Thursday, October 29, 2009

Structure and Knowledge in Natural Language Processing

Harold Daume III
Assistant Professor at University of Utah will be giving a talk on Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. in room 2460.

Title: Structure and Knowledge in Natural Language Processing

Human language exhibits complex structure. To be successful, machine learning approaches to language-related problems must be able to take advantage of this structure. I will discuss several investigations into the relationship between structure and learning, which have led to some surprising conclusions about the role that structure plays in language processing. From there, I will consider the question of: where does this structure come from. By taking insights from linguistic typology, I will show that very simple typological information can lead to significant increases in system performance for some simple syntactic problems. Moreover, I will show how this typological information can be mined from raw data.

(This talk includes joint work with Dan Klein, John Langford, Percy Liang, Daniel Marcu, and some of my students: Arvind Agarwal, Adam Teichert and Piyush Rai.)

Cognitive Science Colloquium

There will be a discussion of two recent papers by Judy DeLoache at 3.30 pm tomorrow, Thursday October 29, in Bioscience Research Building 1103.

The papers can be accessed from the discussion link on the Colloquium website at:

Judy DeLoache will then visit the colloquium next week. Those wishing to meet with her should email <>

Peter Carruthers

Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Maryland

1122B Skinner Building, College Park, MD 20742, USA

Tel. (office): 301 405 5705

Tel. (home): 301 270 5107

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The biological foundations of language: Insights from sign language

Subject: The Annual Blackwell/Maryland Lectures Series
When: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 3:00 PM - Friday, November 13, 2009 12:00 PM
Where: Marie Mount Hall, Maryland Room
Event Type(s) : Lecture

Series title: "The biological foundations of language: Insights from sign language"

Signed languages provide a powerful tool for investigating the nature of human language and language processing, the relation between cognition and language, and the neural organization for language.

Lecture 1 Nov. 11 from 3 to 6pm in the Md room
Sign language and the brain

Lecture 2 Nov. 12 from 3 to 6pm in the Md room
Speaking vs. signing: How the biology of linguistic expression affects language processing

Lecture 3 Nov. 13, 2009 from 10am to 12pm in the Md room
Bimodal bilingualism

FFI see website:


For more information, contact:
Kathleen M. Faulkingham
Linguistics Dept.
+1 301 405 7002

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ivano Caponigro colloquium

I'm happy to announce that Ivano Caponigro from UCSD is giving a colloquium talk this Friday 10/30 at 2PM in MMH1304. The title of the talk is 'Ask, and Tell as Well: Question-Answer Clauses in American Sign Language'.


A construction is found in American Sign Language that we call a Question-Answer Clause. It is made of two parts: the first part looks like an interrogative clause conveying a question, while the second part resembles a declarative clause that can be used to answer that question. The very same signer has to sign both, and the entire construction is interpreted as truth-conditionally equivalent to a declarative sentence. In this talk, we discuss these and other properties of Question-Answer Clauses and provide a syntactic, semantic and pragmatic account. In particular, we argue that Question-Answer Clauses are copular clauses consisting of a silent copula of identity connecting an interrogative clause in the precopular position with a declarative clause in the postcopular position. Pragmatically, they instantiate a topic/comment structure, with the first part expressing a sub-question under discussion and the second part expressing the answer to that sub-question. We discuss broader implications of our analysis for the Question Under Discussion Theory of discourse-structuring, for a popular analysis of pseudoclefts in spoken languages, and for recent proposals about the existence of exhaustivity operators in the grammar and the consequences for the syntax/semantics/pragmatics interface.

Friday, October 23, 2009

IGERT Lunch Talk: Emotionally arousing language: The effects of emotional interference in L1 and L2

When: October 29, 12pm - 1pm

Where: 1108B Marie Mount Hall, Linguistics Department

Susan Teubner-Rhodes will present: "Emotionally arousing language: The effects of emotional interference in L1 and L2."

She will be discussing the time course of the Emotional Stroop task and disparate effects of top down control on the processing of emotional language in a native versus a second language.

