UMIST, Department of Languages and Linguistics archive

Scope and Content

The archive comprises the extant records of the Department, many dating from the 1980s and 1990s.

Most records are minutes of departmental committees, including the departmental academic board minutes from 1979-2002 (DLL/1), the executive committee (DLL/2), and the examiner's committee (DLL/5). There are also a small number of departmental papers (DLL/3) relating to organization and curriculum matters, and student course handbooks and departmental guides (DLL/4).

The surviving archive includes many gaps in these series, and it does not appear that a systematic record of the Department's activities was kept.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Department of Language and Linguistics grew out of the longstanding provision of language teaching by UMIST and its predecessor bodies.

By the late 1950s, these arrangements were formalised with the creation of a modern languages department. This was still essentially a "service" department, providing language teaching (French, German, Russian) and translation services to staff and students. In the late 1960s, as UMIST's curriculum expanded, it was decided that this department should have an academic role. The department taught languages courses for the Combined Studies degree from 1964/5, and to these were added the new subject area of European studies (mainly European history, government and politics). These changes in role were in part a response to the abolition of Ordinance III in 1968, whereby Faculty of Technology students were required to pass a test in technical translation as a condition of graduation.

In 1970, the department was renamed the Department of European Studies and Modern Languages, and it moved to a location in the Maths and Social Sciences tower on the souther part of the UMIST campus. The historian Alan Milward (1935-2010) was appointed as professor of European Studies in 1971, and in 1972 a second chair for languages was established, with Juan Sager as incumbent. Sager, a pioneer of the application of computerisation to language teaching and linguistics, was to play a major role in the Department's later development.

The Department continued to grow through the 1970s. In the early 1980s up to 70 undergraduates studied courses offered by the Department, including the honours degree in European studies and modern languages, and the long-established joint degree in maths and modern languages. It was also contributed to the teaching of the M.A. in European Community Studies, in conjunction with other departments within the University of Manchester. In 1975/6 the Combined Studies option was ended, and in 1976, a new degree of advanced language studies was introduced. In the 1979/80 session, a Centre for Computational Linguistics was established, which was at the heart of the department's research work over the next twenty five years. This reflected the Department's growing specialism in the application of computer technologies and artificial intelligence to languages and linguistics.

The 1980s saw an increasing divergence between the Department's interests in European Studies and linguistics and languages. In 1985, the two parts of the Department were decoupled into separate departments; in the early 1990s, UMIST ceased to offer European Studies.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the Department of Languages and Linguistics (as it was now known), consolidated its reputation in the expanding fields of computational linguistics and machine translation. It was involved with sponsored research on the EUROTRA project (funded by the European Community), and an Alvey project on English-Japanese translation. A masters degree in machine translation was introduced in 1986. J. Tsujii, an expert in computational linguistics, was appointed to a new chair in 1988, and he succeeded Sager as head of department in 1991. New senior staff appointed in the 1990s included Harold Somers, Allan Ramsay and Mona Baker.

In the 1990s, the department focussed its research work on natural language processing and computer assisted language learning, within the broader fields of artificial intelligence and cognitive science. This was reflected in the Department's change of name to Language Engineering in 1995. The Department worked closely with the Department of Computation (later Informatics), and, by this date, the majority of its research students were engaged in work connected to artificial intelligence. Undergraduate teaching also reflected these priorities: computational linguistics was the largest of the single honours degrees, and there were also degrees in computation and modern languages, applied German and applied French [some teaching of Japanese was also undertaken]. By the 1990s, postgraduate courses included masters in computer-assisted language learning, machine translation and translation studies. A second research centre, the Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies was developed in the 1990s under Mona Baker.

In 2002, the department's name reverted to Languages and Linguistics. It ceased to offer undergraduate teaching in 2000/1, and in the following year responsibility for language teaching was transferred to the University of Manchester's Language Teaching Centre.

Following the creation of the new University of Manchester in 2004, the some areas of the Department's responsibility were transferred to the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures, and others to the School of Informatics (itself dissolved in 2007).


Arranged by series as follows:

  • DLL/1 - Departmental Academic Board minutes
  • DLL/2 - Executive Committee minutes
  • DLL/3 - Departmental memoranda, reports and plans
  • DLL/4 - Course guides and handbooks
  • DLL/5 - Examiner's meetings

Access Information

Access conditions apply to a number of items in this collection; some material is currently closed to public inspection.

The open part of the collection may contain personal data about living individuals, and readers are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 in their use of the material. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) holds the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Appraisal Information

The records were selected from material made available to the University Archives.

Custodial History

Legacy records transferred to the University Archives in 2007.


Further accruals possible.

Related Material

UMIST Academic Board minutes (TGB/2/2) will include refer to the department's academic activities. Some departmental academic board minutes for the pre-1979 period are available in TGB/2/4. The University of Manchester Faculty of Technology (FTE) was responsible for some aspects of admissions, curriculum and examinations for the Department until 1994.

The (uncatalogued) archive of the Department of Computation (Informatics), with which the Department of Languages and Linguistics worked closely, may also contain relevant information.