A spoken language system combines speech recogni- tion, natural language processing and human interface technology. It functions by recognizing the person's words, interpreting the sequence of words to obtain a meaning in terms of the application, and providing an appropriate response back to the user. Potential applications of spoken language systems range from simple tasks, such as retrieving informsfion from an existing database (traffic reports, airline schedules),. to interactive problem solving tasks involving complex planning and reasoning (travel planning, traffic routing), to support for multilingual interactions. We examine eight key areas in which basic research is needed to produce spoken language systems: 1) robust speech recognition; 2) automatic training and adaptation; 3) spontaneous speech; 4) dialogue models; 5) natural language response generation; 6) speech synthesis and speech generation; 7) multilingual systems; and 8) interactive multimodal systems. In each area, we identify key research challenges, the infrastructure needed to support research, and the expected benefits. We conclude by reviewing the need for multidisciplinary research, for development of shared corpora and related resources, for computational support and for rapid communication among researchers. The successful development of this technology will increase accessibility of computers to a wide range of users, will facilitate multinational communication and trade, and will create new research specialties and jobs in this rapidly expanding area.