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).

 

Programme schedule

Students on the B.Sc. programme in computer linguistics will be taught the necessary fundamentals in linguistics, computer science and mathematics and will become acquainted with the methods and techniques of computer linguistics.


As the Bachelor’s degree programme is vocational (in the sense of enabling graduates to be gainfully employed in the field of computer linguistics), practical and applied elements are also covered, such as programming courses, software project and a six-week practical training in an industrial or commercial setting.


The structure of the B.Sc. programme is fairly rigid. Most courses are taught in German. An example study schedule can be found here.


Further information (e.g. module descriptions) can be found on the  departmental website.

Application

Admission information:
At present, there are no entry restrictions for the Bachelor’s degree programme in computer linguistics. Students can begin the B.Sc. programme at the beginning of the winter or the summer semester, though we recommend that students start in the winter semester. Students proposing to start in the summer semester should contact the course advisors(see 'Contacts' below) and the university’s study counselling services in order to discuss their individual study plan.

Applications for admission must be submitted to the university

  • by the end of September for students planning to start in the winter semester
  • by the end of March for students planning to start in the summer semester.


Applications should be sent to the Admissions Office at the following address:

Universität des Saarlandes
Studierendensekretariat
Postfach 151150
D 66041 Saarbrücken

Germany


List of current degree programmes with explanatory notes on enrolment procedures

 

Please note: Slightly different admission rules apply to German and foreign nationals with a non-German higher-education entrance qualification (for more information: see here or see 'University Entrance Requirements – At a Glance'.)

Special features

Computer linguistics can also be studied at a few other higher-education institutions in Germany. Saarbrücken is particularly attractive because of the numerous related research departments and institutions on and around campus:

 

Computer linguists at Saarland University enjoy a close collaboration with the Department of Computer Science – one of Germany’s leading informatics departments. The phonetics research group also offers students the opportunity for in-depth study of the processing of spoken language. The departments of linguistics and communications science within the university’s faculties of humanities also offer interesting areas for cooperation, particularly in the fields of cognitive psychology and systematic philosophy. All of these subjects can be studied by students of computer linguistics as complementary subjects (electives).

 

Key research areas

The research groups in computer linguistics are involved in the collaborative research project SFB 378 'Resource-adaptive Cognitive Processes' that is funded by the German Research Council (DFG). There is also close collaboration with the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI).

 

Students of computer linguistics also have the opportunity to get involved in and work on numerous CL research projects such as software projects or final-semester research projects, or in their capacity as undergraduate research assistants.  This allows students studying computer linguistics in Saarbrücken to get real, hands-on experience of research work and to work with and have access to state-of-the-art equipment and tools.

 

The computer research groups at Saarland University participate in national collaborative projects and international research networks that include the world’s leading institutions in the language processing field, and are therefore able to offer students interesting industrial placements and opportunities for international study.

Related higher degrees


Language Science and Technology


Contacts

Allgemeine Linguistik - Computerlinguistik
Campus Saarbrücken,
Bldg. C7 2, Room 1.10
66123 Saarbrücken
Tel.: + 49 (0) 6 81 / 302-43 44
E-Mail: coli(at)coli.uni-sb.de

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