Seeing Speech

At Glasgow Science Festival we aim to showcase the incredible research carried out in and around the city. Science Sunday is the University of Glasgow’s flagship family festival event and this year it’s bigger than ever! We chatted to Fabienne Westerberg to find out what she’s up to this time.

fabiennew_headsetWho are you and what do you do?

My name is Fabienne, I’m a linguistics research student at Glasgow University. My research looks at the way the tongue moves when we produce certain speech sounds, and I use ultrasound to see what the tongue is doing inside the mouth.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

Last year’s event in GULP (Glasgow University Laboratory of Phonetics) was really popular, and I missed it! We  want to give people a chance to see language in a different way, and see how complex it is, from the way we physically produce sound to the way we use language to show our identity.

The Matrix, District 9, Moon… what sci-fi classic floats your… uhh… spaceship?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a clear favourite – the idea of the Babelfish is fascinating. Imagine being able to understand all languages, even if it meant having to put a fish in your ear…

2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink and among other things, we’re exploring how eating insects might be the future. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve eaten?

I’m Swedish, and we eat a lot of weird stuff. Smörgåstårta (“sandwich cake”) is one of them, it’s a savoury cake normally made up of layers of bread, mayo, salad, meatballs, shrimps and grapes. Delicious!

Impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

Pigeons can read! They recognise letters of the alphabet, and remember the written names of the shops where they live. Impressive but also slightly terrifying.

Join Fabienne and friends as part of Science Sunday on the 14th of June in the GULP lab at 13 University Gardens, where researchers from the phonetics lab will shed some light on the visual techniques used in speech research (and help you image your tongue!).The event is free, but please book online to guarantee a space! 


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