“The sound systems of languages of the Rift Valley” : project founded

Alain Ghio (LPL), Didier Demolin (LPP) and Michael Karani (University of Dar-es-Salaam) have just obtained funding for the project “The sound systems of the languages of the Rift Valley” submitted within the framework of the CNRS 2021 call for projects “Support for Collaborations with Sub-Saharan Africa”.

It follows, among other things, the field mission carried out in Tanzania in February 2020 which aimed to record and study two languages of the north-eastern region of the country (Iraqw and Hadzabe).

In addition, Alain Ghio and Didier Demolin will be present next week at the 10th World Congress of African Linguistics (7-12 June) with three oral presentations:

A phonetic study of Iraqw ejectives consonants
Didier Demolin, Alain Ghio, Maarten Mous
10th World Congress of African Linguistics (WOCAL), 2021, Leiden, Netherlands

Labialized consonants in Iraqw
Alain Ghio, Maarten Mous, Didier Demolin
10th World Congress of African Linguistics, Leiden University, 2021, Leiden, Netherlands

Distinctive features and articulatory gestures in Hadza
Richard Griscom, Andrew Harvey, Alain Ghio, Didier Demolin
10th World Congress of African Linguistics, Leiden University, 2021, Leiden, Netherlands

The role of emotions in learning abstract words

As part of the CNRS 80|Prime call, funding for the PhD project led by Johannes Ziegler (LPC) and Núria Gala (LPL) has been selected among the 2021 laureates! 

Project title: The role of semantic neighborhoods and emotion in the learning of abstract words: from embodied linguistic theory to classroom interventions (LAW)

A look back at the Bratislava Online COBRA Training Event… and perspectives!

A look back at the Bratislava Online Training Event organized by the European COBRA project

The European Conversational Brains (COBRA) project, funded by the European Commission for a period of four years (2020-2024), organized its first training event last week, from March 22 to 26. This event included a series of courses given by Susanne Fuchs (ZAS, Berlin), Peter Hagoort (MPI, Nijmegen), Martin Pickering (Univ Edinburgh) and Kristof Strijkers (LPL). COBRA's non-academic partners (DAVI, Furhat, Orange, ReadSpeaker) presented their artificial dialogue systems in a Show & Tell session. The doctoral students - including Emilia Kerr and Lena Huttner of the LPL - also gave a first glimpse of their progress, and that was a key moment of the week.

This event also made it possible to finalize the first version of the data management plan on OPIDoR, to announce the creation of a open data pool on Zenodo, and the setting up of an e-training platform on MoodleCloud, combined with another shared Jupyter-type platform for the training of doctoral students in the fields of statistics, calculation, and programming. Moreover, the doctoral students have opened a blog on the COBRA site, in which they will present their activities at regular intervals.

The week was thus extremely rich and intense, it offered everyone the opportunity to get to better know all the doctoral students and to strengthen ties within the network. Fortunately, the participants did not just work: Stefan Benus, the organizer of the event, invited all members to participate in an online police investigation, which took place in Bratislava. It was really exciting! 😉

And the perspectives...

The next event will take place from May 17 to 21 and will be organized by the Aix-Marseille team. It will be preceded by an online seminar given to doctoral students entitled “How to give engaging scientific talks”. Doctoral students will be called upon to make an even stronger contribution than during the 1st event, and will notably have to carry out a hackathon on data processing. It is also planned to offer doctoral students training in statistics tailored to their needs and provided by Shravan Vasishth and Audrey Bürki (Univ Potsdam).

The next events will be organized by our partners in Edinburgh (second semester 2021) and Ferrara (first semester 2022).

More information:

Contact: Noël Nguyen (Project coordinator)
Website: www.conversationalbrains.eu
Twitter: @CobraNetwork

Project PENSA funded by the ERASMUS+programme

Project Erasmus+ PENSA (2021)

Coordinator: Marco Cappellini (LPL/AMU)

