GEORGE Campbell was the Inverness-shire man who mastered 44 languages, a proficiency earning him a Guinness world record.

He began learning Gaelic as a boy and, by the time he was 79, he featured more than than 250 tongues in his Compendium of the World's Languages, published in 1991.

He followed this six years later with his Handbook of Scripts and Alphabets.

Campbell, a linguistic supervisor for many years with the BBC, was born at Brahan, near Dingwall. He suffered from a stammer and at Dingwall Academy found himself unable to reply to questions. He turned instead to second-hand books, and taught himself the rudiments of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish and Danish, as well as learning French, German and Latin at school. German particularly attracted him and in 1932, he left the Highlands to study first at Edinburgh University and then Leipzig, adding in the process several more languages before taking up the post of assistant librarian at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London in 1937.

At the outbreak of war, his talents saw him transferred to the European Service, a BBC department which gained in obvious importance. His post as language supervisor involved covering foreign announcers in a dozen central and east European languages to ensure that they spoke exactly from the script and no more. His hand hovered over the off switch to screen any deviations.

After the war, Campbell continued in the BBC European Service, finally retiring in 1974 - though he returned to make comparative studies of how different language services covered the same stories, occasionally standing in as programme organiser for the Spanish, Portuguese, Greek and Turkish services.

The breadth of his polymathic knowledge of language systems verged on the astonishing, ranging during work as an academic translator from Arabic, to Hungarian, Basque and Polish. Campbell played the piano, recited poetry from many languages, read Einstein and proved an expert in tennis and railway locomotives.

He is survived by his wife Jen Porteous, whom he met at Edinburgh University, and their two sons.