3.1. Community

Increasingly more diverse and technological research

Foto sobre l'ús de la realitat virtual
Study on the use of virtual reality to improve oral expression among high school students of the Prosody Study Group (GrEP)

Shortly after the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting classrooms received their first students in the 1992-1993 academic year, research activity in the field also started up at UPF. In the early years, one of the most powerful tools for this research was the University Institute for Applied Linguistics (IULA), created at UPF in 1994 and whose founders included the renowned philologist Teresa Cabré, today president of the Institute for Catalan Studies (IEC). Upon its creation, the IULA absorbed a pre-existing research group: the Neology Observatory (OBNEO).

The IULA became a leading institute in the field of linguistics, in both Spain and Latin America, in the 1990s, bringing together much of the research in this field. Since the first calls for applications under the Catalan government’s research group support programme (SGR), the department has gradually built a map of stable research groups in the disciplines related to translation and language sciences. Within this map, strategic importance has been given to internationalization, through the incorporation of researchers with PhDs earned at universities from outside Spain (40% of the current permanent or tenure-track teaching staff) and, in general, through UPF’s participation in international partnerships and networks in these research fields. Thanks to the ICREA research intensification programmes (Sènior and Acadèmia), the department has succeeded in implementing cutting-edge research lines in the field of language sciences and projects for the transfer of knowledge to society (with grants from Researcaixa).

Today, a total of eight research groups are affiliated with this UPF department within the framework of the SGR programme. (see list of current SGR research groups) Laia Mayol, current head of the department’s Research and Transfer Area, noted the multiple potential social benefits of research in these fields. ‘There is research that can be applied in the educational sphere, in teaching, to language teaching, to work with bilingualism, etc. We can also detect cognitive disorders based on language disorders or carry out projects to ensure web content accessibility for people with disabilities.’ In this regard, she noted that computational linguistics is of growing importance, for example, to develop artificial intelligence and machine-learning applications.

Mayol added that, thanks to the Internet and technological applications, researchers now have access to much larger volumes of data. ‘You used to be able to do research with 5,000 words; now, you can do it with millions.’ Of course, she warned, this also means learning to work with large volumes of data, so ‘you have to know a lot of statistics to do linguistics. [...] We are moving towards an increasingly hybrid landscape, one that blends ICT and the humanities’, she concluded. 

Current SGR research groups

(in brackets, year started at UPF)

  1. ALLENCAM (UR-Ling),* Language Acquisition in Multilingual Catalonia (2005): Studies how first or second languages (English, Catalan, Spanish, French or Russian) are acquired in different formal and informal contexts, in both bilingual and immersion environments and situations of tri- and multilingualism.

  2. COLT (UR-LING),* Computational Linguistics and Linguistics Theory (2018): Combines traditional theoretical linguistic methods with quantitative and computational tools to study how language works, focusing on computational modelling and using artificial intelligence and machine-learning techniques.

  3. GLiF (UR-LING),* Formal Linguistics Group (2005): Works on the formal description of the architecture of human language and the interactions between phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics. Its research focuses on the Romance, Germanic and Slavic language families and on sign languages.

  4. GR@EL, Language Learning and Teaching Research Group (2005): Studies different variables in the use, learning and teaching of languages at different educational levels, in formal and informal contexts, such as academic genres, teaching materials, multilingual competence, ICT or learner self-regulation, amongst others.

  5. GrEP (UR-LING),* Prosodic Studies Group (2009): Investigates the role of prosody (intonation) and gestures in human communication and language comprehension and processing. Amongst other things, its research can help improve language skills in people with typical and atypical language development. 

  6. IULATERM (IULA),** Lexicon and Technology (2005): Researches terminology, neology, specialized lexicography, specialized discourse, lexical variation and change, lexicology, language technologies, computational linguistics, corpus linguistics, and linguistic change and diversity management.

  7. TRADILEX, Translation, Discourse and Lexicography Research Group: Takes an interdisciplinary approach to lexicon research (morphology, lexicology, semantics, pragmatics, discourse analysis and translation) with various applied perspectives, ranging from the description of neology to make dictionaries to characterization through speech in fiction, audiovisual translation, media accessibility, or discourses on social phenomena. It arose from the merger of two earlier groups, INFOLEX (Lexicographical Information Research Group, IULA,** SGR 2005) and GEDIT (Discourse and Translation Research Group, SGR 2017, which, in turn, had researchers from two SGR groups from 2005).

  8. TRILCAT, Translation, Reception and Catalan Literature Research Group (2005): Focuses on the understanding of Catalan literature and culture, from the 19th century to today, based on two complementary areas: the study of contacts between literatures and the analysis of the role of writers and translators as cultural mediators. 

The department also has a UPF group whose researchers participate in an SGR group from another university, namely, GraC (UR-Ling)* (Grammar and Cognition Lab) (2018). This group studies the relationships between language and cognition through the study of linguistic patterns in cognitive disorders. They aim to expand the range of relevant clinical data to detect abnormal language patterns in people on the autism spectrum or with schizophrenia or dementia, amongst other things.

*Linguistics Research Unit (UR-Ling): created in 2005, it brings together the activity of five different research groups (ALLENCAM, GLIF, GrEP, COLT and GraC).

** Research group attached to the specific research center of the Institute of Applied Linguistics (IULA)

Research in the Department of Translation and Language Sciences

From 2018 to the present... 

  • 800 theses have been defended
  • 550 papers have been published in academic journals
  • 50 books have been published as a result of research and studies by the Department of Translation and Language Sciences
  • 200 book chapters have been published


Research centres, centres for studies, and UNESCO chair

  • The specific research centre Institute of Applied Linguistics (IULA):** In 2016, the former university institute became a specific research centre (CER, from the Catalan). Its lines of research are mainly in fields such as lexicons, language variation, and technological applications in linguistics and translation. The following research bodies are currently linked to it:

    • The SGR research group IULATERM: Stands out for its development of technological resources for processing linguistic data, such as text analysers and corpora, as well as for scientific outreach initiatives, such as the IULAMED portal. (more information in the section on current SGR research groups)

    • The UPF research group INFOLEX: Focuses on the study of the lexicon and information (semantics, morphology, syntax, etc.) linked to each term included in, or potentially eligible for inclusion in, both mono- and bilingual dictionaries.

    • The research group with the UPF-specific name Neology Observatory (OBNEO): Analyses the phenomenon of the emergence of neologisms in use, in Catalan and Spanish. It has promoted tools and terminology search engines such as BONEO, a database of lexicographic neologisms documented in social use (in the media, on social networks) and Garbell, a neologism analysis tool, carried out as part of the Institute for Catalan Studies (IEC) Research Programme.

  • LSC-UPF Actua Centre for Catalan Sign Language Studies: Linked to the translation and interpreting studies offered by UPF, its scope goes well beyond training to include research, dissemination and awareness-raising. Amongst other things, it performs advisory tasks and promotes networking amongst social actors and LSC professionals.

  • UNESCO Chair in Language Policies for Multilingualism: A research network created in 2018 and currently made up of 25 institutions, including universities and research centres from around the world, whose main purpose is interdisciplinary research in the field of multilingualism from various angles, such as education, linguistics, sociology, political science, economics or linguistic rights.