The project "Pour une Professionnalisation des Enseignants utilisant le Numérique pour un Soutien à l’Autonomie et à la citoyenneté (PENSA)" adresses two current issues in higher education and society. The first one is the need for training and infrastructure to deliver blended, distant and/or co-modal (i.e. in-class teaching simultaneously streamed to online students) teaching during the pandemic. During the national lockdowns and when delivering co-modal teaching, teachers often turned to mainstream online platforms such as Zoom without being aware of the economic model of such platforms in terms of treatment of personal data. Moreover, some teachers reproduced face-to-face frontal approaches online, without considering the potentialities of blended learning to centre education on the student combining asynchronous individual activities and synchronous collaborative ones, in addition to frontal lecturing. The second issue is the need to educate youngsters to the implications in the use of social networking websites (Facebook, Youtube, etc.) at the psychological, sociological, economical, and ideological levels. In fact, the deployment of these platforms was accompanied by discourses of emancipation, were users were able to express and exchange their ideas online, thus generating more public dialogue. The reality shows a different picture, characterised, among others, by hate speech and racism, the raise of populism, echo chambers and sometimes illegal surveillance. Hence the need to raise students’ awareness about the logics embedded in those platforms.
The PENSA project addresses these issues with an overall approach of openness, both in the direction of open education and open source platforms. The core of the project is constituted by 30 teachers and teacher trainers in seven universities, mostly part of the CIVIS European University, one academic association and a firm. During the project, we aim at providing training for these teachers and to reach 100 supplementary teachers with local training events. Teachers will be trained to integrate blended and co-modal teaching in their classes, with the integration of telecollaboration and virtual exchange on topics related to digital citizenship. The core group will implement virtual exchange adopting either the pedagogy of inquiry, or a collaborative creative writing approach. Through these actions, PENSA will involve 400 students across Europe in developing their digital competence, plurilingual competence, collaborative skills, and learner autonomy.
The intellectual outputs of the PENSA project will be: a literature review on teacher training for the integration of ICTs and for education to digital citizenship; an open course for teacher training for the pedagogic activities described above; two sets of open educational resources to implement virtual exchange adopting either the pedagogy of inquiry or collaborative creative writing; open source functionalities for open source platforms for teaching and training, such as Moodle, BigBlueButton and Mahara, to make those platforms more interoperable and to adapt them to co-modal teaching.
The estimated results will be an increased digital readiness in higher education, a contribution to sustainable internationalisation providing guidelines to stakeholders for increasing virtual exchange and virtual mobility, and above all the contribution to a culture of openness both among teachers for open education, and among students for open digital citizenship, reducing the part of commercial platforms in higher education.

A boost for research on child language

In the beautiful series of project funding approved in 2020/2021, we are pleased to present two contracts dedicated to the acquisition and development of language in babies:

Coordinated by Clément François, the research project "BabyLang: Children's speech perception and vocabulary acquisition" was selected by the ANR within the framework of the JCJC 2020 call for projects. This project aims to study hierarchy learnings underlying language acquisition in term babies and premature babies. It will provide a better understanding of (i) the mechanisms of cerebral plasticity underlying the emergence of phonological categories, (ii) the links between early perception of speech and the ability to learn new words, (iv) the impact of 'premature birth on these processes, and (iv) identification of early biomarkers of later language skills.

The research project "LangDev: From speech perception in babies to vocabulary acquisition in children, an interdisciplinary project", coordinated by Laurent Prévot and Clément François, was funded within the framework of the call for projects 80 Prime du CNRS. It aims to determine how the development of the encoding of speech sounds influences the emergence of conceptual and lexical representations in babies. In addition, Estelle Hervé, winner of the doctoral scholarship associated with the project, joined the project team at the end of 2020.

Image by Andi Graf of Pixabay

TRUENESS and 7TaDYRE projects also funded by the Carnot Cognition Institute!

We are pleased to announce that, in addition to "PATY ", two other scientific projects submitted as part of the Carnot Cognition Institute call for proposals have also obtained their funding. These are the "TRUENESS" project (Philippe Blache, project leader, and Roxane Bertrand from LPL) and "7TaDYRE" (Serge Pinto from LPL), for which you will find detailed information below.


TRUENESS: Théâtre-forum viRtuel poUr luttEr coNtre lES diScriminations
Coordinator: Philippe Blache (LPL)
Partner: Magalie Ochs (LIS), Roxane Bertrand (LPL), Marine Montaut (NextLevel), Louisette Maret (Le Cap), Jean-Marie Pergandi (CRVM)

Abstract (in French):
Ce projet se propose d’aborder la première étape d’un projet visant à développer un environnement de réalité virtuelle simulant le contexte d’un « théâtre-forum » utilisé dans la cadre de la lutte contre les discriminations en formant des professionnels à réagir à des situations de discrimination. Un tel développement nécessite la création d’un agent conversationnel animé jouant le rôle d’un individu à l’origine d’une telle discrimination. Cet agent doit ensuite être capable de dialoguer avec le sujet humain témoin de la scène. La première étape d’un tel développement porte sur la création d’un modèle de comportement verbal et mimo-gestuel pour cet agent. Ce travail consiste à recueillir des corpus de ce type de situation puis de les analyser. Ces corpus sont des captations vidéo d’acteurs jouant ces rôles. Ils sont recueillis grâce à la collaboration d’une entreprise partenaire de ce projet spécialisée dans l’organisation de formations portant sur ce type de situations. Avant de passer à l’établissement du modèle à proprement parler puis à son implantation dans un agent virtuel, il convient donc de recueillir ces corpus et de les analyser. L’objet de la présente demande porte donc sur l’acquisition des données : création du scénario, captations vidéo et premières extractions des caractéristiques fondant le modèle.


7TaDYRE: Understanding the role of sensorimotor representation in dyslexia: 7T MRI study in young dyslexic adults to identify the neural bases of dyslexia and the impact of comorbidity.
Coordinator: Christine ASSAIANTE (LNC)
Partner: Pascale Cole (LPC) - Serge Pinto (LPL) - Jean-Philippe Ranjeva (CRMBM)

Abstract (in French):
Le projet en question vise à étudier les bases neurales des liens fonctionnels entre les représentations langagières et sensorimotrices, et leurs possibles modifications, chez des adultes dyslexiques. L'objectif est d'évaluer si une altération des représentations phonémiques est associée à une altération du modèle interne de mouvements articulatoires et corporels. L’idée est aussi de voir si ces modifications sont sous-tendues par des particularités cérébrales, anatomiques et fonctionnelles mesurées en IRM 7T.

The Carnot Cognition Institute validates the funding of the PATY project

We are pleased to announce that Alain Ghio, research engineer at the LPL, has just obtained funding for the research project “Processing platform for atypical speech (PATY)”, under the coordination of Jérôme Farinas from the Institute of Research in Computer Science of Toulouse (IRIT). This project was submitted as part of a call for proposals from the Carnot Cognition Institute of which the LPL is a member. It aims to make accessible the latest research and development results around atypical speech (pathologies, regional accents, etc.) and to create a tool combining several methods of analysis and automatic processing. The platform produced could then be valued by the research community specializing in cognition and speech processing as well as in various health or industrial sectors.

Field mission in Tanzania: recording of the Iraqw and Hadza languages

Alain Ghio, research engineer at LPL, and Didier Demolin, professor at the Laboratory of Phonetics and Phonology (LPP) in Paris, carried out a joint mission from 13 to 26 February in the northeast region of Tanzania. The purpose of this mission is to record and study two languages ​​of this region: the language of the Iraqw (Kwermusl village) and the language of the Hadzabe (Mwangeza). The first language is distinguished by ejective consonants for which the larynx makes surprising movements. The second is a language spoken by a tribe of hunter-gatherers, which has 65 consonants, including a dozen clicks.

But what did they go to do more specifically?
Experimental field linguistics. The association of these different words is generally difficult to reconcile. And yet, that’s what they did. They went to meet Iraqw and Hadza speakers on the spot, in the bush, in Tanzania, and they recorded them with advanced laboratory techniques: aerophonometry, electroglottography, lab films, palatography ... which is a scientific feat almost new. Using these techniques in the laboratory in Amsterdam, Marseille or Los Angeles is common. Do field surveys with a portable pocket recorder. That is done. But doing aerophonometry in the middle of the savannah is a challenge. Didier Démolin is the specialist. Alain Ghio is co-inventor of the EVA2 aerophonometry device and masters the technical constraints of this type of experiment. [...]

For more information: Alain Ghio / Didier Demolin

See also the article published by the Laboratory of Phonetics and Phonology (LPP), partner of this project (in French):

Mission de collecte de données phonétiques en Tanzanie

From lip- to script-reading: new ANR contract awarded

The LPL is pleased to announce that the project "From lip- to script-reading: An integrative view of audio-visual associations in language processing" (AVA), submitted by Chotiga Pattamadilok, LPL researcher, was validated in the framework of the last ANR PRC selection.

The early exposure to speech and speakers’ articulatory gestures is the basis of language acquisition and is a fingerprint of audiovisual association learning. Is this initial ability to associate speech sounds and visual inputs a precursor of infants’ reading ability? Answering this question requires a good understanding of the cognitive/neural bases of both language abilities and whether they interact within the language system. Studies comparing task performance and spatio-temporal dynamics of brain activity associated with these abilities will be conducted. At the theoretical level, the outcome should lead to an elaboration of a unified framework explaining how multi-modal inputs jointly contribute to form a coherent language representation. At the practical level, the new perspective of a link between the developmental trajectories of “lip-reading” and “script-reading” should contribute to language learning and facilitate early detection and remediation of reading deficits.

Laboratoire Parole et Langage, Aix-Marseille Univ. (coordinator)
Laboratoire D'Etude des Mécanismes Cognitifs, Univ. Lyon 2
Laboratoire de Psychologie et NeuroCognition, Univ. Grenoble Alpes
SFR Santé Lyon-Est, Univ. Lyon 1

European project COBRA accepted!

We are pleased to announce that the COBRA (Conversational Brains) project has been accepted by the European Commission as part of the Marie Curie Innovative Training Networks program. COBRA brings together 14 partners in 10 countries (France, Great Britain, Italy, Slovakia, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Finland, Hong Kong), including 4 industrial partners. It will run for four years, starting in 2020.

COBRA is a continuation of the European MULTI project previously carried out by the LPL, and is closely linked to the ILCB Institute. It will contribute to developing research and advanced training in the field of brain-language relationships, in human-human and human-machine conversational interactions, and in a wide variety of languages. It will open wide perspectives for our students in cognitive science and language science, at doctoral level and on a European scale.

The overall budget is 4 million euros. The project was prepared with the support of Protisvalor. It is coordinated by Noël Nguyen.

Link: http://conversationalbrains.eu

In addition, a press release has just appeared on this subject in the last issue of AMU's letter: