Acoustics and speech intelligibility in multilingual spaces

Dr Laurent Galbrun (SBE), Dr Bernadette O’Rourke (SML), Prof Graham Turner (SML – programme co-ordinator), Dr Gina Netto (SBE), Prof Peter Aspinall (SBE), Kivanc Kitapci

Description of the ‘Environment and Interaction’ programme:  In a globalised world where people are more and more mobile, spaces are becoming increasingly multilingual and multicultural. The complex human interactions with such spaces are not taken into account by current design guidelines, and little is know about the sociological implications of these relations. The ‘Environment and Interaction’ theme has the objective of increasing our understanding of the interaction between people and multicultural/multimodal linguistic environments. The various projects developed within this theme will examine social interaction in both virtual and physical (indoor and outdoor) environments, and how people access, mediate, and adapt to such environments. This will lead to spatial design solutions and guidelines, setting new standards for built environment policies and regulations, and improving quality of life through better design of built and natural environments. On the one hand, the anticipated impact will be for the providers of goods and services who will maximise communicative permeability to end users. On the other hand, the theme will develop design principles that will enable citizens to interact effectively in all forms of public, commercial and social spaces.

Initial scoping of the theme will be developed through the seed-corn project examining the effects of acoustics on speech intelligibility in multilingual spaces, communication being at the centre of interaction between people and the environment. This seed project will work as a scoping study which will facilitate the development of upcoming research. All future projects will be inter-disciplinary in their approach, combining elements including engineering, linguistics, social science, environmental psychology and inclusive design. The projects will be centred on the School of Management and Languages and the School of the Built Environment at Heriot-Watt University, but a range of additional collaborators (internal and external) will be involved in future projects, widening the pool of expertise carrying out the research programme.