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KMDI at 13 Lecture Series: “Understanding Language Understanding”

April 14, 2009

The events will be webcast live and archived using ePresence Interactive Media. Instructions on accessing the webcasts may be found at

Understanding Speech
Gerald Penn - Computer Science
A tacit assumption made in the heyday of the late 1990s was that everyone wanted speech – we simply must build it, and they will come. It has since become increasingly clear that voice interfaces and speech recognition are not the appropriate means of interacting in every circumstance. Recent research in spoken language processing has had to very carefully contextualize itself with respect to how it will be used. I will discuss some of the shortcomings, challenges and successes of realistically using speech in human-computer interfaces.

Understanding Text from Both the User’s and the Writer’s Perspective
Graeme Hirst - Computer Science
This talk will describe how sophisticated new applications in computational linguistics and natural language processing, such as intelligence gathering and question answering, will lead to changes in how users and natural language systems view the idea of what the meaning of a text is. Writer-based and reader-based views of text-meaning are reflected by the respective questions “What is the author trying to tell me?” and “What does this text mean to me personally?” This talk will discuss different views of text-meaning from the perspective of computational text analysis.

Understanding an Author’s Intentions with Computer Text Analysis
Ian Lancashire - English
Among the earliest knowledge media, writing relies on literacy, a cognitive tool in uttering and understanding speech. Yet, as Socrates and David Olson say, and as English literature courses prove, writing problematizes meaning, ignores authorial intention, and hinders effective communication. This talk will (contra Roland Barthes’ useful obiter dictum, that the author is dead) talk about how we can find the human being in his text and take a little step in remediating the dehumanizing side-effects of literacy in knowledge media.


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