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FH Distinguished Lecture Series - It matters who said it and why: How careful handling of linguistic data leads to better language technology

by Professor Emily M. BENDER, Professor of Linguistics, Adjunct Professor of Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington

Date                 4 December 2018
Time                 4:30pm-6:30pm
Venue               N001
The talk will be conducted in English.

Language technology is becoming ubiquitous: in any human activity where speech or text is captured in digital form, there is a potential language technology application. Natural language processing (NLP)/computational linguistics is the interdisciplinary field that is concerned with the automatic processing of speech and text by machines for research purposes, commercial purposes, and governmental purposes. The field is nominally interdisciplinary, but in many cases falls short of that ideal: much work at the top NLP conferences is machine learning algorithms applied to linguistic data written by people without much or any training in how language works. This leads to less effective technology, less evaluation of technology, less inclusive technology, and less understanding of the biases in the technology. So what can be done? These are complex problems which demand multifaceted solutions, but starting points include: more truly interdisciplinary collaboration, making linguistics accessible to specialists in computer science, and creating and promoting practices that bring properties of data into focus.

About the Speaker
Emily M. Bender is a Professor of Linguistics and Adjunct Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington. She earned her PhD in Linguistics from Stanford University in 2000 and has been a member of the faculty at UW since 2003. Her primary research interests are in multilingual grammar engineering, the study of variation, both within and across languages, computational semantics, and the relationship between linguistics and computational linguistics. She is the founding faculty director of UW’s professional master’s in computational linguistics (CLMS), past-chair of the North American Association for Computational Linguistics, and a member of UW’s Tech Policy Lab.

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