Prof. W.P.M.S. Spooren (Wilbert)

Professor emeritus - Centre for Language Studies
Professor emeritus - Department of Modern Languages and Cultures

Wilbert is interested in the role of language in optimizing communication in different genres. More specifically he investigates how people rely on structural signals in planning or interpreting a discourse, and how this depends on the genre of the discourse. For example, to express causal relations Dutch speakers can use either ‘want’ (“for”, “since”) or ‘omdat’ (“because”). ‘Want’ is typically used to express more subjective relations, whereas ‘omdat’ is used for more objective relations. Corpus analyses have shown that the distribution of ‘omdat’ and ‘want’ depends on genre. In related lines of research he investigates how subjectivity in journalistic discourse has changed over time. Currently he is interested in the analysis of new media discourse, where new questions of coherence and text quality arise: how do language users track coherence in multi-modal dynamic contexts, where hypertextual linkage is the norm? He also focuses on the use of computational tools for the analyses of such phenomena.

Wilbert has supervised PhD theses on such varied topics as subjectivity in news discourse, the persuasive effects of layout in advertising, the conceptual and linguistic complexity of nominalization, the effectiveness of using Twitter to create feelings of safety, Dutch and English sentence complexity in different genres, the relationship between police interrogations and the police record of such an interrogation, and the use of narratives in computer games.

Wilbert's retirement started in September 2023.


Text structure, text optimization, discourse complexity, genres, new media

Research theme
  • Text structure and text quality
Research group


Curriculum Vitae

Ancillary activities