The Fourth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences
Helsinki 4.–9. IX. 1961



The Fourth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences was organised in Helsinki on Sep. 4–9. 1961.
To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, we have made public some material related to the congress.


The previous International Congresses of Phonetic Sciences were organised in Amsterdam (1932), London (1935) and Ghent (1938). The Second World War caused a long break in the series, and the fourth congress was organised in Helsinki after a gap of 23 years. The second World War was far behind by then, but in hindsight one might say that a third one was perhaps nearer than people could foresee. Political tension was again increasing in the world (the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba in April 1961) and especially acutely in Europe (the building of the Berlin wall began in August 1961). In the Preface of the Proceedings of the Congress, the editors (Sovijärvi & Aalto 1962) mention that

…"increased tension in world politics in August 1961, that is only a month before the beginning of the Congress, resulted in the absence of scholars who were to represent the German Democratic Republic, the Soviet Union, and some other Eastern countries."

With the Helsinki congress, the ICPhS series got a new start, and after Helsinki, the following two congresses were organised with three-year intervals. Since the one held in Prague in 1967, the congresses have been organised every four years. (See the pages of the IPA for more information.)


The Organising Committee

The President of the organising committee was Prof. Antti Sovijärvi (professor of phonetics), and the Secretary was Prof. Pentti Aalto (professor of comparative linguistics).


The Scientific Programme

Already in the First Circular (pdf 1.6 MB) of the congress, posted in May 1960, the main topic areas of the congress were listed as A) Acoustic and Physiological Phonetics, B) Psychological Aspects of Phonetics, and C) Linguistic Phonetics.

The Second Circular can also be downloaded in pdf format in English, en français & auf Deutsch (about 1 MB each).

The advance Programme leaflet (pdf 5.7 MB) listed 24 plenary presentations and 98 section papers, with the names of 293 participants.

The organisers received summaries for 68 presentations to be included in the Summaries booklet (pdf 28.3 MB).


Congress Sounds

Some parts of the tape recordings of the congress presentations still exist, and although the sound quality could be better, and there are bits missing here and there, the following samples might still interest some phoneticians around the world.

            • Roman Jakobson: The Phonemic Concept of Distinctive Features (7.9.1961), mp3 here (the beginning is missing, unfortunately)

            • Gordon E. Peterson: The Theory of Phonemic Analysis (7.9.1961)(with Charles J. Fillmore), mp3 here

            • A. Tomatis: Audition et phonation – leur réaction et leurs contre-réactions (7.9.1961), mp3 here (the beginning is missing, unfortunately)

            • Eric P. Hamp: The Interconnection of Sound Production, Perception, and Phonemic Typology (7.9.1961), mp3 here

            • W. Haas: Two Types of Phonological Value (7.9.1961), mp3 here (the beginning is missing, unfortunately)

            • H. Karlgren: Speech Rate and Information Theory (7.9.1961), mp3 here

            • Roman Jakobson: Concluding Remarks (8.9.1961), mp3 here

The Proceedings

The Proceedings of the Congress were published by Mouton & Co. in 1962 as one massive volume of 825 pages.

Sovijärvi, Antti & Aalto, Pentti (eds.)(1962). Proceedings of the Fourth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences Held at the University of Helsinki 4—9 September 1961. (Janua Linguarum, Series Maior X) The Hague: Mouton & Co.

The Table of Contents of the Proceedings can be found here (pdf 1.9 MB).



Reviews and Reports

After the congress Gordon E. Peterson wrote a report (pdf 1.2 MB) on it for the American Offices of Naval and Aerospace Research.


Last updated on 30th August 2011 by Reijo Aulanko.