Date(s) - 09/06/2014
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Lecture – “What’s so great about compositionality?”, Institute for Language, Cognition and Computation, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
contact: Chris Lucas (C.Lucas@ed.ac.uk) for more information.
Abstract: Compositionality is the tenet that the meaning of an expression is determined by the meanings of its immediate parts along with their method of combination. The semantics of artificial languages (such as programming languages or logics) are uniformly given compositionally, so that the notion doesn’t even arise in that literature. Linguistic theories, on the other hand, differ as to whether the relationship that they posit between the syntax and semantics of a natural language is structured in a compositional manner. Theories following the tradition of Richard Montague take compositionality to be a Good Thing, whereas theories in the transformational tradition eschew it.
I will look at what compositionality is and isn’t, why it seems desirable, why it seems problematic, and whether its advantages can’t be provided by other means. In particular, I argue that synchronous semantics can provide many of the advantages of compositionality, whether it is itself properly viewed as a compositional method, as well as having interesting practical applications
Biography: Stuart Shieber is a Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University. His primary research field is computational linguistics. His research contributions have extended beyond that field to theoretical linguistics, natural-language processing, computer-human interaction, automated graphic design, the philosophy of artificial intelligence, computer privacy and security, and computational biology. He is the founding director of the Center for Research on Computation and Society and a faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
Professor Shieber received an AB in applied mathematics summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1981 and a PhD in computer science from Stanford University in 1989. He was awarded a Presidential Young Investigator award in 1991 and was named a Presidential Faculty Fellow in 1993.
He is the author or editor of five books and numerous articles in computer science. He has been a member of the editorial boards for the journals Computational Linguistics, Grammars, Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, Journal of Language and Computation, and Journal of Heuristics.
His work on open access and scholarly communication policy, especially his development of Harvard’s open-access policies, led to his appointment as the first director of the university’s Office for Scholarly Communication, where he oversaw initiatives to open, share, and preserve scholarship, and where he continues to advise as faculty director of the office.