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.
The MPI has a dedicated IT Services group which supports the researchers’ experimental and computational work. They also develop tools for research, which are widely used at other research centres.
Our researchers use a variety of experimental setups, for example, to measure reaction times in milliseconds, track people’s eye movements using special head-mounted cameras, record people’s gestures, and conduct brain imaging using EEG. All the labs that are used for these experiments are set up and maintained by the IT Services group.
The MPI also recently celebrated the opening of a new Virtual Reality lab. This enables researchers to precisely control experimental conditions while still allowing realistic, interactive language use. This is the first lab of its kind dedicated to research into language production and comprehension.
Collecting data in natural settings includes visiting schools or nurseries, but also field sites around the world. Some of these sites are in isolated and remote areas, sometimes without access to electricity. The IT Services group strives to select and adapt state-of-the-art equipment for these difficult conditions.
Recordings collected from all our research projects amount to an enormous set of data that needs to be stored for the long term. The MPI has 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.