Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Enhancing Language and Communication for Diverse Populations in Virtual Interactions

Project lead: Prof. Asli Özyürek
Link: NWO-ORC 20/21 Research Initiative


shutterstock_1532815931Communicating in online video-mediated platforms is no longer the exception. It has become the norm, in particular in health and education settings where efficient communication matters most. Very little is known, however, about the communicative efficiency of such virtual platforms. Compared to in-vivo face-to-face contexts, they support only limited use of visual cues such as hand gestures, directed eye gaze and posture – cues that are known to enhance speech comprehension (especially in noisy contexts) and conversational fluency. These limitations might be especially problematic for those who have language accessibility issues such as patients with language problems, older and hearing-impaired populations, children, and second-language users (including newly-arrived immigrants).

The purpose of this project is to conduct corpus-based research as well as experimental studies to a) understand how these different populations achieve communication and use their language adaptively in virtual online platforms, b) provide evidence-based solutions where communication problems arise, and c) to communicate and disseminate this information to groups who can benefit from this knowledge most.

shutterstock_1066240604The project will consist of a multidisciplinary group of experts in speech and language comprehension, conversational analysis, and multimodal communication as well as experts in bilingualism, language therapies, language learning, and patient communication. We will cooperate with, for example, second language teaching centers, senior homes, schools, as well as European online companies.

The results will have specific implications for multiple (clinical and immigration) groups, but also broader consequences for all users of online video-mediated platforms and their developers for healthier communication globally. The results will also advance fundamental knowledge about how human language and communication adapts flexibly to new communication environments, and how those adaptations are modulated by individual-internal factors (e.g., ageing, impairment) and individual-external factors (e.g. immigration, nature of virtual software).

Project partners

On this project we collaborate with the existing Partners of the Adaptive Language Consortium. In addition, the following organisations provide their expertise: