Language and communication

Language allows people to communicate with great precision. The Language and Communication group studies how people use language in specific contexts. We study how people use language to share information with others, persuade or otherwise affect them, build social relationships, and more.

Our overall goal is to understand
how language is actually used,
when it is used effectively, and why.

For instance, how can medical institutions use a variety of different media (from leaflets to chatbots) to effectively communicate important health information to an audience that differs in the ability to process this information? Which factors determine the perceived credibility of messages and how can people be trained to distinguish between facts and fake news?

We explore whether answers to the above depend on the medium and genre (e.g. a book, survey, advertisement, information leaflet, social media message, or face-to-face conversation), and on additional nonverbal signs (e.g. illustrations). Since language use is always socially embedded and guided by personal, organisational, institutional and cultural goals, we also examine how the social context affects language use and vice versa, how personal characteristics interact with language use, as well as how people from different cultures communicate with each other. 

We address these questions using linguistic analysis, corpus and field research, cognitive (neuro)science experiments, and computational modelling, focusing on both adults and children. Through collaboration with societal partners, we strongly invest in embedding our research in real-world settings, and in using our results to improve communication in those settings. Examples of our impact involve understanding and improving product advertising, health communication (e.g., triage telephone conversations), financial, legal and corporate communication (e.g., pension advice, police interrogations, corporate apologies), helpdesks, informational websites for children, textbooks, and voting advice applications. 


  • effective communication 
  • discourse and pragmatics 
  • readability and comprehension 
  • document design and text quality 
  • language, cognition and emotion 
  • rhetoric, persuasion and framing 
  • chatbot communication 
  • language in online (social media) communication 
  • face-to-face communication 
  • institutional communication 
  • intercultural communication 
  • language in society 


Stay posted on our activities and the latest information about our research.