Website for language experiments: 'Anyone can participate'

Date of news: 29 March 2021

The online language experiments website of the Centre for Language Studies (CLS) has been revamped and given a new name: ROLEG. 'If we can test more different groups of people more easily with ROLEG, that will be a huge contribution to our knowledge about language.'

On the site of Radboud Online Linguistic Experiment Generator (ROLEG) people can participate in all kinds of language experiments from behind their own computer. This is important because many scientific language research projects require test subjects to study,  for example, how people make sentences, how people understand a foreign language or how children learn to talk. This requires real language and real language behaviour from people, says Mirjam Ernestus, research director of CLS. 'It used to be quite common for linguists to just think about how language works. Fortunately, in Nijmegen at least, those days are over. We study language behaviour based on large collections of texts and speech and with experiments to find out how language really works.'

'We want to find out how language really works'


Currently, due to corona, many language experiments cannot be done on campus. Being able to do online language experiments has therefore become even more important. But there is another advantage to the online system, says Ernestus: ‘The big problem with experiments in the lab on campus is that the test subjects are almost always highly educated young people between the ages of 18 and, say, 24. And then they are also often women, because men are less inclined to participate. So we are actually testing a small part of the population. That is not how you want it to be, because we also want to know how language works with younger and older people. Or with the less educated. And they are very difficult to get hold of. If we can use ROLEG to reach those people more easily for experiments, because they don't have to come to a lab, then that's a huge contribution to our knowledge about language.'


Anyone can sign up to be a test subject. The experiments are quite diverse: some involve participants seeing videos, reading sentences, listening to sentences and responding to them by pressing certain keys on the keyboard, or typing sentences. Other experiments require participants to give their opinions on certain statements. 'Because we study the real language of real people, there is no right or wrong. So a test subject cannot do anything wrong’, Ernestus says.

Would you like to contribute to science? You can register here.