4] He returned for another year-long visit in 1969.[4]

He retired from SOAS in 1999, although he remained a research associate in the Department of South East Asia.[5] Following his retirement, he continued his teaching of Burmese through short courses convened in a variety of places, most notably Chiang Mai and Yangon.[3][2]

In 2014, in the Queen's Birthday Honours, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to UK/Burma relations.[6][2]

In 2016, SOAS awarded him an honorary doctorate.[7]

He was the creator of the Avalaser Burmese computer font and the Chairman of the Britain-Burma Society.[4]

He died on 3 August 2020 at the age of eighty-six.[8][9][10]

Notable works[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Okell, John (1969). A Reference Grammar of Colloquial Burmese. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Okell, John (1971). A Guide to the Romanization of Burmese. London: Luzac.
  • Okell, John (1989). First Steps in Burmese. London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
  • Okell, John (1994). Burmese: An Introduction to the Spoken Language: Book 1. De Kalb: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University.
  • Okell, John (1994). Burmese: An Introduction to the Spoken Language: Book 2. De Kalb: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University.
  • Okell, John (1994). Burmese: An Introduction to the Script. De Kalb: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University.
  • Okell, John (1994). Burmese: An Introduction to the Literary Style. De Kalb: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University.
  • Okell, John, and Anna Allott (2001). Burmese/Myanmar Dictionary of Grammatical Forms. Richmond: Curzon Press.
  • Okell, John (2002). Burmese By Ear/Essential Myanmar. London: Audio-Forum, Sussex Publications.[a]

Papers[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The publishers of Burmese By Ear/Essential Myanmar relinquished publication rights in 2006. Since 2009, it has been available for downloading free of charge from the website of the School of Oriental and African Studies.

References[edit]

  1. ^ About SOAS: John Okell OBE. Archived copy.
  2. ^ a b c d e "SOAS scholar awarded OBE for services to UK-Burma relations" (3 July 2014). Archived copy.
  3. ^ a b c "Love of the Lingo" (The Irrawaddy, 29 June 2015). Archived copy.
  4. ^ a b c Britain–Burma Society: Members of the Council. Archived copy.
  5. ^ Department Staff: Mr John Okell. Archived copy.
  6. ^ "No. 60895". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2014. p. b27.
  7. ^ "Queen’s Gold medal winner, education activist, leading curator and three distinguished scholars honoured at SOAS Graduation Ceremonies" (30 June 2016). Archived copy.
  8. ^ "From the Archive: Love of the Lingo" (The Irrawaddy, 5 August 2020). Archived copy.
  9. ^ "John Okell: Remembering a ‘gentle giant’ of Burmese teaching" (Frontier Myanmar, 7 August 2020).
  10. ^ "RIP Saya John" (Marc Miyake, 10 August 2020).

External links[edit]