Language and communication

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

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

For instance, how do particular text characteristics interact with a reader's cognitive architecture such that information is conveyed in a coherent, comprehensible way? How does language interact with people's emotional and motivational architecture so that it effectively moves or persuades them?

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, 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, mostly focussing on adults, but also exploring language use involving children and adolescents. Through collaboration with societal partners, we strongly invest in embedding our research in concrete real-world settings, and in using our results to improve communication in those settings. Examples involve product advertising, health communication (e.g., patient information leaflets), 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
  • readability and comprehension
  • document design and text quality
  • language, cognition and emotion
  • rhetoric, persuasion and framing
  • mediated communication
  • narrative communication
  • institutional communication
  • intercultural communication
  • discourse and pragmatics
  • language and sociality


Stay posted on our activities and the latest information about our research (including a detailed self-assessment over 2012-2017).