Ling848, Fall 2020

LING848, FALL 2020

Seminar in Computational Linguistics: Topics in Computational Linguistics and Computational Social Science


Philip Resnik, [he/him/his]


Online, Wednesdays 2-4:30pm

Join the class discussion board on Piazza for the Zoom link.

Notes for auditors. I have been asked by several people about auditing the class. Folks are quite welcome to audit, with the understanding that anyone coming to class is still expected to (a) attend regularly, not just a la carte, (b) do the readings and participate in the online discussions, (c) and participate in leading discussions. That is, the main thing that will distinguish auditing from taking the class for credit will be that you don't have grading hanging over your head and you're not expected to do a term paper/project.

Where to get information

Overview of Course Goals

Computational social science has emerged as an exciting discipline within which to study social phenomena involving individuals, groups, and organizations using computational methods, and to develop computational solutions to help us make progress on social problems. One of the most important sources of data in this enterprise is human language. This readings seminar will focus primarily on the use of natural language processing methods in computational social science. At the same time, its focus will not be purely technological -- for example, discussion will also include practical and ethical issues in the conduct of such research.


This seminar will mainly involve readings and discussion in class and on Piazza.

'Incomplete' as a grade. Please note that I will not issue an 'incomplete' as a course grade except for serious, officially valid reasons, e.g. documented medical accommodations or serious emergencies. In the event that a medical issue interferes with any class requirement, you are required to let me know in advance or as quickly as can reasonably be expected, and to provide documentation signed by a health care professional. In particular, I will not issue "routine" incompletes requested because of time allocation issues related to research, publication deadlines, or other classes. I will also generally not issue incompletes because of preventable loss of data; please engage in best practices and make sure you are doing regular backups!

That said, if you are having problems of any kind, please talk to me as soon as possible. The best first step in case of trouble of any kind is good communication.

Other important notes

Dealing with the class being online. This is a challenging semester. I would ask that we all be as helpful and accommodating of each other as possible -- for example, meeting on a screen introduces novel challenges for discussion, turn-taking behavior, etc., that we will navigate. As a few specific requests: Course evaluations. I welcome your suggestions for improving this class, so please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts during the semester! You will also be asked to give feedback using the CourseEvalUM system at the end of the semester.

Academic integrity policy. The Honor Code and Honor Pledge prohibit students from cheating on exams, plagiarizing papers, submitting the same paper for credit in two courses without authorization, buying papers, submitting fraudulent documents, and forging signatures. I expect you to follow the academic integrity policy but I am exempting the class from the requirement of hand-writing and signing the honor pledge.

Cheating and collaboration. What you represent as your own work must be your own work. However, talking with one another to understand the material better is strongly encouraged. Recognizing the distinction between cheating and cooperation is very important. If you simply copy someone else's work, you are cheating. If you let someone else copy your work, you are cheating. If someone dictates something to you, you are cheating. Everything you hand in must be in your own words, and based on your own understanding. If someone helps you understand a problem or issue during a high-level discussion, you are not cheating. If you work collaboratively with explicit permission from the instructor, you are not cheating. I strongly encourage students to help one another understand the material presented in class, in the readings, and general issues relevant to any assignments. Any student who is caught cheating will be given an F in the course and referred to the University Student Behavior Committee. Please don't take that chance -- if you're having trouble understanding the material, or if you need some help clarifying what is ok to do and what is not, please let me know and I will be more than happy to help.

Accessibility and Disability Service. See for official information. Students with a documented disability should inform me within the add-drop period if academic accommodations will be needed. We will follow a process that involves meeting with me to provide with a copy of the Accommodations Letter and to obtain my signature on the Acknowledgement of Student Request form. We will plan together how accommodations will be implemented throughout the semester. To obtain the required Accommodation Letter, please contact Accessibility and Disability Service (ADS) at 301-314-7682 or

Mental health issues. Let's face it: grad school can be really hard. All the more so right now. Sometimes students don't know that they need help, or they somehow know they're in trouble but they don't know what to do about it. What's really important for you to know is that at a big university like this one, you don't need to cope with it alone. There are many people on this campus who know how to help students in all kinds of circumstances. It's their job. Some resources you can take advantage of include the Counseling Center, in the Shoemaker Building, 301-314-7651, and Mental Health Services, in the Health Center, 301-314-8106; the Office of Student Affairs, 301-314-8430, is another place you can connect with to find help of various kinds. If you are concerned about the behavior of another student, and in particular if you are worried that they might pose a threat to themselves or others, see this page for students concerned about another student.

Anti-Harassment. The open exchange of ideas, the freedom of thought and expression, and respectful scientific debate are central to the aims and goals of this course. These require a community and an environment that recognizes the inherent worth of every person and group, that fosters dignity, understanding, and mutual respect, and that embraces diversity. Harassment and hostile behavior are unwelcome in any part of this course. This includes: speech or behavior that intimidates, creates personal discomfort, or interferes with a person’s participation or opportunity for participation in the class. We aim for this course to be an environment where harassment in any form does not happen, including but not limited to: harassment based on race, gender, religion, age, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Harassment includes degrading verbal comments, deliberate intimidation, stalking, harassing photography or recording, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. Please contact an instructor or staff member if you have questions or if you feel you are the victim of harassment (or otherwise witness harassment of others), or see this page for pointers to relevant resources.

Please note that as "responsible university employees" faculty are required to report any disclosure of sexual misconduct, i.e., they may not hold such disclosures in confidence. Campus Advocates Respond and Educate (CARE) to Stop Violence provides free confidential (including anonymous) advocacy and therapy services to primary and secondary survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, and sexual harassment; they are not an official reporting entity but rather a resource that can help navigate options and provide connection to appropriate resources; their General Information contact info is (301) 314-2222 ( with a crisis cell contact number at (301) 741-3442. The University of Maryland’s Sexual Misconduct Policy can be found at

Religious holidays. Please send the instructor a list of all holidays you observe during the semester by the end of the first week of classes, so they can be taken into account in the course schedule.

Basic needs security. Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, and believes this may affect their performance in this course, is encouraged to use the resources listed below for support. Students are better served and supported when such circumstances are shared with the professor. Please consider sharing your situation with your professor who may be able to assist you in finding the appropriate resources.

Use of student work.Your completed work may be used by me in this or subsequent semesters for educational purposes. Before making such use of your work, I will either get your written permission, or render the work anonymous by removing all your personal identification from the material.

Names and Pronouns. Many people might go by a name in daily life that is different from their legal name. In this classroom, we seek to refer to people by the names that they go by. Pronouns can be a way to affirm someone's gender identity, but they can also be unrelated to a person's identity. They are simply a public way in which people are referred to in place of their name (e.g. "he" or "she" or "they" or "ze" or something else). In this classroom, you are invited (if you want to) to share what pronouns you go by, and we seek to refer to people using the pronouns that they share. The pronouns someone indicates are not necessarily indicative of their gender identity. Visit to learn more.

Right to change information. Although every effort has been made to be complete and accurate, unforeseen circumstances arising during the semester could require the adjustment of any material given here. Consequently, given due notice to students, the instructor reserves the right to change any information on this syllabus or in other course materials.

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

Department of Linguistics
1401 Marie Mount Hall            
University of Maryland           Linguistics Dept phone: (301) 405-7002
College Park, MD 20742 USA	   Fax: (301) 405-7104	   E-mail: