Language and Computation: The State of the Art
Mark Steedman and Matthew Stone
16:00 Wednesday 14th December
Appleton Tower, Level 3
Linguistics has been a computational science for almost fifty years, since Chomsky first used formal language theory to characterize structure and complexity in natural language. Yet researchers continue to appeal to new kinds of computational thinking as they frame problems and results in the science of language. This talk focuses on two case studies of particular recent interest, whose common goal is to explain language in its broader evolutionary and biological context.
The first case study concerns an account for the structure of language. Here computational approaches to agency---which showcase close parallels between language use in dialogue and other kinds of collaborative real-world activity---promise to link the grammatical representations implicated in language use to the the more general symmetric representations of ones' own and others' real-world actions that are the hallmark of primate social cognition.
The second case study concerns an account of language processing. Here computational frameworks for approximate probabilistic inference---informed by striking correlations between the time-course of linguistic processing and the dynamics of uncertainty in the evidence available to the processor---suggest how the mechanisms of language use could simultaneously arise from more general neural or cognitive mechanisms.
Following the talk, there will be an informal reception of wine and nibbles to promote discusion and interaction.