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LINGUIST List 20.2885

Wed Aug 26 2009

FYI: Closure of Phonetics and Comp Ling at Uni Bonn

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        1.    Bernd Moebius, Closure of Phonetics and Comp Ling at Uni Bonn

Message 1: Closure of Phonetics and Comp Ling at Uni Bonn
Date: 08-Aug-2009
From: Bernd Moebius <moebiusifk.uni-bonn.de>
Subject: Closure of Phonetics and Comp Ling at Uni Bonn
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Dear Colleagues,

The University of Bonn is proposing to close down the division of Language
and Speech, formerly known as the "Institut für Kommunikationsforschung und
Phonetik". The division comprises the programs in Phonetics and
Computational Linguistics. The move would also terminate the teaching of
General Linguistics in Bonn.

We have been told that the motivation for this shocking decision is the
financial situation of the University, which is planning to assign the two
professor positions (Phonetics and Linguistics) to a new teacher-training
program, but anyway not to the area of Linguistics. Our division is an easy
target because the search processes for filling the two professor positions
have been plagued by some resistance from within the University in the case
of Linguistics, and by obstruction in the form of a lawsuit by a competitor
against the University in the case of Phonetics.

The reason for the move to close down Language and Speech cannot be
that we are underperforming. Phonetics and Computational Linguistics in
Bonn have been very strong in research and attracted funding to an extent
that has put it at the top of the humanities in Bonn. Moreover, our
teaching programs have always attracted a large number of students.

Delicate negotiations are currently underway to retain a minimal program in
General Linguistics. However, even so it is likely that Phonetics will be
abandoned, as will be Computational Linguistics. A decision will be made in
October 2009.

Facts about Phonetics and Computational Linguistics in Bonn:

- Phonetics in Bonn has a long tradition. It is the second oldest phonetics
institute in Germany (after Hamburg) and has enjoyed a good scientific
reputation and worldwide recognition. It was complemented by the first
Chair of Computational Linguistics in Germany.

- Wolfgang Hess is Emeritus Professor of Phonetics in Bonn. The current
Chair is Bernd Möbius (formerly IMS Stuttgart).

- Winfried Lenders is Emeritus Professor of Computational Linguistics in
Bonn. The current Chair is Berthold Crysmann (formerly DFKI Saarbrücken).

- Hannes Kniffka is Emeritus Professor of General Linguistics in Bonn. No
interim Chair has been appointed.

- Phonetics and Computational Linguistics in Bonn have produced a
significant number of professors and researchers who are now active in
academia and industry. Most recently, Petra Wagner from Bonn took the
position of Professor of Phonetics and Phonology at the University of
Bielefeld.

- Phonetics and Computational Linguistics in Bonn have a continuous
tradition of attracting research funding and have been involved in
large-scale (e.g., Verbmobil) and smaller research projects, in the fields
of language and speech technology, phonetics, natural language processing,
and forensic linguistics. The BOSS (Bonn Open Source Synthesis) TTS system
is a recent prominent contribution to the speech technology community.

- Despite its small size, the division has a large number of students.
Currently, there are about 400 students in the Magister program in
Phonetics and Computational Linguistics and another 400 in General
Linguistics. There are also 400 Language and Speech students in the BA
program in Communication Sciences.

- Inside the University, Phonetics and Computational Linguistics have been
cooperating with other disciplines, including Computer Science, Signal
Processing, and Medicine.

- Department members are actively involved in supporting the profession
internationally, producing successful textbooks (e.g. Kiffka, Working in
Language and Law; Hess, Digitale Signalverarbeitung, Pitch Determination),
serving as members of editorial boards (e.g. Hess, Kniffka, Lenders,
Crysmann, Möbius), and taking leading roles in international professional
organizations (e.g. Hess and Möbius on the ISCA Board).

- ''The University of Bonn is one of the world's leading research based
Universities'' (http://www3.uni-bonn.de/the-university) - this vision
statement that is in stark contrast to the proposal to close down one of
the strongest research groups in the Faculty of Philosophy.

Those who would like to voice an opinion about the University's decision
should send their letters to:

University of Bonn
Rektor Prof. Dr. Jürgen Fohrmann
Regina-Pacis-Weg 3
53113 Bonn
Germany
rektoruni-bonn.de
fax +49 228 737262

University of Bonn
Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy
Prof. Dr. Günter Schulz
Am Hof 1
53113 Bonn
Germany
phildekuni-bonn.de
fax +49 228 735986

Chair of Phonetics
Bernd Möbius
IfK, Poppelsdorfer Allee 47
53115 Bonn
Germany
moebiusifk.uni-bonn.de
fax +49 228 735639

--
Apl. Prof. Dr. Bernd Möbius
Phonetics and Speech Communication
Institute of Communication Sciences
University of Bonn
Poppelsdorfer Allee 47, D-53115 Bonn, Germany
Phone: +49 228 735637; Secr.: 735638
Email: moebiusifk.uni-bonn.de
WWW: http://www.sk.uni-bonn.de/Members/bmo

Linguistic Field(s): Not Applicable

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