Prof. Dr. Dafydd Gibbon


Recent Talks and Courses

Online tools for language and speech annotation mining, documentation and analysis

Erdös number = 4 (Erdös - Tarski - Maddux - Ladkin - Gibbon)
H-Index = 21


in loco vitae curriculi

My current status is emeritus professor of English and General Linguistics at Bielefeld University. After early childhood in Halifax (Heptonstall Slack) and London (Dulwich), and attendance at Hillhouse Primary School in Huddersfield, Huddersfield College, Llanelly Boys' Grammar Technical School and Great Yarmouth Grammar School, I studied German, French and Theology as an undergraduate at King's College, University of London, where I was also active in the John Clifford Society (for Baptist students), including a year as President of the Society in 1967-1968, and on the University of London Union Social Committee. Part of my studies was a year abroad at the University of Erlangen, Germany, where I studied with Peter Ganz in German Studies and Theodor Wolpers in English Studies, as well as being deeply immersed in international and local social life there.
After postgraduate studies in German 18th and 19th century literature (on Barthold Hinrich Brockes and Annette von Droste Hülshoff), and activity on the London folk club scene of the late 1960s (Bloomsbury Friendship Centre, and Mike Absalom's Holy Ground Club, Bayswater), I relocated to Germany with the position of Lektor for English at the University of Göttingen, under Theodor Wolpers and Ernst Theodor Sehrt, and concentrated on applied linguistics in language teaching. After Thomas Gardner, formerly Ohio State University, accepted a call to the new Chair of English Linguistics in Göttingen in 1970 I switched to theoretical and descriptive linguistics and was later employed as 'wissenschaftlicher Assistent', obtaining my doctoral degree in this field in 1975 with a dissertation entitled 'Perspectives of Intonation Analysis'. Key experiences during this period were a summer school in Applied Linguistics in Edinburgh in 1969, with Pit Corder, Elisabeth Ingram, Henry Widdowson and Alan Davies, meeting Randolph Quirk and Jacek Fisiak at a contrastive linguistics conference in Bucharest in 1975, and meeting Wiktor Jassem, the beginning of a continuing friendship, at a conference in Leeds in 1977.
In 1978-1979 I was guest professor at Bielefeld University, then in 1980 professor for Theory and Practice of Translation, specialising in speech, at Cologne Polytechnic (Fachhochschule). From 1981 to 2009 I was professor of English and General Linguistics at Bielefeld University specialising in Computational Linguistics and Applied Phonetics and have had the privilege of working with eminent colleagues in Linguistics, and, in particular, of conducting a wide range of European and German funded research projects and supervising the doctoral and post-doc degrees of many talented young academics from a range of different countries, in several cases working with them in their own regions of origin in Ivory Coast, Nigeria, India, China as well as neighbouring Poland. Particular research interests include computational prosodic analysis, computational lexicography, computational linguistics in speech technology, fieldwork on Niger-Congo languages, and Documentary Linguistics for endangered Languages.
In July 2016 I taught a course on prosody at the Summer School "Contemporary Phonetics and Phonology" at Tongji University, Shanghai, China.
From 2016-2019 I hold the position of Visiting Professor at the Department of Foreign Language Studies at Jinan University, Guangzhou (Canton City), China.


In Göttingen I was 'geschäftsführender Assistent' in the English Seminar in the mid 1970s, and I have occupied many university administrative posts during my time in Bielefeld, including Head of Department and hiring committee functions both in Linguistics and in English Studies, Dean and Vice-Dean for Research of the Faculty of Language and Letters, member of the Senate and of the Convocation (Konvent), as member and then Chairman of the Senate Committee for Computing (ADV-Ausschuss) for nearly twenty years, and as member of the Founding Commission of the Technical Faculty of Bielefeld University. My function as departmental ERASMUS coordinator (Antwerp, Cracow, Dublin, Malta, Poznan, Veliko Tarnovo) has led to many fruitful cooperations. In the early 1990s I was treasurer of the German Linguistics Society (DGfS) and a founding member of the Computational Linguistics Section of the society. I have been Local Languages Rapporteur of COCOSDA (International Coordinating Committee for Speech Databases and Assessment) since 2000, and was Convenor from 2007 to 2014.


