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Icelandic language and culture training application

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In the first part, I would like to talk about how strangers initiate a conversation during first encounters when they meet and ask for directions to a specific place. Unlike in situations where participants know each other, and where a greeting phase often fulfills the function of noticing and acknowledging one’s presence and initiating a conversation, situations where strangers meet call for something different. As a result of a small research conducted in the field, the Explicit Announcement of Presence (EAP) (Kendon, 1990) has been identified as the communicative function, which has been implemented into the application Virtual Reykjavik. It will enable human users to experience the interaction with embodied conversational agents (ECAs) in a more natural manner. In this game-like environment, one of the objectives the users (learners) have to complete is to approach agents (virtual characters) and initiate a conversation. The purpose of our research was to describe the natural language as it is used rather than interpret the meaning of words used by the speakers. Examples regarding vocabulary, sentence patterns and multimodal behaviour (head, gaze, torso, body posture) will be presented.

In the second part, I would like to talk about how agents initiate a speech repair by human users in a more realistic way, i.e. by employing verbal and nonverbal (multimodal) features of natural language found in face-to-face conversations between humans. Utterances that initiate such repairs are often used for avoiding misunderstanding and keeping the flow of a conversation; they can have various names, e.g. requests for clarification (Duncan & Niederehe, 1974), Next Turn Repair Initiators (Schegloff, 1992), or in technical terminology they are also known as ReqRepairs (Traum & Allen, 1992). In the context of this project, the term clarification request (CR) (Purver, 2004) has been adopted. I will demonstrate, what kind of CRs are often used in first encounters between native and non-native speakers of Icelandic in situations when strangers meet and ask for directions to a specific place in downtown Reykjavik, and show their multimodal realization on selected examples from our video corpus.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Language Sciences series.

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