Persuasive communication

Centre for Language Studies | Faculty of Arts | Radboud University Nijmegen

Wilbert Spooren

Full professor


Wilbert studied Dutch linguistics at Utrecht University (MA 1982) and did a PhD on the form and function of global contrastive coherence relations at Radboud University (1989). After that he went to the Discourse Studies group at Tilburg University, first as a postdoc and from 1990 onwards as assistant professor. In 1999 he became associate professor Dutch Discourse Studies at VU University Amsterdam. In 2002 he was appointed as full professor Language and Communication at VU. As of November 1, 2012 he is professor of Discourse Studies of Dutch (Taalbeheersing van het Nederlands) at Radboud University.


Wilbert is interested in the role of language in optimizing communication in different genres. More specifically he investigates how people rely on structural signals in planning or interpreting a discourse, and how this depends on the genre of the discourse. For example, to express causal relations Dutch speakers can use either ‘want’ (“for”, “since”) or ‘omdat’ (“because”). ‘Want’ is typically used to express more subjective relations, whereas ‘omdat’ is used for more objective relations. Corpus analyses have shown that the distribution of ‘omdat’ and ‘want’ depends on genre. In related lines of research he investigates how subjectivity in journalistic discourse has changed over time. He intends to extend this research to new media discourse, where new questions of coherence and text quality arise: how do language users track coherence in multi-modal dynamic contexts, where hypertextual linkage is the norm?

Wilbert has supervised PhD theses on such varied topics as subjectivity in news discourse, the persuasive effects of layout in advertising, the conceptual and linguistic complexity of nominalization, Dutch and English sentence complexity in different genres, the relationship between police interrogations and the police record of such an interrogation, and the use of narratives in computer games.


Text structure, text optimization, discourse complexity, genres, new media

Recent publications

Hooijdonk, C.M.J. van & Spooren, W.P.M.S. (2011). De rol van beeld in tekstverwerking: een overzicht van bestaand onderzoek. Tijdschrift voor Taalbeheersing, 33(3), 233-248.

Dubbeldam, I.P.H., Sanders, J.M., Meijman, F.J. & Spooren, W.P.M.S. (2011). Websites op consult. Zorgverleners over de inbreng van en verwijzing naar medische websites tijdens het consult. Tijdschrift voor Taalbeheersing, 33(2), 166-186.

Lamers, M.J.A. & Spooren, W.P.M.S. (2012). Tracking referents in discourse. Dutch Journal of Applied Linguistics, 1(1), 59-79.

Sanders, T.J.M. & Spooren, W.P.M.S. (2009). Causal categories in discourse: Converging evidence from language use. In T.J.M. Sanders & E.E. Sweetser (Eds.), Causal categories in discourse and cognition (pp. 205-246). Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Sanders, T.J.M. & Spooren, W.P.M.S. (2009). The cognition of discourse coherence. In J. Renkema (Ed.), Discourse, of course (pp. 197-212-14). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Spooren, W.P.M.S., Sanders, T.J.M., Huiskes, M. & Degand, L. (2010). Subjectivity and Causality: A Corpus Study of Spoken Language. In S. Rice & J. Newman (Eds.), Empirical and Experimental Methods in Cognitive/Functional Research (pp. 241-255-14). Stanford: CSLI Publications.

Spooren, W.P.M.S. & Degand, L. (2010). Coding coherence relations: Reliability and validity. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, 6(2), 241-266.

Vis, K., Spooren, W.P.M.S. & Sanders, J.M. (2010). Using RST to analyze subjectivity in text and talk. In E. Tabakowska, M. Choinski, Michal & L. Wiraszka (Eds.), Cognitive Linguistics in Action. From Theory to Application and Back (pp. 291-316). Berlin; New York NY: Mouton de Gruyter.

Vis, K., Sanders, J., & Spooren, W. (2012, in press). Diachronic changes in subjectivity and stance – A corpus linguistic study of Dutch news texts. Discourse, Context & Media, 1.