Language research requires specific technical facilities and specialised software. To collect their linguistic data, our researchers either run highly controlled experiments in a laboratory, or they record speech in natural settings.
At the institute, there is a skilled Technical Group to support the experimental and computational work. The group also develops tools for research, which are widely used at other research centers.
Our researchers use a variety of experimental setups: from measuring reaction times on a millisecond basis, tracking people’s eye movements with special head-mounted cameras, recording people’s gestures and brain imaging using EEG. All the labs are set up and maintained by the Technical Group. A virtual reality lab is under construction. It will allow precise control of experimental conditions while still allowing realistic, interactive language use. Worldwide this is the first lab of this kind dedicated to research on language production and comprehension.
Collecting data in natural settings includes visiting schools or kindergartens, but also field sites around the world. Some of these sites are in isolated and remote areas, sometimes without access to electricity. The Technical group strives to select and adapt state-of-the-art equipment for these difficult conditions.
These accumulated recordings amount to an enormous set of data that needs to be stored long-term. The MPI houses a large multimedia and multi-modal language archive which now covers about 11 TeraBytes of digitised material. Part of this archive space is used by the international project Dokumentation bedrohter Sprachen (DoBeS), funded by the German Volkswagen Stiftung.