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University of Gothenburg
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Photo: Monica Havström

Research in Linguistics

Linguistic interaction is the main overarching theme for the research in linguistics at FLoV. This entails an interest not only in the systems of conventions that make up particular languages, but also the social practices through which language is used. The major research program at the department is the Centre for Linguistic Theory and Studies in Probability (CLASP) focuses its research on the application of probabilistic and information theoretic methods to the analysis of natural language.

Particular issues of interest to the researchers in linguistics at the University of Gothenburg include:

  • What is linguistic meaning and what makes linguistic interactions succeed?
  • How is linguistic interaction related to perception, cognition, and emotion?
  • What social and linguistic information can be extracted from a sample of written or spoken linguistic interaction?
  • What would be required to build a computer that can have a reasonable and functional conversation with you?
  • What influences language choice in multi-lingual contexts?

Our research can be broadly divided in the following areas:

Language Technology

Research in language technology at FLoV intersects dialogue (human-machine or human-human, spoken or multimodal), language and communication technologies (such as speech processing, dialogue systems and the web) and multi-modal interaction (perception, gestures and emotions). We focus on formal models of dialogue, dialogue technology applications, and corpus development and analysis.

Semantics and Pragmatics

Research in semantics and pragmatics deals with meaning in natural language: how language, in combination with context, can be used to communicate. Semantics deals mainly with issues related to truth, judgement and consequence, while pragmatics deals with language use and the interaction between meaning and context. Research in this area at the University of Gothenburg focuses on meaning in linguistic interaction, and emphasizes the interplay between semantics, pragmatics, and cognition, for example: how meaning is constructed in interactive dialogue and in relation to the communicative context, how meanings in larger discourses are connected to each other, ways of being misleading (as opposed to lying), how meaning relates to perception of situations in the world, and non-arbitrariness in the relationship between form and meaning.

Phonetics and phonology

Phonetics studies how human speech is produced and perceived. Articulatory phonetics studies how humans use articulatory organs to produce speech. In acoustic phonetics the speech signal is studied for various parameters such as pitch, duration, and vowel quality. Perceptual phonetics studies the subjective experience of a listener. Phonology treats the function of speech sounds and prosody in language. Research in phonetics and phonology at FLoV is currently done in the fields of forensic phonetics, interactional phonetics, sociolinguistic variation, automatic speech recognition, emotional prosody and the sound symbolic properties of brand names.

Sociolinguistics

Sociolinguistics is concerned with how language influences society and how society influences language. We sometimes want to say something about language by studying society, for example when we want to find out about language structure and ways of speaking typical of young people in society; we sometimes want to say something about society by studying language, for example to find out something about the situation of young people by analysing how they talk to each other.

Research in sociolinguistics at the department currently includes studies of interaction, studies of the language socialization of mono- and multilingual children, studies of language policy in multilingual contexts and studies of various phenomena of language contact, including variation and change in Swedish.

Psycholinguistics

Research in psycholinguistics deals with the psychological processes of language. This includes how people perceive and produce language, how language is learned – both in children and adults as well as in monolinguals and multilinguals -- and how language is stored in memory.

At the department we do psycholinguistic research at the individual level as well as at the interactional level. Current research in experimental psycholinguistics includes studies on the perception of emotional prosody and sound symbolic words in the context of non-arbitrariness, the perception of accent, effects of memory load during speech production while driving, and production and perception of pauses in conversation.