2008-09 Catalog

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Program Description

Data and Information: Computational Linguistics

Revised Last Updated: 09/18/2008

Fall quarter

Faculty: Judy Cushing ecology, computer science, Rachel Hastings linguistics, mathematics, Brian Walter mathematics, logic, linguistics

Major areas of study include linguistics, computer science, history and philosophy of language, ecology and eco-informatics, mathematics and writing.

Class Standing: This all-level program accepts up to 25% freshmen as well as supporting and encouraging those ready for advanced work.

Prerequisites: Proficiency with algebra is strongly recommended.

When we read a text, how do we come to understand what it means? We bring to our reading of that text three critical things: 1) knowledge of the language in which the text is written - its grammar and the meanings of the words, 2) our understanding of how the world works and how humans communicate, and 3) our natural human intelligence. Even with these abilities, however, we often misinterpret text (or data), or are sometimes faced with too much information and data, and need help, for example, as Google provides when we search the web.

How might a computer assist in processing human language? In this program we will explore the complexity of developing an interface between human speech or writing and the power of computing. Although the task is complex and brushes against fundamental questions in intelligence, we will find that an understanding of the abstract structure and organization of human language provides guidance to the person who trains a computer to mine texts for structure and meaning, and even to those who work with computers analyzing text and data.

This program will bring together introductions to linguistic theory and computer science with the goal of exploring the interaction between the two areas. In linguistics this will include looking at the structure of words, sentences and texts (morphology, phonology, syntax and discourse) as well as their meanings (semantics and pragmatics). In computer science students will learn to program in Python and study how computers are used to understand texts and data.

Ecology case studies that involve text and data will help us apply learning from linguistics and computing. We will consider how computational techniques process text at the sentence level, and glean meanings using principles of linguistic structure and interpretation. We will look more globally at entire documents, asking how computers identify main topics, and we will study ontologies, or ways that concepts are categorized and represented.

In conjunction with studies in linguistics and computer science we will read about the history and philosophy of both fields, and gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between human and computer intelligence.

Credits: 16 per quarter

Enrollment: 72

Books: www.tescbookstore.com

Program is preparatory for careers and future studies in linguistics, computer science, ecological informatics and education.

Planning Units: Programs for Freshmen, Culture, Text and Language, Environmental Studies, Scientific Inquiry

Program Revisions

Date Revision
September 18th, 2008 Corrections made to faculty information