Schedule of Topics

This is the schedule for Seminar in Computational Linguistics: Topics in Computational Linguistics and the Cognitive Neuroscience of Language, Fall 2019

In addition, some topic areas may take longer than expected, so keep an eye on the class mailing list or e-mail me for "official" dates.

Readings will either be linked below, or will be available in the Linguistics Locker.

August 28.

Overview, goals, administrivia; computation, cognition, and the brain

We'll cover administrivial and general preliminaries, talk about goals, and begin looking at the ways that the relevant disciplines -- computation, linguistics, cognitive science, and neuroscience -- will connect with each other over the course of the semester. If you care about computational explanations, is now the right time to be looking at the brain? If you want to understand what the brain is doing, can current computational approaches help? What, if anything, does deep learning have to do with all of this?

Background readings (optional)

September 4.

Connecting levels of explanation

Leaders: Craig and Sweta

Debate involving levels of explanation and the relationships among them.


Also of interest

September 11.

Neuroanatomy and neuroimaging

Leader: Alexander

Shohini will lead in a lecture mode for a significant part of this session, making sure we are all up to speed on the fundamentals of language-relevant neuroanatomy and theories on language function and its localization. The Poldrack paper makes an essential methodological point about inferences connecting cognitive theories and brain activity.


Also of interest

September 18.

Machine learning in neuroscience

Leader: Sweta, Aura


September 25.

Decoding (and Encoding)

Leader: Carolin, (Aura|Hanna) Decoding (and encoding) as ways of connecting work on neural representations with work on distributionally derived representations.


Also of interest

October 2.

Encoding/Decoding, continued

Leader: Carolin, Sweta

Further discussion on decoding (and encoding). We have gotten most of the way through discussing Jain and Huth; we'll finish that discussion and also talk about Pereira et al. In addition, the recent episodes of Brain Inspired with David Poeppel seem very relevant to a lot of what we've been discussing and are a lot of fun, so we'll include those also.

Also start thinking about project ideas, but don't feel as if you need to have something full baked yet. And feel free to formulate ideas connected with things we haven't read yet.
October 9.

No class: Yom Kippur

Instead of the usual class, the class session time will be available for discussion of project ideas. (Shohini will be there but Philip will not.)

October 16.

Looking at the word level

Leader: Carolin

Progressing from lower level (recognition) up to individual-word level up to composition at phrase level


October 23.

Language modeling and the time course of sentence processing

Leader: Sweta


Optional background

October 30.

Hierarchy from a cognitive/neuro angle

Leader: Craig


Optional (will discuss if we have time):

Also of interest as background:

November 6.

Hierarchy in distributed representations

Leader: Cassidy, Alexander

The topic of discussion here is the extent to which neural networks might capture syntactic/hiherarchical structure without explicit building-in of hierarchical mechanisms. There is a cottage industry of papers on this topic; see the Yoav Goldberg arXiv report for a very concrete comparison of a number of approaches.


To be discussed if there is time: Also of interest:
November 13.

Neuroimaging and natural stimuli: methodological discussion

Leader: Cassidy, Aura


Also of interest:

November 20.

Studies using natural stimuli

Leader: Christian, Shohini


Carried over from last week, this paper will be treated as background, with relevant aspects of the paper incorporated into this week's discussion if/as appropriate:

Also of interest:

November 27.

Happy Thanksgiving!

December 4.

The predictive brain

Reading: Also of interest:

Assortment of other related topics we didn't get to


Philip Resnik, Associate Professor
Department of Linguistics and Institute for Advanced Computer Studies

Department of Linguistics
1401 Marie Mount Hall            UMIACS phone: (301) 405-6760       
University of Maryland           Linguistics phone: (301) 405-8903
College Park, MD 20742 USA	   Fax: (301) 314-2644 / (301) 405-7104	   E-mail: resnik AT umd _DOT.GOES.HERE_ edu