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Cambridge Language Sciences

Interdisciplinary Research Centre

Studying at Cambridge


About the IRC

After six years as a Strategic Research Initiative, Cambridge Language Sciences became a University of Cambridge Interdisciplinary Research Centre (IRC) in October 2017.Ianthi

The Directors, Prof. Ann Copestake (Dept. of Computer Science & Technology) and Prof. Ianthi Tsimpli (Linguistics, Faculty of Modern & Medieval languages), are supported by a Management Committee and an external Advisory Board in developing a strategy for the new IRC, and building on the legacy of their predecessors Prof. William Marslen-Wilson, Dr Henriëtte Hendriks, and Prof. Robert Foley


To enhance the position of Cambridge as the leading international centre for interdisciplinary research and teaching in language sciences.


  • To connect a diverse research community.Ann Copestake
  • To create increased opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • To advance knowledge through the cross-fertilisation of ideas.
  • To develop external partnerships.
  • To equip the next generation of researchers with the knowledge, experience and skills for interdisciplinary research.

Towards a definition for language sciences

Language sciences is the term for a broad area of research on language and communication. It covers both theoretical and applied research into language acquisition, the role of language in society, patterns and processes of signalling, information transfer, and the processing of information.

 The four main pillars are:  

  • the study of the (neuro)biological basis of human communication, the evolution of language, and language in the context of human behaviour
  • the study of language in its political, societal and cultural context (the ecology of language) 
  • the study of the structure, sounds, and meaning of language
  • speech and language technologies, including their application to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

Language research is a part of many disciplines including psychology, anthropology, linguistics, education, computer science, and engineering. Interactions between researchers which cut across these disciplinary boundaries are the most fertile and important element of current research.

Importance of language sciences

Applied research in language sciences plays an increasingly important role our everyday lives, for example in the development of search engines and virtual assistants, in the criminal justice system (forensic linguistics and forensic phonetics), or in the validation of "high stakes" English language examinations which may determine access to employment, tertiary education or citizenship.

Language-based research in the arts and humanities and social sciences is often a vital element of research seeking to address major challenges for society where communication is an important aspect, or where a cultural or historical perspective is required. Examples include research on health (e.g healthy ageing, dementia), education (e.g literacy, dyslexia), migration (e.g. multilingual societies), and democracy ("fake news").