Ling7800: Advanced Computational Linguistics: Lexical Semantics

Fall 2005

Time and Location: Tuesday/Thursday 9:30 - 11:00, Hellems 271
Assessment: Presentation of two papers, two homeworks and a term project.
Office Hours: Monday 5-6 and Tuesday and 11:00 - 12:00
Instructor: Martha Palmer


One of the great challenges of Natural Language Processing is the multitude of choices that language gives us for expressing the same thing in different ways. This is obviously true when taking other languages into consideration - the same thought can be expressed in English, French, Chinese or Russian, with widely varying results. But it is also true when considering a single language such as English. Light verb constructions, nominalizations, idioms, slang, paraphrases, and synonyms all give us myriads of alternatives for "coining a phrase."

With respect to other languages, one solution that has been often touted is that of an "interlinga:" a universal, language neutral semantic representation that all languages could be mapped onto. This approach has an immediate appeal, since it would obviate the need for specific translation systems for every possible pair of languages. Instead, it would only be necessary to build systems for each individual language that can produce the interlingua representation from an analysis of the sentences in the language, and that can generate fluent sentences from interlingua representations. As desirable as this may seem, and in spite of the tremendous effort that has gone into this quest, the realization of a suitable "interlingua" has proven to be elusive.

The students in this course will be encouraged to form their own opinion of the feasibility of an "interlingua." We will explore in depth alternative styles of semantic representations, and compare and contrast their contributions to finding a useful, common semantic representation that can bridge lexical and structural gaps both mono-lingually and multi-lingually. We will look particularly closely at Question Answering and Machine Translation as NLP applications that are in dire need of such bridges. We will also explore alternative styles of semantic annotations and their cross-linguistic application.

Suggested Schedule and Readings - Open to Modification

8/23, 8/30, 9/1


  • Semantic Representations in NLP Applications - Pundit
  • Martha Palmer, Deborah Dahl, Rebecca [Schiffman] Passonneau, Lynette Hirschman. Marcia Linebarger, John Dowding. (1986), Recovering implicit information, ACL-1986.
  • FrameNet
  • Fillmore et al 2001 "Building a large lexical databank which provides deep semantics"
    Available at: FrameNet
    Fillmore, C.J. 1977 Scenes-and-Frames Semantics in Fundamental Studies in Computer Science: Linguistics Structures Processing, Ed. Antonio Zampolli, pp. 55-81 paper on this page .
  • Semantic Representations in NLP Applications - recent
  • HLT-NAACL 2003 ACL Anthology Web Page
    W03-0902:Schubert L, Tong M. "Extracting and Evaluating General World Knowledge from the Brown Corpus" in Proceedings of the NLT-NAACL 2003 Workshop. Proceedings of the HLT-NAACL 2003 Workshop on Text Meaning
    W03-0901:Clark P, Harrison P., and J. Thomson "A Knowledge-Driven Approach to Text Meaning Processing", in Proceedings of the HLT-NAACL 2003 Workshop on Text Meaning. slides on this page
9/6, 9/8, 9/15

Module 1. Conceptual Representations

  • Wierzbicka, Anna, Cups and Mugs: Lexicography and Conceptual Analysis,The Austrailian Journal of Linguistics, 4:2, pp. 205-255, 1984. Cathy 'cups and mugs' cartoon
  • Schank, Roger, Identification of Conceptualizations Underlying Natural Language, Computer Models of Thought and Language, editors, Schank and Colby, W.H. Freeman and Co.,, pp. 187-247, 1973.
  • Talmy, Leonard, Lexicalization Patterns, semantic structure in lexical forms, In Language Typology and Syntactic Description,Vol. III, ed. Timothy Shopen, Cambridge University Press, pp. 57-149, 1985. paper
9/20, 9/22

Module 2. Semantic Roles

  • Reinhart, Tanya, The Theta System: An Overview, Theoretical Linguistics 28(3), p.229-290, 2002. paper
  • Jackendoff, R.S. 1976 Towards an Explanatory Semantic Representation, Linguistic Inquiry, 7:1, pp. 89-150. paper
    Second half paper

Guest Lecture

  • Walter Kintsch, "From association to analogy: Expanding the scope of LSA" paper
10/4, 10/6, 10/11, 10/18, 10/20

Module 2. Semantic Roles, cont.

