Semantics and Pragmatics of Natural Language Processing (SPNLP)


Alex Lascarides
2 Buccleuch Place, 650-4428

Ewan Klein
Appleton Tower, 650 2705.

Lectures: Mondays and Thursdays 12:10--1pm in Appleton Tower Room 4.12.

The first lecture is at 12:10 on Monday 7th January, 2008.

Aims and Objectives

This course examines computational approaches to natural language semantics, including the interpretation of multi-sentence discourse and dialogue. Most of the course will focus on the use of formal methods, yielding formal semantic representations which can be fully integrated with automated reasoning systems. However, we will also examine cases where machine learning semantic information from corpora has proved successful, and how such approaches might overcome the knowledge representation bottleneck.

The objective is for students to understand the central problems in NL semantics, including phenomena on the syntax/semantics and the semantics/pragmatics interfaces. They will learn about rich, `hand-crafted' formal models for dealing with these phenomena, as well as `shallow' methods, which use machine learning on corpora and other linguistic resources to automatically acquire less detailed models of meaning. By the end of the course, students should have gained a working knowledge of the current techniques used in computational semantics and pragmatics, their use in NLP applications and their limitations.

Set Textbooks

Syllabus, Readings and Slides


There will be two lectures each week (Monday and Thursday at 12:10pm), and students are expected to attend and take part in them.

There will be two moderate-sized assessed assignments during the module. Students are also encouraged to work on exercises in the text, to gain confidence with the material.

Office Hours:

Students with questions about or problems with the module material are encouraged to come by for consultation during these hours.


Assessment will be by two moderate-sized assignments during the module, and a final paper. The total mark for the course will be determined by the paper accounting for 40% of the mark and by the two assessed assignments, each contributing 30%.


Students entering the level 11 course should have successfully completed Linguistic and Computational Theories of Grammar (LCTG) or something equivalent. Those entering the level 10 coures should have Informatics 2A and 2B or something equivalent. All students should have elementary knowledge of first order logic and natural language syntax.

The level 11 version of SPNLP is only open to MSc students and students in the AI and Linguistics program. Other students will be accepted into the module only with permission of the instructor. The level 10 version of SPNLP is open to all fourth years who have the required prerequisites.

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