Eva Sivertsen


The death has been announced of Professor Eva Sivertsen, at the age of 87. She was born in 1922 in Trondheim, Norway, and was Professor of English there from 1961, first at the then Norges Lærerhøgskole, and then, when this became part of the University of Trondheim, in the English Department there.

Her doctoral thesis was published by the University of Oslo Press with the title Cockney Phonology, and colleagues in London from that time remembered her cycling off into the East End each morning gathering data. It was said that she never went into a pub, as if this would prevent her from accessing the best sources of information, but the work was highly praised for its rigorous presentation of the dialect, using Hockett’s model of phonology.

As well as her work in phonetics and phonology, Eva Sivertsen was a tireless administrator, heading the department in Trondheim for many years, and in the 1970s she became the Rektor (the Norwegian equivalent of a British Vice-Chancellor) of the University. She also worked in the national and international fields of university and educational administration, serving on many committees.

True to her nationality, Eva was a fitness fanatic, and A.C.Gimson told the story of arriving in Trondheim by boat at 6.30 am and being met by Eva who had just run up and down a mountain, and was still wearing her tracksuit. In winter she spent as much time as she could on skis.

On a personal note, I have to thank Eva for chairing the committee which appointed me to my post in Trondheim in 1973, when I was a young phonetician part way through my research into the rhythmic structure of Spanish. The fact that I was not studying English did not bother her at all. Her confidence in my ability at that time gave me much-needed confidence, and I hope that I did not disappoint her.

There is more about Eva by John Wells and Jack Windsor Lewis


  1. Dear Graham Pointon
    It is comforting to read what people like you write about Eva Sivertsen. She was a remarkable scientist. She helped a lot of people like you and me along academically (being my supervisor for my MA-thesis), and I would claim she sparked the decisive interest for applied linguistics in Norway.
    All the best from Aud Marit Simensen

  2. I would be most grateful if someone would help me learn about Eva Sivertsen’s earlier student days. However, a biography would be most
    helpful as well as an asset.

    I was 18 when I first met Eva {then 30} and her mother on the ocean going ship the SS SKAUBRYN on my {and my family’s} journey to Sydney, Australia in September, 1952. I recall Eva’s mother saying “good morning” to me as she walked past me each day as I sat down reading. On the second week of the journey and through the Indian Ocean, Eva’s mother invited me to accompany them at their table and also join them for their Lunch and Evening Meals while on board. As I have always been an avid reader since my earliest schooldays I was never able to mix well at all. However, when I met my newly found friends I began to look at life from a different perspective and I had never forgotten that particular opportunity which taught me something truly valuable and is still serving me till this very day.

    Eva and I did not take long to discover that we had much in common. I had, only a short time earlier finished part of my Tertiary Education {Oxford} specializing in English and also of my interest in other languages. On our arrival in Sydney, Australia I recall Eva and her mother moved into a residence in Toxthet Rd. Glebe Point, NSW
    We did correspond, writing letters and so forth for quite sometime. My only disappointment is that due to living quite a distance from Glebe Point and also unable to find suitable employment as well as a very strict father, I was never able to venture out far enough to visit my dear friends at Glebe Point in New South Wales.

    I have only discovered the demise of my dear friend Eva Sivertsen and her mother recently in 2010. Since then I have been trying to find whether there is an Eva Sivertsen biography. I would simply love to own her biography as it would be the only thing that would help me to cherish her memory in her absence.

    I feel confident that if Mr Graham Pointon gets to see this message he is likely to recall our being in touch last year. In fact, if anyone could help with any information regarding Eva Sivertsen, he is definitely the one.

    Thanking you in anticipation.

    Warm regards,
    Joe Farrugia

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