HASE 3nd ONLINE COLLOQUIUM on Digital Humanities
Created on October 12, 2021
3rd Online Colloquium
16:30-17:00 Getting connected
COVID and English: A Language Meets a Pandemic
Communicating about the coronavirus: Psycholinguistic investigations of COVID-related health messages
Modulation of attention to the eyes and mouth of a talking face during the first years of life.
19:30-20:00 Closing remarks
The worldwide pandemic has created massive social and economic disruption over the past 18 months. But what effect has it had on language? In July 2020, the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary claimed that the pandemic had primarily fuelled a resurgence of terminology employed during previous pandemics. Just as the human body has immunological memory cells, the English language bears traces of past epidemics, such as HIV, Ebola, SARS, and H1N1 influenza. The current crisis simply brought these terms to the fore once again. A second trend has been the mainstreaming of specialized terms, well known before the pandemic by certain groups, into common usage. These include the names of drugs (e.g., Hydroxychloroquine) and vocabulary from epidemiology (reproduction number). Other terms, such as lockdown, have seen significant shifts in meaning. The primary effect of the COVID pandemic, however, has been the creation of new blends, such as Blursday and quarantini, which reflect the disruption of daily routines. Other blends, such as doomscrolling and Zoombombing, reflect the effects of technology. However, there is little evidence that these social changes have accelerated linguistic creativity.
Communicating about the coronavirus:
Psycholinguistic investigations of COVID-related health messages
Elsi Kaiser, University of Southern California
The COVID-19 pandemic challenges public health communication: How do you persuade someone to get vaccinated, wear a mask or to practice social distancing? This project approaches these challenges from a linguistic perspective. Human language is a powerful system that offers different ways of packaging information. We conducted a series of experiments to investigate how linguistic factors modulate the processing and persuasiveness of COVID-19 messages, and if these factors interact with people’s political views and COVID-related attitudes. We tested factors including active vs. passive voice (‘The coronavirus has afflicted millions of people’ vs. ‘Millions of people have been afflicted by the coronavirus’) and pronominal differences in perspective (e.g. ‘You/we/people should wear a face mask in public to protect everyone around you/us/them’). In related work, we also looked at how differences in the perspective signalled by pronouns impact the perceived relatability of COVID-related memes (text-image pairs shared over the internet). Although our results suggest that there is no simple recipe for universally-effective COVID messages, we find evidence that linguistic packaging impacts people's reactions in systematic ways and interacts with individuals’ political views as well as COVID-related anxiety levels. These findings highlight the importance of interdisciplinary work between linguistics and public health communication.
Adults look at the eyes of faces in seek of social information (Yarbus, 1967). However, when the auditory information becomes unclear (e.g. speech-in-noise) they switch their attention towards the mouth of a talking face and rely on the audiovisual redundant cues to help them process the speech signal (e.g., Lansing & McConkie, 2003). Recent developmental studies on selective attention suggest that infants also take advantage of the audiovisual speech cues by resourcing towards the talker’s mouth during the onset of babbling (Lewkowicz & Hansen-Tift 2012) and also to aid language differentiation in the case of bilingual infants (Pons, Bosch, & Lewkowicz, 2015). Here I will present a set of studies that provide a more detailed examination of the audiovisual (AV) speech cues contribution to speech perception and processing at different language development stages, through the analysis of selective attention patterns when processing speech from talking faces. To do so, I will compare different linguistic factors that modulate audiovisual speech perception in both first language/s acquisition during early childhood and in second language acquisition during childhood and adulthood. With all this information I will discuss how masks could have had an effect on speech perception and language development.
Meet our Speakers
Roger Kreuz is Professor, Associate Dean and Director of Graduate Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Memphis. He holds a joint degree in Psychology and Linguistics from the University of Toledo (Ohio), and a M.A. and a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Princeton University. His research interests lie in cognitive psychology and the psychology of language which he approaches experimentally. His research lines involve discourse processing and pragmatics: experimental studies of communication strategies (e.g., how people go about fulfilling their communicative goals); figurative language: How (and why) people communicate using non-literal means, such as irony or hyperbole; conversational alignment: What causes speakers and listeners to adopt each others' point of view; and computer-mediated communication: How mediums like e-mail, texts, and tweets affect the communication process. He has been Editorial Board member of the journal Discourse Processes and he is currently Editorial Board member of Metaphor and Symbol. He is ad hoc reviewer for a large number of academic journals and book publishers of his areas of expertise. He has authored numerous articles and book chapters, and his books have been translated in various languages, including Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish and Russian. His most recent book, published by Oxford University Press, is “Failing to communicate” and provides a psychological and linguistic framework for why miscommunication occurs.
Elsi Kaiser is Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Southern California. She obtained a B.A. in Germanic Languages and Literatures from Princeton University, a M.A. in Psychology and a PhD from the Linguistics Department of the University of Pennsylvania. She continued with post-doctoral studies at the Center for Language Sciences at the University of Rochester from 2003 to 2005 when she moved to L.A. Her primary research focuses on sentence processing, using a combination of psycholinguistic and corpus data. Her research interests involve issues at the syntax/semantics/pragmatics interface(s), such as ways of encoding and processing information structure, including word order and prosody; coherence relations in discourse, especially causality; perspective-taking, predicates of personal taste, subjectivity, free indirect discourse and related phenomena; issues related to reference resolution and dependency formation, such as comprehension and production of personal pronouns, demonstratives, reflexives and reciprocals generic and impersonal reference representation and processing of linguistic and non-linguistic dependencies; and cross-linguistic work in typologically diverse languages (including Finnish, Estonian, French, German and Dutch, and collaborative work on Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese). She is the Director of the Language Processing Lab at the University of Southern California which investigates the representations and mechanisms involved in language production and comprehension, using a range of methods, including visual-world eye-tracking.
Meet our Speakers
Ferran Pons is Professor in the Department of Cognition, Development and Educational Psychology and active member of the Institute of Neurosciences at the University of Barcelona and of the research groups Attention, Perception and Language Acquisition (APAL) and Cognition and Brain Plasticity. He pursued undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Psychology at the University of Barcelona, where he obtained his PhD, and continued with postdoctoral studies at the Children Studies Center at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. His research interests focus on the cognitive mechanisms and factors that are involved in language acquisition and he makes use of experimental and behavioural methods to investigate them. He explores different aspects of speech perception in infancy until the production of the first words, such as the role of experience as well as perceptual reorganization during the first year of life. His current research examines infants’ ability to perceive the relationship between auditory and visual speech, as well as the mechanisms involved in these processes. His has published his research in high impact factor journals and is nationally and internationally known for his influential work.
Meet our Speakers
The Hellenic Association for the Study of English (HASE) was founded in 1990 in Thessaloniki. It welcomes membership from scholars (Professors, Lecturers, graduate students, private scholars, teachers of English) who are involved with English studies in a wide range of areas, from literatures in English, comparative literature, critical and cultural theory, film and media studies and theoretical and applied linguistics. One of its main aims is to establish contacts, both personal and electronic, with scholars working in these areas in other European countries, linking us, in other words, to over 30 national associations that comprise ESSE (The European Society for the Study of English, www.essenglish.org). Another aim is to maintain current and establish new links among scholars in English studies within Greece itself. Since its inauguration, HASE has held regular conferences, alternating between Athens and Thessaloniki.
SCHOOL OF PHILOSOPHY DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE
3rd Online Colloquium