Ling 499: Understanding Language Understanding
Beginning in Spring 2023, I will be teaching this advanced undergraduate course designed for dual Linguistics and Computer Science majors. The course is still in the design process, but I'm putting up this placeholder page so that potentially interested students can get an idea of what the class is likely to look like.
What's the course about?
The verb understand gets thrown around a lot in linguistics and AI. We use it to refer to the process of human language comprehension. We talk about, and debate, the idea of artificially intelligent agents understanding us. We also use the word to refer to our goals in scientific research: we seek to understand how language works.
In this seminar we're going to spend time looking at the various notions of what it means to talk about "understanding" and language, from both the AI perspective and the cognitive perspective. The primary focus is not going to be on building things, although there will be some hands-on computational activity to get a feel for issues. The main focus will be on reading, discussing, and, yes, understanding.
The plan for the semester is not yet mapped out, but to provide a flavor of the kinds of things I'm talking about, for those potentially interested in the course, here is a (non-binding!) list of some things that are floating around in the mix of my thinking.
- Understanding as a scientific pursuit: Marr and explanations
- Understanding as compression: information theory and prediction
- Understanding as behavior: the Turing test
- Understanding as representation: encoding concepts and their relationships
- Understanding as translation: parlez-vous
- Understanding and emotion: getting beyond "who did what to whom"
- Understanding and learning: inductive biases in children and machines
- Understanding in public perception: Alexa, Siri, GPT-3, Skynet, and the Singularity
Last modified: Wed Oct 12 19:02:58 EDT 2022