Save l'Institut de Phonétique

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A petition, in French, is here. An English translation follows (which was sent to me by the ISSP2020 mailing list) — please consider signing the petition and forwarding it to others who may be interested.

On the 11th of August 1927, the ‘Speech Archives’ (which were created in 1911 by Ferdinand Brunot, based on the work of Abbé Rousselot and with the financial and technical help of Emile Pathé) were integrated under the direction of Hubert Pernot into a foundation of the City of Paris and the University of Paris: 'le Musée de la Parole et du Geste' (the Museum of Speech and Gesture). In July 1928, the Institute of Phonetics / Museum of Speech and Gesture were relocated from the Sorbonne to 19, rue des Bernardins, in the heart of the 5th arrondissement of Paris.

For 92 years, thousands of teachers, researchers and students have visited this historical place. Today, the Institute of Phonetics hosts two research teams (including the CNRS Laboratory of Phonetics and Phonology), a department of Language Sciences, nearly 500 students, about fifty doctoral students, a sound proof room and recording studio, etc.

Numerous scientific projects are in progress, in various domains:

– Medical:

– Pedagogical:

– Forensic:

– Preservation of languages:

We recently learned that the City of Paris will be going to resume possession of the building at 19, rue des Bernardins, for a new real estate project, sweeping away nearly a century of French linguistic history.

We, researchers and former researchers, teachers and former teachers, students and former students, partners, associations and supporters of research and teaching, ask the Mayor of Paris to reconsider her decision to close this symbolic place.

Please forward this message to anyone who may be interested.

Sign the petition here if you want to help us:

Les amis de l'Institut de Phonétique (ILPGA)
19 rue des Bernardins
75005 Paris

Here is a picture of me with l'Abbé Rousselot, taken by Antonia Colazo-Simon after a talk that I gave in 2011 at the Institute:

See "Empirical Foundations of Linguistics", 7/26/2011, for some additional history.


  1. Laura Morland said,

    December 3, 2020 @ 5:05 am

    I signed the petition (and paid for it to be disseminated more widely), and so with a clear conscience I can share a laugh about the English translation provided. The sentence below particularly intrigued me:

    Translation published in LL:
    We recently learned that the City of Paris will be going to resume possession of the building at 19, rue des Bernardins, for a new real estate project, sweeping away nearly a century of French linguistic history.

    "will be going to resume…" ?! I was very curious to find the original French behind this maladroit 'double future' tense:

    Original French:
    Nous avons appris récemment que la Ville de Paris allait reprendre possession du bâtiment du 19, rue des Bernardins pour un nouveau projet immobilier, balayant près d’un siècle d’histoire de la linguistique française.

    Having been a professional French=>English translator, I'm always irked when the French assume they are so competent in our language that they needn't bother to run a translation past a native anglophone before publishing it.

    The pour soul who translated the petition would have done well to let Google Translate do the first run-through, and then tweak as necessary.

    As you'll see below, the only mistake GT made was to select the phrasal verb "sweep through" (instead of "sweep away") for "balayer". Otherwise, it (a) correctly handled the above-discussed verb, (b) used the more colloquial "take back" for "resume," and (c) produced "linguistics history," which sounds better to my ears than "linguistic history," although an argument could be made either way.

    I would even suggest that that comma at the end of the phrase "19, rue des Bernadins," in the official translation, while correct, makes for too many commas in a row in that sentence. (The second comma is not present in the original French.)

    Google Translate:
    We recently learned that the City of Paris was going to take back possession of the building at 19, rue des Bernardins for a new real estate project, sweeping through nearly a century of French linguistics history.

    P.S. ML: Great photo of you with l'Abbé Rousselot — it's lovely to finally know what you look like!

    [(myl) I don't know who did the English translation — it arrived as email from the ISSP2020 mailing list, and I just copied it verbatim into the post.

    There's a more recent picture of me on my Penn home page, documenting further loss of hair color…]

  2. Paul Schifferes said,

    December 3, 2020 @ 5:51 am

    Signed. Yes, "was going to retake possesion" is a much better translation. Resume is OK, but in property posession is taken so retaken or take back works better.
    Or I guess, perhaps "Allait", being imparfait, makes it closer to "will be retaking" or is "is retaking". Maybe that's how the translators got to the erroneous "will be going to"…

  3. Rose Eneri said,

    December 3, 2020 @ 8:37 am

    I worked many years as a technical writer and manager of others. I comment from this perspective.

    I would implore all writers to begin with a topic sentence or 2. Please do not assume your readers have the time or the interest to read a lengthy background before knowing what the point of it all is. I would recommend beginning this article with a version of the 4th & 5th paragraphs, something like:

    "The City of Paris plans to repurpose a building that is home to nearly a century of French linguistic history for a new real estate project. The many researchers, teachers, students and other supporters who value this resource are petitioning the Mayor of Paris to reconsider her decision to close this symbolic place."

  4. D.O. said,

    December 3, 2020 @ 11:31 am

    Ok, the city of Paris intendes to reposes the building and to do what with the Institute, move it to a banlieue?

  5. Gregory Kusnick said,

    December 3, 2020 @ 3:24 pm

    I don't claim to understand the nuances of symbolique, but I'm guessing "iconic" might be a better fit than "symbolic".

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