When Machines Speak: Language Processing in Computers and Humans

“When Machines Speak: Language Processing in Computers and Humans”

Columbia University | Seminars in Society and Neuroscience
29 March 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM Eastern Time | Online | RSVP required

Building algorithms capable of generating and parsing sentences in human languages has been a long-standing goal of computer science. The recent success of artificial neural networks over traditional symbolic algorithms has led to many breakthroughs. GPT-3, a neural language network developed by OpenAI in 2020, offers a striking example of this progress. Pre-trained on a vast database of books and web pages, the neural network can write essays, summarize text, translate languages, and answer questions. GPT-3’s outputs are grammatically correct, stylistically coherent, and topically relevant. In many cases, the text produced by GPT-3 is convincing enough that people presume other humans wrote it.

Unlike humans, neural networks do not acquire language skills by interacting with the world. Instead, they identify patterns in vast amounts of text and use them to reproduce complex hierarchical relationships between words observed in human languages. While neural networks like GPT-3 can generate text that resembles human writing and thinking, their sole purpose is to analyze a sequence of words and correctly predict which one should be next. This raises interesting questions that intersect with computer science, psychology, neurolinguistics, and philosophy: Do neural networks optimized for text generation represent linguistic features that are functionally similar to the human brain’s representations? In what sense can we say that the outputs produced by these neural networks manifest an understanding of language? What are the broader implications of our answers to these questions for the many current and potential uses of these neural networks on a mass scale? This panel will explore these issues from different perspectives.

Event Speakers

  • Melanie Mitchell, Davis Professor of Complexity at the Santa Fe Institute
  • Brenden Lake, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Data Science at New York University
  • Ev Fedorenko, Frederick A. (1971) and Carole J. Middleton Career Development Associate Professor of Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Moderated by Raphaël Millière, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience at Columbia University
Free and open to the public, but RSVP is required via Eventbrite. Registered attendees will receive an event link shortly before the seminar begins

Workshop: Linguistic illusions in sentence processing

Dates: September 8th and 9th 2020
Call deadline: March 15th 2020
Location: Constance, Germany

Confirmed speakers: Markus Bader (U Frankfurt), Ian Cunnings (U Reading), Julie Franck (U Geneva), Colin Phillips (U Maryland)

Contact: anna.czypionka@uni-konstanz.de

We are very pleased to announce the workshop “Linguistic illusions in sentence processing”, hosted by the Research Unit “Questions at the Interfaces”, the project “The Multilingual Mind”, and the Centre for Multilingualism, to be held at the University of Constance (Germany), September 8th and 9th 2020.

This workshop will provide a platform bringing together researchers working on different linguistic illusions in sentence processing. We will discuss the interplay of different linguistic and nonlinguistic processes reflected in these illusions, and the wide array of diagnostics and tools used in this field. Our goal is to identify the overarching questions in the research of illusions, and to arrive at a more comprehensive understanding of the parallels and differences of the different phenomena currently subsumed under the umbrella term “linguistic illusions”.

We invite abstracts on psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic investigations of different linguistic illusions, for example attraction errors (number attraction, case attraction etc.) or intrusive licensing of negative or positive polarity items. We particularly welcome abstracts dealing with:

  • the interplay between different components of grammar in sentence processing
  • the connection between illusions in sentence processing and the theoretical background of the related phenomena
  • the role of memory retrieval in sentence processing, and its interplay with linguistic processing effects of illusion in bi-/multilinguals
  • comparisons of experimental outcomes and insights from modelling approaches

Abstracts should be one A4 page (12 pt, excluding references and linguistic examples) for 30 minute talks or posters, to be submitted to https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=lisp2020.

For more information, please see https://www.ling.uni-konstanz.de/illusions-2020

Hope to see you next year in Constance, and please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions, Anna Czypionka


3rd International Symposium on Bilingual and L2 Processing in Adults and Children (ISBPAC 2020)

Experiments in Linguistic Meaning (ELM)

June 10-12 2020

Anna Papafragou and Florian Schwarz, Department of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania

We are excited to announce the first Experiments in Linguistic Meaning (ELM) conference to be held at the University of Pennsylvania on June 10-12, 2020. The conference is dedicated to the experimental study of linguistic meaning broadly construed, with a focus on theoretical issues in semantics and pragmatics, their interplay with other components of the grammar, their relation to language processing and acquisition, as well as their connections to human cognition and computation. We aim to include representation of linguistic, psychological, logical, philosophical, social, developmental, computational, as well as cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspectives.

Invited speakers:
David Barner, UC San Diego
Suzi Oliveira de Lima, University of Toronto
Jonathan Philips, Dartmouth College
Maribel Romero, University of Konstanz

The experimental study of meaning in language draws on a broad spectrum of disciplines, topics, and methodologies, and ELM reflects this diversity in its scope. We plan for ELM to occur biennially to foster the interdisciplinary study of meaning, and to create a community of scholars that might not otherwise meet and interact with each other with regularity. We encourage researchers from around the world to submit their recent work to ELM1, and to attend in order to discuss the latest theories and data in the cognitive science of meaning broadly construed.

The University of Pennsylvania is home to a vibrant interdisciplinary community that studies language and meaning across several departments. ELM acknowledges support from Penn’s Integrated Language Sciences and Technology (ILST) Initiative; mindCORE, Penn’s hub for the integrative study of the mind; and Penn’s Department of Linguistics.

Philadelphia is a UNESCO World Heritage City with great history, culture, restaurants and museums. Most major points of interest are within walking distance of the conference location.

Abstract Submissions via Easy Chair, due January 5, 2020 (11:59pm EST)
The conference will feature both 20-minute talks and poster presentations, and abstracts will be considered for both unless only one category is specified at time of submission. Abstracts must be anonymous and written in English. They should use US Letter size paper and 1 inch margins on all four sides. Abstracts must be single-spaced, and written using Ariel 11pt font. Abstracts should be at most 2 pages, including the main text of the abstract, figures, and any supplementary materials and references the authors wish to include. Authors should avoid identifying information in the abstract, especially when referring to their own prior work. The abstract must be submitted as a single PDF file and must include a title at the top. Abstracts violating these requirements may be rejected without further consideration.

November 15, 2019:       ELM abstract submissions opens on Easy Chair (https://easychair.org/my/conference?conf=elm1)
January 5, 2020:               Abstract submission deadline
March 1, 2020:                  Notifications
April 15, 2020:                   Early registration opensContact: anna4@sas.upenn.eduflorians@sas.upenn.edu