Making language for specific purposes comprehensible for a broader public

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Sunday, June 27, 2021 at 12:00 AM (FLE Daylight Time) to Friday, July 2, 2021 at 1:00 AM (FLE Daylight Time)

Event Details

We are excited to invite you, as a researcher in the field, to join our panel “Making language for specific purposes comprehensible for a broader public: Evaluating and improving expert-lay communication in different domains” to be held at IPrA 2021 (June, 27 – July, 2, 2021) in Winterthur, Switzerland.


Please find below the call for papers for the panel. If you are interested, please submit your proposal (max. 300 words plus references) by October 25, 2020, via
For any questions or assistance please contact us.


We are looking forward to seeing you in Winterthur next summer!


With best regards,
Gianni De Nardi, Karin Madlener-Charpentier, Felix Steiner




Making language for specific purposes comprehensible for a broader public: Evaluating and improving expert-lay communication in different domains


Communication of expert knowledge for a broader public is a growing societal concern (Antos 2020; Brettschneider et al. 2012; Lugger 2020; Lutz 2019). This is because domain-specific knowledge is a crucial precondition of self-determined access to the knowledge society in general and of participation in specific social domains such as education, public administration, politics, healthcare, and the law. Making research processes, findings, their interpretation, implications, and applications comprehensible and accessible for a lay public is thus a challenge for experts in all knowledge domains. From a linguistic point of view, a core question is the comprehensibility of languages for specific purposes (LSP) for laypersons with different levels of language competence, reading ability, and prior knowledge as well as different cultural backgrounds (e.g., Ballod 2020; Busch 2015; Göpferich 2002; Kastberg 2019).


A highly relevant current illustration of this challenge is provided by the substantial extent of public misunderstanding of scientific principles, research findings, and research uncertainty during the corona pandemic. A less visible, yet internationally widely documented and ethically crucial example concerns research subjects’ (lack of) comprehension of informed consent (IC) documents (e.g., Baum 2006; De Nardi et al. 2018; Fernandes Moreira et al. 2016; Stunkel et al. 2010).


This panel addresses the question of LSP comprehensibility from the perspectives of pragmatics, text/discourse linguistics, and psycholinguistics, spanning LSP domains such as the life sciences, the technical, medical/health, legal, political, and economic domains:

  • Which factors mediate LSP comprehensibility for (different groups of) laypersons?

For instance, which linguistic features make an IC form, a press release, an economic or a legal text comprehensible for a broader public? Which features – related to content, speech acts, vocabulary, (morpho-)syntax, text structure, explicitness etc. (e.g., De Nardi et al. 2018; Hansen-Schirra et al. 2009; Wolfer 2017) – lead to higher/lesser degrees of comprehension?

  • How can comprehensibility of oral and written formats of LSP be evaluated (e.g., Ballstaedt 2019; Bührig/Meyer 2007; Burgess et al. 2019; Kercher 2013; Wöllstein 2017)? Which (psycho-) linguistic measures and models of comprehension can be applied or adapted for such evaluations?
  • How can LSP comprehensibility be improved (e.g., Bleiberg et al. 2019)? What is the potential contribution of so-called “light” or “plain language” (e.g., Luttermann 2017; Maaß/Rink 2017; NIH 2013)? How can visualizations contribute to LSP comprehensibility? (How) Does digitalization impact LSP comprehensibility (e.g., Marx 2019; Turnbull 2014)?
  • How is comprehension negotiated in communicative exchanges between experts and laypersons, e.g., medical doctors and patients (e.g., Groß 2018; Stukenbrock 2008)? What are potential implications for linguistic professionalization, e.g., in medical, health, and care professions?

The panel invites international experts dealing theoretically and/or practically with different domains and formats of expert-lay communication and/or aspects of LSP comprehensibility for laypersons. The goal of the panel is to (1) share challenges, findings, and options regarding the evaluation and improvement of LSP comprehensibility and (2) to discuss implications and applications across research domains and disciplines.




Further Information & Submissions


Conference website:

Call for panel contributions:

Submission website:

Deadline: 25 October 2020