Language and Computers

Georgetown University, Spring 2020

Course Description:

Science fiction has promised us intelligent robots like C3P0 and HAL, but instead we’re stuck with Siri. What happened? Why has getting computers to understand language proven so difficult? In this course, we’ll look at this question through the history of computational linguistics and natural language processing: what approaches have researchers taken over the last 60 years of computational linguistics? In what ways did those approaches succeed? In what ways did they fail? Topics will include:

  • The Goals and Applications of Computational Linguistics
  • Pre-statistical Approaches to Natural Language Processing (NLP)
  • Modern, Statistical Approaches to NLP The class will focus on the concepts behind these topics rather than implementing them, so no programming experience is required.

No prerequisites, though many concepts will overlap with those in Introduction to Language (LING 001).

I taught this course in Spring 2020–an exciting semester for my first university teaching experience! For the first half of the semester, it was a regular in-person class; in the latter half, we moved to an asynchronous online format.

Check out the syllabus for more details!