Keynote Speakers

Photo of Nina Nørgaard Photo of Richard Sproat
Nina Nørgaard Richard Sproat

Nina Nørgaard is an associate professor of applied linguistics and a founding member of the Centre for Multimodal Communication at the University of Southern Denmark. She holds a Ph.D. in English/stylistics (2002) and a dr.phil. in multimodal stylistics (2020).

Her primary research interests lie within the fields of multimodal semiotics, stylistics, multimodal stylistics, multimodal critical discourse analysis, typography, discourses of sustainability and the environment, and the semiotics of architecture. She has a keen interest in combining work and insights from the (traditionally separated) fields of stylistics and multimodality, investigating multimodal meaning-making in the novel. In Multimodal Stylistics of the Novel: More than Words (Routledge 2019) she thus presents a comprehensive framework for multimodal stylistic analysis of novels which in addition to wording make use of semiotic resources such as special typography, layout, colour, images and other graphic elements for their meaning-making.

Richard Sproat received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1985. He worked at Bell Labs and AT&T Labs until 2003, when he moved to the University of Illinois. After Illinois and then the Oregon Health & Science University he moved, in 2012, to Google as a Research Scientist. He currently works in the Tokyo office of Google, Japan.

Sproat has worked in numerous areas of linguistics and computational linguistics, including syntax, morphology, computational morphology, articulatory and acoustic phonetics, text processing, text-to-speech synthesis, and text-to-scene conversion. At Google he works on machine learning for multilingual text normalization and speech recognition. He is particularly interested in low resource scenarios, where deep learning approaches do not fare so well.

He also has a long-standing interest in writing systems and symbol systems more generally.

Typographic Meaning in the Novel

While most novels for adults are typically set in standard black typography that readers hardly notice in their pursuit of narrative pleasure, some are typographically more experimental with implications for the meaning created. In this presentation, I will explore the meaning potential of typography in a literary context. My interest in typography is semiotic and communicative in nature and is informed by three rather basic questions: What does typography mean in the novel? How does it mean? And how can we describe typographic meaning-making in a systematic and consistent way? I will present and discuss a methodological framework for typographic analysis that originates in multimodal semiotics (van Leeuwen 2005a, 2005b, 2006) and has been further developed in a multimodal stylistics context (Nørgaard 2019).

Nørgaard, Nina. 2019. Multimodal Stylistics of the Novel. More Than Words. London & New York: Routledge.
van Leeuwen, Theo. 2005a. Introducing social semiotics. London & New York: Routledge.
van Leeuwen, Theo. 2005b. Typographic meaning. Visual Communication, 4(2). 137-143.
van Leeuwen, Theo. 2006. Towards a semiotics of typography. Information Design Journal + Document Design 14(2). 139-155.


Computational Methods in the Analysis of Graphical Symbol Systems

Over thousands of years, humans have invented numerous graphical devices to represent information. Some of these have involved simple marks on surfaces, others much more elaborate systems of symbols inscribed on clay, written on more perishable materials, or even knotted into sets of cords. Most of these systems have represented information without being dependent on a particular natural language, but a few times in history such non-linguistic systems changed into systems that were tied to language: writing systems.

Some of the interesting questions that can be asked about graphical symbol systems include:

  • How did non-linguistic symbol systems evolve into writing systems?
  • How can one tell if an uninterpretable ancient symbol system is writing or some sort of non-linguistic system?
  • And for linguistic systems, what kind of linguistic information do they represent and how do they represent it?

My own interest for many years has been in computational approaches to these questions. In this talk I will review some of the prior work in this area and give some prognosis of where computational models could prove enlightening in the future.

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