Computer Linguistics (B.Sc.)

Computer linguistics studies human language. To do this we use formal models that can be implemented on a computer. This approach enables us to learn about the phonetic, syntactic and semantic structures of languages and about how humans understand, produce and acquire languages.


The knowledge gained in these studies is applied to develop computer systems. Examples of language processing systems include:

  • Systems that enable users to interact with a computer using spoken or written language,
  • Text understanding systems that can automatically extract knowledge from documents,
  • Machine translation systems,
  • Grammar and style checkers that aid text generation in a foreign language.


Computer linguistics is a very young discipline. The first degree courses in computer linguistics emerged in the 1980s. Computer linguistics combines the content and methods of informatics and linguistics while also making use of parts of mathematics (in particular formal logic).


The discipline is concerned with human language, with mathematical and scientific methods and with computers as tools. Anyone interested in all three of these areas, that is anyone who enjoys working with mathematics, likes programming computers, and is interested in natural languages, is an ideal candidate for a degree in computer linguistics. But, of course, none of this is set in stone. What is important is that students are prepared to engage with each of these different aspects of the subject. Someone with an insurmountable aversion to mathematics or no interest in working with computers would clearly be at a significant disadvantage. However, prospective students do not require specialist prior knowledge. If you have acquired a higher-education entrance qualification, you should be in a position to begin studying computer linguistics. Practical experience with computers or special technical or mathematical skills are not necessary.


Full-time students will normally complete the Bachelor’s degree programme in computer linguistics in six semesters. Students can also apply to study for some of the computer linguistics programme as a part-time student. However, students must study full-time during the semester in which their final Bachelor’s thesis is written.
Students successfully completing the degree programme will be awarded a "Bachelor of Science" (B.Sc.) degree.
As of winter semester 2007/2008, students enrolled in a first degree programme must, in addition to the semester fee of €137,00, pay tuition fees of €300,00 per semester in the first two semesters and €500,00 per semester for all subsequent semesters.


What sort of work does a professional computer linguist do and what are the career prospects? Computer linguistics is what is known as a ‘threshold technology’. The methodologies and tools needed to build the language processing systems of interest to business and private customers are already available. Today, a wide range of computer linguistics projects are being carried out at universities, research institutes and in the IT industry. In addition to these research positions, most of which are coupled to short-term or contract projects, computer linguists are increasingly being employed in the area of ‘language engineering’. Language engineering involves, for example, coding the grammatical knowledge about a particular language (grammar development), compiling a lexicon and tagging it with the information necessary for language processing, or developing transfer lexica that are used in machine translation systems to transfer the structures of one language into those of another.


The language technology market is set to expand enormously in the coming years, a development that will bring with it permanent changes in many different areas of life and work. The demand for computer linguistic graduates will increase correspondingly. The work of the professional computer linguist will shift more towards the service industries, such as maintaining and updating language technology systems and providing tailored solutions for customers (e.g. customized lexica and databases for personal translation systems).