University of Windsor to share $2.5 million in funding for real-world language project

When scientists study how people process and recall words, they usually do so in a laboratory, using sophisticated technology and highly controlled conditions in their experiments. The Words in the World training project will move that work outside of the laboratory.

The project’s goal is to train approximately 500 students, postdoctoral fellows, young researchers and others in the latest techniques of investigating how people process and represent words. The most innovative part of the project will be stepping out of the lab to provide research training in real-world settings to address real-world problems.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) recently awarded the project team, including director G. Libben (Brock), Lori Buchanan (Windsor), G. Jarema (U. Montréal), J. Järvikivi (Alberta), E. Kehayia (McGill), V. Kuperman (McMaster), and S. Segalowitz (Brock), a Partnership Grant of almost $2.5 million—the highest amount for a SSHRC project.

 “We are hoping to develop techniques and knowledge that can help older people with word finding challenges, expand vocabulary skills in a first or second language, help business owners meet the demands of provincial accessibility laws as they relate to language disabilities, and raise literacy rates in children and adults,” Dr. Libben says.

“We have the knowledge to make the breakthroughs that will change the lives of people in our communities. The Words in the World project will bring together communities, researchers, and trainees in a new way in order to achieve those breakthroughs.”

UWindsor trainees will benefit directly through extensive international connections and training opportunities, while such community partners as local libraries, hospitals and businesses will benefit by receiving theoretically motivated and research based solutions to linguistic challenges in areas like multilingualism, education, and aging. In one particular project, community businesses and organizations will collaborate with UWindsor trainees to develop a set of protocols to assist in meeting the needs of clients with communication disorders.

One important goal of the project is the development of teaching modules and certification that will be offered to UWindsor students, as well as students across Canada and around the world.

Input from local experts on training and program development include contributions by UWindsor’s Jill Jackson (Psychology), Erika Kustra (Teaching and Learning), Patti Weir (Dean of Graduate Studies); as well as statistical expertise from Dennis Jackson (Psychology).