History of Phonetic Sciences in Amsterdam

In 1922 the first courses in practical phonetics at the Gemeenteuniversiteit (Municipal University, later the University of Amsterdam) were given by Louise Kaiser in the Physiological Laboratory at Jodenbreestraat 72. In 1926 a chair in the Faculty of Arts was instituted and Louise Kaiser was appointed as a reader in Phonetics. The Physiological Laboratory accommodated phonetics for several years, but in 1932 room was found for it in the building next door. This Laboratory for Experimental Phonetics was officially opened on November 30, 1933, some time after the First International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, which took place in Amsterdam in 1932 thanks to the endeavour of Louise Kaiser.

In 1959 Hendrik Mol was appointed professor at this university while holding at the same time a chair at Leyden University. In 1967 he was appointed as a full professor in Amsterdam.

As a result of the construction of a road as an entrance to the tunnel under the river IJ, the Phonetic Laboratory had to move from the Jodenbreestraat. In 1963 the University bought a house on one of the famous canals in the centre of Amsterdam (Herengracht 338). The building, dating from 1618, was completely reconstructed. The conservation of the front and of the façade at the rear, as well as large parts of the interior, took several years. The interior of the building was brought up to date for experimental phonetic research, which included the construction of an anechoic room. In the middle of 1966 the canal house was ready, and in 1967 the laboratory was officially opened by the mayor of Amsterdam, president of the board of governors of the Gemeenteuniversiteit. On that occasion its name was changed to Institute of Phonetic Sciences.

Hendrik Mol died in 1980. The chair in Phonetic Sciences was subsequently occupied by Louis Pols in October 1982, who retired in June 2005 and was then succeeded by Paul Boersma.

On August 17, 2006, the Institute merged with the Linguistics department, and its inhabitants moved to the third floor of the Bungehuis near Dam Square (Spuistraat 210). In June 2016, the department moved to the P.C. Hoofthuis (Spuistraat 134). The speech lab physically split off from the department in June 2022 by moving to the Bushuis (Kloveniersburgwal 48) into the Faculty-wide Humanities Labs. The speech lab is equipped with two sound-treated rooms, two pieces of EEG equipment, two eye trackers and an ultrasound machine.

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by Paul Boersma, 27 October 2022