Computational Linguistics & Phonetics Computational Linguistics & Phonetics Fachrichtung 4.7 Universität des Saarlandes
Information on the subject, career options and research priorities


Information on the subject, career options and research priorities

[related disciplines]  [study]   [career options]
[research priorities and environment]

The related fields of Phonetics & Phonology

You could look at Phonetics & Phonology as a bridging subject, because in the study of human language issues must be adressed from many different fields of research. So Phonetics & Phonology will collaborate with many other disciplines. The following are the "bridges" to these areas briefly discussed.

close relationship to other areas within the linguistics such as morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics; e.g. use of phonetic-phonological description for dialectological, typological, historical and lexicographical purposes

Computational Linguistics and Computer Science
processing of linguistic theories for language technology applications;
spoken language processing with computers

perception and organization of language

Physics and Communications Engineering
examination of speech sound, signal processing, technical transfer, automatic speech recognition and speech synthesis

investigation of speech as a physiological event and disorders of the voice, articulation, language and hearing

pronunciation training in second language learning, in deaf persons' paedagogy and in the pedagogical treatment of speech and language disturbances

acoustics, description of the voice and rhythmic structures

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Studying Phonetics & Phonology

The study of Phonetics & Phonology provides knowledge of articulatory and acoustic structures of individual languages and also of the human language in general. At Saarland University special emphasis is placed on the training of analytical listening as well as on screening the relationship between what is perceived and the physically measurable.

There is a variety of sounds in the total of all languages and dialects of the world, of which not all occur in every language. During the study hearing will be trained so that one become able to hear the phonetic nuances that occur in the languages of the world and label them with symbols to make a phonetic transcription. This is achieved by listening and transcription exercises.

There are introductory courses to obtain a general overview of the content and methods of the subjects Phonetics & Phonology and General Linguistics.
In the lecture and exercise "Speech Science" the bases of the subdivisions of phonetics (production, acoustics, perception) are systematically taught.
In various seminars specific topics of Phonetics & Phonology will be focused in more detail. Thereby the theoretical approaches and models will be discussed. Essential for the deepening of knowledge is reading the literature, which is partly in German, but often written in English.

Instrumental working
In a laboratory course of instrumental phonetics it is shown how to work instrumentally supported. For this purpose one usually works on acoustic signals on a computer. Knowledge of signal processing is also necesseray for the further work again and again.

Conducting experiments
Experiments serve to verify usually self-designed questions. An experiment involves the formulation of the hypothesis, creation and recording of appropriate stimuli as well as the analysis and evaluation on the computer and the presentation of the results.

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Career Options

A clearly defined job description of a phonetician or a phonologist is missing, but Phonetics & Phonology is a future-oriented course with a variety of possible career options.

The subject Phonetics & Phonology opens the door to many fields in which basic forms of interpersonal communication are essential and constitute a significant proportion of professional activity: educational professions, areas of social or cultural services, media companies and agencies of the press and public relations.

Many phoneticians and phonologists work as a speech technologists on speech synthesis and automatic speech or speaker recognition. Here, the basic research and the development of applications in information technology are closely interrelated.

There are additional activities in lexicography, foreign language teaching and language training for the hearing impaired, in the assistance of speech therapists or in forensic phonetics.

A few concrete examples:

Speech Technology: Interaction between humans and machines by means of spoken language
Speech synthesis (speaking computers); automatic speech recognition (hearing computers); recognition and identfication of speakers; filtering out (background) noise as a preprocessing of speech recognition.

Description of languages
Systematic analysis of the sound structure of languages; phonetic transcription (IPA) in dictionaries, pronunciation dictionaries, electronic dictionaries with acoustic output; development of script systems and transliteration

Speech Therapy
Scientific support of speech therapists, clinical linguists, audiologists and phoniatrists as well as development of devices.

Pronunciation training in foreign language acquisition, in deaf pedagogics and in speech therapy.

Forensic Phonetics
Identification of speakers of criminal acts on the basis of voice and speech characteristics.

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[research priorities and environment]

Research priorities and environment at Saarland University

  • Speech synthesis: advantages and disadvantages of different synthetic approaches are tested for various applications: e.g. concatenative synthesis, formant synthesis and articulatory synthesis.
  • Automatic speech recognition; in particular the role of phonetics in automatic speech recognition
  • Intonation, rhythm and speech rate in German and other languages
  • Speech pathology; in particular the perception of pathological voices and the underlying acoustic properties

In language research and technology the University of Saarland ranks among the top addresses. Within the area of speech research, multilingualism and speech technology human language processing, language processing with the computer, the the human-machine dialogue and issues of multilingualism are in the center of research of more than 100 scientists from diverse fields: phoneticians, computational linguists, computer scientists, linguists, psychologists and neuroscientists are working together in an excellent and productive research climate - also in numerous spin-off companies.

In this environment Phonetics & Phonology together with Computational Linguistics and Psycholinguistics form the Department of General Linguistics and work in collaboration with:

  • Computer Science
  • Electrical Engineering
  • German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI)
  • Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Computer Science
  • Caritas Hospital St. Theresia, Saarbrücken