Susan is a second year PhD student in the Psychology department, the Program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science at UMD.

Mark Liberman: "A New Golden Age of Phonetics"

Fall 2009 Seminar Series

Mark Liberman, "A New Golden Age of Phonetics"
University of Pennsylvania

Tuesday, October 27, 2009, 4:30 p.m.
Computational Science and Engineering Building, room B17

From the perspective of a linguist, today's vast archives of digital text and speech, along with new analysis techniques from language engineering, look like a wonderful new scientific instrument, a modern equivalent of the 17th-century invention of the telescope and microscope. We can now observe linguistic patterns in space, time, and cultural context, on a scale three to five orders of magnitude greater than in the past, and simultaneously in much greater detail than before. Scientific use of these new instruments remains mainly potential, especially in phonetics and related disciplines, but the next decade is likely to be a new "golden age" of research. This talk will discuss some of the barriers to be overcome, present some successful examples, and speculate about future directions.


Biographical information for Mark Liberman is available from <> .


Nov 3 Mirella Lapata (U of Edinburgh): Vector-based Models of Semantic Composition
Nov 10 Oren Etzioni (U of Washington): We KnowItAll: Lessons from a Quarter Century of Web Extraction Research

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cognitive Science Colloquium: Evaluating Faces on Social Dimensions

Subject : Cognitive Science Colloquium

When : Thursday, October 22, 2009 3:30 PM - 5:30 PM

Where : Bioscience Research Building : 1103

Event Type(s) : Colloquium

Today: Alexander Todorov (Psychology, Princeton), "Evaluating Faces on Social Dimensions".

For an abstract of the talk, see the Colloquium website.

Next Thursday (same time and place): a discussion of two articles by Judy Deloache (Psychology, Virginia), who visits the colloquium the week after.


For more information, contact:

Peter M. Carruthers

+1 301 405 5705

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lunch talk: "Machine learning of phonological categories

When: Thursday, October 22nd
Where: Marie Mount Hall, room 1108B
Lunch will be provided.

Brian Dillon, Ewan Dunbar, and Bill Idsardi will discuss machine learning of phonological categories.

PhD Completion Project: Teaching Portfolios

The Graduate School at University of Maryland presents:
PhD Completion Project Workshops: Teaching Portfolios

Spencer Benson,
Center for Teaching Excellence

David Eubanks
Assistant Director
Center for Teaching Excellence

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lecture Hall 0200, Skinner Building
3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

This workshop will provide information about developing a professional teaching portfolio. Topics will include creating your statements of teaching philosophy and teaching experience and items to incorporate into the portfolio.

For registration and additional information, please visit: <>

Questions: 301.405.4180 or

Talk:Word order development in English and Norwegian: Micro-cues, information structure and economy

On November 9, at 11:30, in the upstairs conference room of the Linguistics Department (Marie Mount Hall) professor of linguistics and director of CASTL at the University of Tromsø, Marit Westergaard, will be giving a talk. Lunch will be provided. The abstract is included below.
Word order development in English and Norwegian: Micro-cues, information structure and economy

Marit Westergaard
University of Tromsø – CASTL

This paper considers the loss of verb second (V2) word order in the history of English and present-day Norwegian dialects with a particular focus on the question why it survives in certain contexts. I argue against a parametric approach to V2 word order and classify both English and Norwegian as mixed V2 grammars, i.e. grammars which require V2 in some contexts and non-V2 in others. Within an approach to language acquisition and change that is based on the existence of micro-cues in children’s I-language grammars, some acquisition data are considered, showing that mixed V2 systems are easily learnable. Discussing some historical data from Old and Middle English (OE/ME) as well as synchronic variation in Norwegian, I argue that the choice between the two word orders is due to a productive syntactic rule which is sensitive to information structure. The loss of this rule as well as the survival of certain remnant cases are discussed in relation to processes in first language acquisition.

Monday, October 19, 2009

First post

This is the first and test post to the Languagescience News blog.