The awards which mean most to me are the University of London Laurel (1968, for distinguished service to the University of London Union Social Committee), Best Paper Award of the KONVENS conference Nürnberg (1992, for the paper "Prosody, time types and linguistic design factors in spoken language system architectures"), Best Paper Award of the DAGM Symposium, Vienna (1994, as co-author of the paper "Detektion unbekannter Wörter mit Hilfe phonotaktischer Modelle"), induction as Honorary Member of the Polish Phonetics Society (2001), Silver Jubilee Award of the Linguistics Association of Nigeria (2006), Distinguished Service Medal of Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland (2009), Fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India (since 2008). A particularly meaningful honour was the Festschrift prepared for me in 2009 by linguists from 5 West African nations as well as other countries. I feel especially honoured to have been inducted as "Officier de l'Ordre du Mérite Ivoirien" by the government of Côte d'Ivoire in Abidjan, 5 May 2014.


My linguistic research interests started in the early 1970s with modelling the form, structure and function of intonation, and with related areas of discourse processes, introducing the concept of prosody as metalocution. This interest branched out in the 1980s to lexical prosody, including the prosody of tone languages (including the first finite state models of tonal assimilation in Niger-Congo languages) and computational syllable models. The interest in lexical prosody expanded in the 1990s to computational lexicon modelling in general, including inheritance models of morphology and phonology. After 2000 a focus on temporal patterning emerged, which continues to the present. From the 1990s my work in computational linguistics has been closely associated with cooperation in the field of speech technology. From the 1980s, I have directed my research and software development in these fields toward the documentation, description and computational modelling of under-resourced languages in West Africa, partly based on fieldwork in the region, with a particular emphasis on speech synthesis, and more recently I have touched on prosody modelling for tone languages of North-East India and China.
From the late 1980s, a particular concern in my software development in computational linguistics and in data resources for speech technology has been the development of open source and free software, in particular online tools for annotation mining, the processing of lexical data and of speech annotations. The tools have been used by many others, including my undergraduate and postgraduate students, and some of their functionality has been adopted by other linguistic and phonetic software developers. The online tools for lexicography and speech annotation mining are accessible via links on this page. At the time of this writing, all online tools are still functional (with the almost pre-hstoric HyprLex and ZDATR online lexicogtraphy tools dating back to the early and mid 1990s, respectively, the pre-commercial infancy of the internet).

Teaching and thesis supervision

In my teaching activities the main focus has been on documentary, descriptive and computational linguistics, with a strong emphasis on teaching all areas of English linguistics, from sociolinguistics and dialectology through discourse studies and idiom modelling to lexicology, morphology, phonology and experimental phonetics to several thousand bright young students of English in Göttingen, Cologne and Bielefeld over a period of four decades. It has been an honour and a pleasure to give courses in other countries, especially at the Université de Cocody, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, the University of Uyo, Nigeria, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland, the University of Tehran and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. I have enjoyed the great privilege of supervising the work of many highly talented young M.A., doctoral and postdoc researchers who are now well established colleagues in the field in various parts of the world, and appreciate the rewarding experience of having been international external Ph.D. examiner for many distinguished younger colleagues.


Currently I continue active research and academic travel, but now with more time for my delightful 3-generation family, long neglected musical (violin, guitar) and creative writing activities, cycling, motorcycling and windsurfing.
For a whimsical potted bio, see Linguist of the Day, Linguist List 2010-03-11. For even more whimsical information, check Twitter and Facebook, as well as iTunes, Amazon and YouTube.

D. Gibbon
Updated Friday, September 11, 2015 09:01:00 AM CEST