The research carried out at the Communication Research Cluster and Research Centre (PCOM) has the common purpose of investigating all forms of communicational mediation between various kinds of institutions or social entities (businesses, public bodies, NGOs, academic, cultural and educational institutions, newspapers and audiovisual media, etc.) and their members, readership or audiences.
The phenomena of mediatised communication are closely linked to developments in communication platforms. We need, with each socio-technical and media-related innovation (such as the internet, instant messaging or mobile communications), to look at the way in which the communication platform shapes exchanges and the way in which individuals appropriate it, incorporate it into earlier practices or develop their own particular ways of using it, including new relationships with knowledge and information. The development of socio-technical communication techniques cannot be seen in isolation from the practices of those who use them. As a consequence, research in this area concerns itself, either simultaneously or consecutively, with the ‘technical’ logic of the designers, taking into account the semio-technical constraints of the new media and the ways in which they influence the communication process, and/or the logic of the uses made of those media, bearing in mind the way in which individuals develop their own media experience and practices .
The discursive dimensions of interactions in a communication situation are a study area that is given particular emphasis, taking account of the audio-scripto-visual aspects of these discourses, always seeing them as embedded in social practices and usages. The research looks at the various forms of the interface and interaction between the linguistic aspect on the one hand, and the social, cognitive and technological aspects on the other. One example is the analysis of social discourses, which activate and regulate social relationships at different levels (in interindividual relations as well as at the more macro level of social functioning in general). In this context, the patterns of these written, oral and electronic discourses are analysed in terms of utterance context, heterogeneity of discourse, discourse genres, discursive and linguistic formations and manifestations of memory. The study of these trans-semiotic objects (TV soaps, comic strips, songs, adverts, etc.) which are characterised by the interaction of different semiotic systems calls for an interdisciplinary approach appropriate to the communication sciences. The same goes for studying the construction of knowledge within educational systems that make use of multiple semiotic registers (in the context of classroom interactions or use of media products designed for educational purposes). When it comes to organisations, social discourses are often linked to matters of corporate culture, whether at the level of exchanges among the social actors involved in the life of the organisation, or connected with the various levels of culture present in the company (macro, meso or micro).
The research carried out in this area is concerned with observing, analysing and watching the ethical and deontological positioning of the various communicational players in the public space, whether journalists and communicators or businesses, associations and institutions. The changing face of the public space and the emergence of new players and new ways of stating opinions and expressing judgements means that we must be constantly renewing the way we look at these phenomena. We must study the way that the principles in question are taken into account and adhered to, both in the establishment of systems and communication strategies in ordinary social time and in less usual contexts created, for example, by political and financial crises.
Observing and analysing communication roles and professional practices and the way that they have developed is an important dimension of our research activities. Analysing the role of media players and relevant systems of representing the media has its importance in the field of communication as a profession, where few of the players have been trained as communicators. These issues take on a wider importance amid the social, economic, media-related and technological issues of our day, giving rise to a need to redefine the professions of communicator and journalist, their practices, and their place both in their own sphere of activity and in society in general. Building on the mutually enriching epistemological positions that characterise the different professional worlds that straddle the sphere of communication, research in this area is structured around themes such as the construction of professional identities and cultures, the challenges of digital technologies, and legitimising the communication professions in the areas of public relations, mediation, advertising, educational communication, and journalism.
The work of the Linguistics Research Cluster (PLIN) is divided among the five areas shown below. Some of the research is carried out in collaboration with the ILC’s Communication Research Cluster and/or other UCLouvain institutes.
Contrastive linguistics is based on the rigorous, systematic comparison of the linguistic characteristics of two or more languages, with aims that are both theoretical (modelling the differences and similarities between the languages studied) and practical (language learning, translation, bilingual lexicography, etc.). These studies are based on extensive bilingual or multilingual corpora representing a wide variety of text types: newspapers, scholarly texts, novels, parliamentary debates, etc.
The work that focuses on language variation is concerned with studying the different factors that determine the way in which speakers or writers use the language. These factors may be linked to characteristics of the speaker, the purposes of the exchange, the communication context, etc. These variation phenomena are studied both at the most elementary levels of linguistic organisation (phonology, morphology) and at the most complex levels (prosody, discourse). Variation phenomena being particularly abundant in oral settings and informal contexts, the study of language variation is based most frequently on recording spontaneous verbal interactions and analysing corpora of transcriptions of verbal interactions of this kind. The ILC’s linguists have assembled a very large corpus of spoken French and developed expertise in the collection, processing and management of oral corpora. This empirical research on real use of language in all its heterogeneity contributes to the development of theoretical models of language variation and change, and leads to a questioning of the relationship between language norms and observed usage, opening the way to important societal questions regarding both language policy and the knowledge that is needed to achieve effective verbal communication. This expertise is also brought into play in analysing other kinds of discourse, including relatively recent genres such as online discourse or slam.
The research carried out in this area addresses the theoretical and applied aspects of modern language acquisition and learning. The theoretical aspects concern: (a) the factors that influence the learning process (both factors internal to the learner – such as their age or mother tongue – and external factors relating to the learning context – such as the task, the type of teaching, formal or informal learning, etc.), and (b) analysis of the learner’s receptive and productive competence. The research teams use a variety of analytical methods (authentic productions, questionnaires, experimental methods, etc.). The applied aspects may be of the following types: - applied linguistics: production of learners’ dictionaries and grammars, terminology databases, corpus consultation platforms, digital language learning tools, etc. - educational and pedagogical: analysis of methods and tools for learning and teaching modern languages, work on multiliteracies (including digital literacy), teacher/researcher collaborations, analysis of classroom practices, initial and continuing teacher training, etc.
The aim of automatic language processing is to develop software capable of generating or analysing natural language productions (for purposes of text generation, vocal synthesis, information extraction, automatic translation, spellchecking, etc.). These applications are usually based on formalised language descriptions and corpus-based language models. The research in this area at UCLouvain is focused essentially on information extraction and mining, two research threads that led to the birth of a spin-off in 2012: Knowbel Early Tracks. Other research fields are also explored, such as assessment of the difficulty of texts with a view to simplifying them automatically, opinion detection, and style variation for vocal synthesis.
The department is engaged in research concerned with the linguistic and sociocultural analysis of corporate communication and business language in the media using corpus linguistics and automatic language processing methods. In general terms, this research is aimed at a better understanding of the evolution of language in workplace settings and under the influence of developments in forms of work (new technologies, multilingualism and multiculturalism). Ongoing projects include: an analysis of the use of English as a lingua franca in communications in organisations in Belgium; an exploration of the promotional character of texts produced by organisations; a study of clear and simple language in organisations and an analysis of intercultural adaptation strategies in the tourism website genre.