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Linguistic Research Infrastructure

To promote linguistic research in Switzerland and move it to a higher, internationally competitive level, two inter-departmental institutions at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at UZH, namely the Zurich Center for Linguistics (LiZZ - Linguistik Zentrum Zürich) and the University Research Priority Program “Language and Space”, as well as a number of laboratories and several institutes distributed across the UZH campus, successfully applied for a substantial upgrade of the existing local linguistic infrastructure.

The LiRI project

The LiRI project, approved by the UZH board in October 2018 and the Technology Commission in December 2019, will, firstly, strengthen laboratory research in linguistics and neighboring areas, which has become central in the era of Digitization and Big Data in the study of language and speech, and will support data storage, data processing and analyses of the data with up-to-date data science support in an unprecedented way. Secondly, this upgrade will allow pioneering new research combining naturalistic data with rigorous methods that so far could only be applied in the lab. This will bring Switzerland to the forefront of experimental and Big Data-based linguistics research.

LiRI consists of two subunits: A LiRI lab for experimental research, equipped with a bundle of data acquisition units mainly in phonetics, psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics, and a LiRI Information System, called LIS.

The LiRI lab and information system will be open to all researchers working with language data. In its full form it is conceived as a national platform for linguistic data storage/processing/science, uniting if possible as many linguistic data resources of all kinds (text, audio, video, EEG etc.) in one data center.

The LiRI lab

During the implementation phase, it is planned to acquire several data acquisition devices, accessible for researchers and cooperation partners (in exchange for charges, see regularities for UZH Technology platforms, and also SNSF cost statement for using university infrastructure). The collection of data acquisition units encompasses articulography, laryngography, several high-end isolated sound-proof cabins, stationary, portable and also head-mounted eye tracking systems, mobile and stationary EEG systems, ABR, fNIRS, ultrasound, and later also an anechoic cabin.

Devices in the LiRI lab

Recording booths (5), with high-end acoustic recording equipment and allowing visual contact between study participants

   

Behavioral testing cubicles (3)

   

Electroencephalogram (EEG) booths (2)

   

Electromagnetic Articulograph (EMA)

   

Electro Glottography (EGG) with or without laryngoscopy (including 4k frame-rate camera)

   

Ultrasound

   

Eye-tracking system EyeLink 1000 Plus

   

Auditory brainstem response (ABR)

   

Functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS)

   
Portable devices to loan (use outside of the lab possible)    

LENA Pro devices with recorders (10) and collector

   

Eye-tracking systems EyeLink Portable Duo (2)

   

Head mounted eye-tracking systems: Pupil invisible (2), Tobii Pro glasses (2)

   

EEG systems (5) with 3D space digitizer for electrode localization

   

High resolution video cameras (8) with equipment

   

ePrime hardware and software

   

Infrared camera

   

Time-of-Flight (ToF) cameras

   

 

Functions of the LiRI Information System - LIS

The main functions of the LiRI Information System are:

  • to channel the large volume of data produced not only by the LiRI Data Acquisition Units, but also by data coming from academic institutions from outside UZH (working with language data and linguistic databases) into standardized, interoperable and open accessible resources. Detailed access rules for partners will be set up as well as a set of minimal standards for the quality of hosted research data, digital assets, and metadata. All tools and data hosted by LiRI will be subject to the FAIR principles of Open Access. 
  • to support empirical research from data acquisition to publication.

Data management: LiRI offers to set up and manage customized virtual machine servers for the purpose of processing, analysis, long term storage and backup of linguistic research data. These VM servers are part of the ScienceCloud environment of the University of Zurich and are accessible within the UZH network or world wide. Additional software may be installed according to the researchers' needs. Likewise, server access can be customized in order to restrict data availability to certain individuals or open it up to all members of a particular research group. This service is not limited to language scientists working on data acquired by means of the LiRI device and software inventory. Researchers which plan to store, process and analyze their self-collected data are also welcome to make use of the LiRI server infrastructure.

Collaboration and support: For researchers which are about to start their project and/or have doubts about how to reasonably collect, process and analyze linguistic data, LiRI offers to provide advice and technical as well as methodological assistance. A researcher's or research group's effective needs may be determined in an initial consultation and, according to these needs, support may range from occasional guidance to the adoption of the entire data acquisition and processing tasks.

Software tools examples:

  • Databases to store and search data collections (Elastic Search, Maria DB etc.)
  • Natural Language Processing such as automatic part-of-speech tagging, syntactic parsing, semantic tagging etc. (based on a UIMA processing pipeline)
  • Data crawling/scraping and processing of web sources, batch download of documents, conversion to XML/JSON
  • Workflow tool for the management of linguistic annotations
  • Providing access to specialized software for semiautomatic data transcription (e.g. spoken to written language)
  • Implementation of tools for automatic text analysis and classification (e.g. POS annotation, semantic analysis)
  • General machine learning tasks (supervised or unsupervised), Neural Network Learning etc.
  • Audio signal processing (e.g. for human speech or animal vocalisations)
  • Statistical data analysis

Timeline and plans

From the 1st July 2020 onwards, LiRI will be installed as technology platform with a certain range of services. A kick-off event is planned for fall 2020 when the LiRI lab set up is finished. Until December 2019 we worked out the rules of procedure for LiRI, including the price list for fees for local and external users of LiRI valid for the 2020. In October 2019 we organized an information event at UZH for all supporters and potential internal and external users to inform about the implementation on LiRI and to receive input and feedback in order to improve the set up and further functionalities. The LiRI team will continuously apply for further devices, financed by local funds, and advertise new job ads if the funds permit an extension of the staff. At the same time, it will initialize collaborative research projects and ideas and establish long-term partnerships between LiRI and external teams.

2024- LiRI in full operation
2023 Evaluation of LiRI
Fall 2020 LiRI lab starts operation with kick off event at Andreasstrasse 15, 8050 Zurich, LIS team grows
Summer 2020 Several portable LiRI devices are loanable, certain services of LIS team are available

01.07.2020

Official start of LiRI project at UZH
2020-2023 LiRI implementation phase with continuous development of services
1/2020

LiRI is recognized as a Technology Platform

11.10.2019

LiRI information event for partners, supporters and potential users

17.04.2019 LiRI is officially integrated into the Swiss Roadmap for Research Infrastructures 2021-2024
09.10.2018 LiRI is approved by the Executive Board of the UZH
2017-2020 LiRI preparation phase