Dr Biao Zeng: Alternative ways to communicate

Date(s) - Friday, May 15, 2015
12:45 pm - 2:00 pm


4 people are going

Seminar Room 3


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In this talk, Dr Zeng will discuss three communication tools alternative to language. Lexical tone, brainwave and polling are the three examples used to illustrate his idea of alternative communication.
Lexical tone, which is uncommon in many western languages such as English and French, can be regarded as an alternative tool of communication. Tonal languages make up approximately half of the languages in the world, with Mandarin being a typical one. Lexical tones are dominated by pitch frequency. Even with identical consonants and vowels, Mandarin can convey different meanings by way of changing the pitches of every lexical item.
Brainwave is another alternative tool of communication. It refers to the electrical activity of the brain on the scalp, which has been extensively investigated by electroencephalography (EEG) method since Dr Hans Berger invented this technology in 1924. Today, EEG has been widely applied in health monitoring and neuroscience research. In recent years, brain-computer interface (BCI) technology turns its interest to brainwave and aims to help with the communication between our brain and external equipment. The ultimate goal is to use brainwave to control the external world.
The third alternative tool of communication, polling, can be regarded as public communication between politicians or political parties and the public in today’s political world. However, the communication mechanism is still not clear. It assumes that mass media plays a critical role in such political communication.
With these three examples, Dr Zeng suggests that the three communication tools could be inspected and understood by Saussure’s claim that language may be analysed as a formal system of differential elements.


Dr ZENG Biao is a psycholinguist, columnist and entrepreneur. He studies how English speakers could perceive, understand and even represent Chinese lexical tones in their mind. He received his PhD from the University of Bristol. He is also a commentator on British politics and contributes to BBC and Financial Times regularly. In 2010 he published the first book about David Cameron and his coalition government policies in China. Since 2013 he has been involved in a hi-tech start-up company, examining how brainwaves in communication can replace language in certain scenarios. He currently works as a senior research fellow at Bournemouth University and lives in Bristol with his family.



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