In the countries that have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability (UN CRPD), access to information for people with disabilities has become an important issue. Depending on the different countries, Easy or Plain Language is the means of choice to improve the readability and comprehensibility of texts. This way, content becomes accessible not only to people with disabilities, but also to people who have no access to the original standard or expert texts for other reason than disability, like migration or insufficient educational opportunities.
There are, however, several research gaps: For Easy Language, it is not clear whether the existing sets of rules can be applied without losing functional adequacy of the reformulations (legal content must, for instance, be checked for legal validity). Plain Language is problematic since there are no universally applicable language rules or standards. For both varieties, it is not clear whether the reduction of textual complexity also leads to reduced processing effort and how textual quality can be measured.
In order to take the heterogeneous target groups into account when speaking about the quality of the different language varieties, we adopt a psycholinguistic position and define quality as successful perception and reception from a recipient’s perspective. This enables us to focus on the target groups’ demands which in turn are dependent on their specific language barriers. We measure reading and comprehension processes by applying a multi-method approach involving eyetracking and comprehensibility tests. The findings differentiate perception and reception processes in terms of Easy and Plain Language on the one hand and with respect to specific target groups on the other. This leads to a dynamic concept of quality and processing effort depending on the target groups’ demands.
About the Speaker:
Prof. Dr. Silvia Hansen-Schirra is a full professor of English linguistics and translation studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germersheim, Germany. Her main research interests include specialized communication, text comprehensibility, post-editing, translation process and competence research. As fellow of the Gutenberg Research College she is the director of the Translation & Cognition (TRACO) Center in Germersheim and co-editor of two book series: “Translation and Multilingual Natural Language Processing” and “Easy – Plain – Accessible”.