Language, Culture & Society Projects

Toulouse has a very strong tradition in interdisciplinary research on language. Language processing, involving lexical and discourse semantics, pragmatics and NLP tasks like discourse parsing is one very active area. Neuropsycholinguistics, pioneered in Toulouse by Jean-Luc Nespoulous in the eighties, is another. For both domains, there is an active history of collaboration between labs such as IRIT(UT3), and CLLE(UT2) for language processing, and between Octogone-Lordat(UT2) and Tonic, CERCO and IRIT(UT3) for Neuropsycholinguistics. Future collaborative work will move in several directions.

One direction will deepen existing local research on lexical semantics, combining statistical methods from distributional semantics (Tim van der Cruys Italodisco ANR project) with formal models based on lambda calculus (ANR Polymnie project), and move towards neural net methods that allow interaction with researchers in neuroscience. A particularly interesting project will use such models to analyze creativity in language use (van der Cruys’s submitted ERC project). Second, we will investigate links between discourse and dialogue interpretation with game-theoretic models of rational behavior (already a focus of Asher’s ERC Advanced Grant) and show its applications to a wide range of linguistic issues, including multimodal conversation (a topic of interest to researchers in Sensors & Robotics), and the acquisition of discourse structure (in collaboration with researchers from Learning & Memory). We also plan further work on applying conversational and discourse models to opinion and intention detection, and even to the automatic scoring of debates (again part of the STAC project but also interesting for Political Scientists).

LCS members will team with those in Learning & Memory to pursue longstanding neural, psycholinguistic and linguistic investigations of language processing in healthy and disordered populations – including multilingual patients with aphasia (a specialization of Octogone-Lordat), by applying models based on Dynamic Systems Theory and Emergentism, with future extensions to patients with schizophrenia or Asperger’s Syndrome. Collaboration with Cognitive Technology researchers will help create urgently needed tools for assessing and rehabilitating language disorders. Another direction (see the project TellMA) concerns language production in healthy aging and patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and will explore the interaction of deficits in lexico-semantic processing, episodic memory and executive processing on verbal production. Other work will concern processing of speech prosody and its links to articulatory movements and gestures. Such work involves interactions with phoneticians, movement specialists and clinicians within TMBI that can benefit both language teaching and speech therapy, as well as cognitive technologies.

Future research will also (1) look at the philosophical implications of work in Neuroscience and Swarm Intelligence for emergentism, in which cognitive properties and the mind itself emerge from interactions of simpler processes, and (2) focus on a trend in sociolinguistic studies that examines the interface between language, space and place, highlighting the way in which social agents experience (and make meaning of) the place they inhabit (see the LVTI project carried in CLLE).

The following projects are already financed

  • ANR Polymnie
  • ANR Italodisco (Tim Van der Cruys)
  • ERC STAC (Nicholas Asher)
  • TellMA