Research projects

Intercepter avec des interprètes

With Prof. Nadja Capus (Law Faculty, U. of Neuchâtel),  Prof. Mag. Dr. Mira Kadric-Scheiber (U. of Vienna),  Prof. Dr. Esther González-Martínez (U. of Fribourg).

Funded by the Swiss SNSF

Le travail des interprètes lors de l’interception de communications dans le cadre d’enquêtes pénales

Intercepting wire, oral, or electronic communication is an important element of criminal investigations. The goal is to transform communication intercepts into evidence of probable cause. This measure of secret surveillance is technically and legally possible, but expensive, and of course, only of use if the content of the conversations can be understood, that is, made available by interpreters.

Hence, criminal justice is completely dependent on good performances of interpreters. Interpreters lay the very foundation for subsequent interrogations and decisions by the Public Prosecutor to take further coercive measures or not.

According to the Swiss Criminal Procedure Code, jurisprudence and legal doctrine have so far neglected the significant and powerful role of these interpreters, whose activities are very different from those of courtroom or police interrogation interpreters. Scientific research has also mostly focused on courtroom interpreting, presumably because its context makes it more accessible.

However, interpreters involved in interception face specific challenges and must have different qualities than courtroom interpreters, including special linguistic skills such as dialect knowledge, voice recognition skills, criminal investigation flair, even insider knowledge. Interpreters listen, select extracts, interpret, and transcribe. They are important contributors to the inevitable “entextualization” process—that is, the ways in which parts of intercepted conversations are categorized as incriminating and thus converted into criminal evidence.

My tasks: carry out an empirical analysis of linguistic strategies used by interpreters, report on the results in a scientific article.

Temporalité et morphologie flexionnelle verbale en français

With Prof. Marion Fossard (U. of Neuchâtel), Dr. D’Honincthun Peggy (Clinical neuroscieces Dept., CHUV), Prof. Démonet Jean-François (Faculty of Biology and Medicime, U. of Lausanne), Prof. Auclair-Ouellet Noémie (Sciences and Disorders, McGill University)

Funded by the Swiss SNSF

Temporalité et morphologie flexionnelle verbale en français : comment les marques flexionnelles témoignent-elles des compétences en référence temporelle?

Dans le cadre de ce projet, nous proposons de revisiter l’architecture ‘cognitivo-linguistique’ de la référence temporelle. Plus spécifiquement, notre ambition est d’aller au-delà des aspects morpho-phonologique ou morpho-sémantique du marquage de la référence temporelle et d’intégrer à l’analyse des TV les aspects conceptuels et mnésiques liés à la temporalité. Pour y parvenir, nous travaillerons avec différents groupes de participants : des participants sains, des participants présentant une aphasie (PAA), et des participants présentant une maladie d’Alzheimer (PMA), population pour laquelle les connaissances concernant les compétences grammaticales temporelles sont rares (voire inexistantes pour le français). Cette ‘triple vision’ nous assurera un recueil de données extrêmement riche, à même d’atteindre nos objectifs.

My tasks : Provide linguistic and experimental expertise for planning the experimental tasks, building the material, collaborate for interpreting the data and reporting on the results.

Temporal reference in Mandarin

With Dr. Juan Sun (Sun Yat-sen University)

Funded by the Chinese Government

Temporal reference in Mandarin

This project investigates the expression of temporal reference in Mandarin, a tenseless language. Typologically, Mandarin is an isolating (or analytic) language with a limited number of grammatical markers. For example, there is no overt grammatical marking of tense. The aim of the project is to investigate, in a systematic and quantitative way by means of authentic corpus data, how temporal reference is expressed in Mandarin (in the absence of verbal tenses). 

My tasks: Provide linguistic and empirical expertise for planning corpus analyses, analyzing and interpreting the data, reporting on the results.


With Prof. Jacques Moeschler (U. of Geneva), Prof. Genoveva Puskas (U. of Geneva), Dr. Joanna Blochowiak (CNRS, Lyon), Dr. Juan Sun (Sun Yat-sen University)

Funded by the Swiss SNSF

Verbal Tenses and Subjectivity in a cognitive pragmatics perspective

The research carried in the VTS project follows four main research lines: (i) the pragmatics of verbal tenses and their relation to subjectivity in French, (ii) the link between subjectivity and verbal tenses, precisely the Historical Present and its difference with the Free Indirect Discourse (FID); (iii) the linguistic cues of speaker’s subjectivity, and (iv) the expression of temporal reference in two typologically different languages: Mandarin on the one hand and French and English on the other hand.

My tasks: Planning and collaborating in the management of the project, collecting, cleansing, analyzing, interpreting and managing linguistic  corpus and experimental research data, writing, editing and revising the ensuing scientific articles.

Processing temporal relations

With Dr. Hannah Rohde

Funded by the Swiss SNSF

Pieces of discourse such as The plane landed, (then) passengers got off and The plane landed unexpectedly because it had a technical problem show that discourse connectives, generally used to explicitly express a discourse relation, sometimes are necessary and other times they become redundant. Scholars to date have not attended to the divergent behaviour of the various types of discourse relations and their explicit expression through discourse connectives. Assessing this issue is necessary for having an accurate understanding of how humans process pieces of discourse and how does linguistically encoded information pilot this process.

My tasks: Planning, submitting for funding and managing the research project, delivering and distributing tasks to a research team, collecting, analyzing and managing research data, managing the budget and writing the financial report.


With Prof. Jacques Moeschler (U. of Geneva), Prof. Andrei Popescu-Belis (IICT informatique et télécommunication HEIG-VD), Prof. Martin Volk (Institut für Computerlinguistik Universität Zürich), Prof. Ted Sanders (Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS University of Utrecht), Prof. Sandrine Zufferey (U. of Bern)

Funded by the Swiss SNSF

Modeling Discourse Entities and Relations for Coherent Machine Translation

The goal of MODERN is to model and automatically detect textual dependencies across sentences, and to study their integration within machine translation systems, with the aim of demonstrating improvement in translation quality, with a specific focus on the interplay between referring expressions and discourse relations in four languages: English, French, German and Dutch.

My tasks: Carrying out quantitative corpus studies, disseminating the research results, working in an interdisciplinary team.


With Prof. Jacques Moeschler (U. of Geneva), Prof. Andrei Popescu-Belis (IICT informatique et télécommunication HEIG-VD), Prof. Sandrine Zufferey (U. of Bern), Prof. Paola Merlo (U. of Geneva), Dr. James Henderson (IDIAP Research Institute), Dr. Bruno Cartoni (Google), Dr. Thomas Meyer (Google)

Funded by the Swiss SNSF

Improving the Coherence of Machine Translation Output by Modeling Intersentential Relations

The objective of the COMTIS SNSF Sinergia project was to use insights from linguistic modeling and corpus linguistics in order to build computational models of discourse-level phenomena and to combine them with statistical machine translation systems, thus improving the quality of translated texts. The COMTIS researchers have advanced the state of the art in their fields and with respect to the overall objective, thanks to the close collaboration of all partners, also reflected in the quality and number of joint publications. More specifically, we have proposed multilingual models of discourse connectives and verb tenses, strongly grounded in empirical evidence from parallel corpora, mainly in English and French, but also German, Italian, and Arabic. These models have generated features which served to implement automatic labeling systems for discourse connectives, verbs, and pronouns, which were further combined, in several ways, with state-of-the-art statistical MT systems and with innovative tree-based decoding algorithms. This has led to demonstrable improvements of the MT output, as assessed by humans but also by an automatic reference-based metric which COMTIS proposed and validated.

My tasks: Carrying out quantitative corpus studies, disseminating the research results, acquiring solid competences in statistical methods, organizing and participants in numerous workshops and training sessions, working in an interdisciplinary team.