  • Fillmore, C. J. 1968 "The Case for Case" in E. Bach and R.T. Harms, eds. Universals in Linguistic Theory, 1-88. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Section 3. paper
  • Fillmore, Charles J. and Atkins, B. T. S. (1998): FrameNet and lexicographic relevance, Proceedings of the First International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation, Granada, Spain.(The quality of the print may be compromised, as the paper was scanned; as such, it is also a very large file.) paper on this page
  • Levin, B. and Rappaport, M., Unaccusativity: At the Syntax-Lexical Semantics Interface, Linguistic Inquiry, paper, and contextual material
  • Levin, B. English Verb Classes: A Preliminary Classification Introduction,MIT Press, pp. 1-23, 1990., paper
    Rappaport M. and B.Levin 1998 "Building Verb Meanings" in Butt, Geuder, eds. The Projection of Arguments: Lexical and Compositional Factors, CSLI Publications paper
  • Dowty D.R 1991 Thematic Proto-Roles and Argument Selection. Language 67: 547-619 sections 1-7 paper

Module 3. Representing Motion Verbs

  • Slobin, D.I. (2004) "The Many Ways to Search for a Frog: Linguistic Typology and the Expression of Motion Events." In S. Stroemqvist and L. Verhoeven (eds). Relating Events in Narrative: Typological and Contextual Perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates paper on this page,
  • and the story
  • Bowerman, Melissa and Choi, Soonja (2001) Shaping meanings for language: universal and language-specific in the acquisition of spatial semantic categories. In M. Bowerman and S. C. Levinson (Eds) Language acquisition and conceptual development, (pp. 475-511). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. paper,
    'Subtle distinctions' cartoon

Module 5. The lexicon in NLP applications

  • Selected readings from Fellbaum,et al., WordNet: Introduction, Nouns and Verbs
  • link

Module 4. Event Semantics

  • Davidson D. 1967. "The Logical Form of Action Sentences" Reprinted in Davidson D: Essays on Actions and Events, Oxford University Press (1980) paper
  • Parsons T. 1990 Events in Semantics of English . MIT Press, Boston paper

Module 6. Semantic Annotation - ACL 2004 Tutorial

  • PropBank
  • Martha Palmer, Dan Gildea, Paul Kingsbury, The Proposition Bank: An Annotated Corpus of Semantic Roles, draft of paper submitted to Computational Linguistics, December, 2003. paper
    Baker & Ruppenhofer 2002 "FrameNet's Frames and Levin's Verb Classes"
    Available at: FrameNet
In Hellems- 11/15

Module 5. The lexicon in NLP Representations, cont.

In Hellems - 11/17

Module 5. The lexicon in NLP applications, cont.

  • Pustejovsky J 1991, The Generative Lexicon, ComputationaI Linguistics, Volume 17, Number 4, December. Paper
  • Event Structure and TimeBank
    Pustejovsky, J., Castaqo, J., Ingria, R., Saurm, R., Gaizauskas, R., Setzer, A. and Katz, G. TimeML: Robust Specification of Event and Temporal Expressions in Text. In Proceedings of the Fifth International Workshop on Computational Semantics (IWCS-5), 2003 paper

Project Summaries


Module 5. The lexicon in NLP applications, cont.

  • P88-1012: Jerry R. Hobbs; Mark Stickel; Paul Martin; Douglas Edwards Interpretation as Abduction, ACL-88, 1988. Paper
  • Extended WordNet
IN THE STADIUM - 12/1, 12/6, 12/8

Module 7. Additional Layers

  • Coreference:
    Joel R. Tetreault. A Corpus-Based Evaluation of Centering and Pronoun Resolution, Computational Linguistics, Volume 27, Number 4, December 2001 paper
  • Discourse Annotation:
    Miltsakaki, Eleni, Prasad, Rashmi, Joshi, Aravind and Webber, Bonnie. (2004). The Penn Discourse TreeBank. In Proceedings of the Language Resources and Evaluation Conference, Lisbon, Portugal. paper
  • Carlson, Lynn, Marcu, Daniel, and Okurowski, Mary Ellen. (2001). Building a discourse-tagged corpus in the framework of rhetorical structure theory. In Proceedings of the 2nd SIGDIAL Workshop on Discourse and Dialogue, Eurospeech, Denmark. paper
  • Martha Palmer; Nianwen Xue; Olga Babko-Malaya; Jinying Chen; Benjamin Snyder A Parallel Proposition Bank II for Chinese and English, Proceedings of the Workshop on Frontiers in Corpus Annotations II: Pie in the Sky, Held in conjunction with ACL-05, Michigan, June, 2005.