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Fine-grained differences and similarities in meanings

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Writing or speaking requires making choices from words and syntactic constructions that have similar but not identical meanings. Are two parties “foes” or “enemies”? Did John meet Mary or was Mary met by John? An important component of language understanding is recognizing the implications of the nuances in the speaker’s or writer’s choices. I will describe our research on computational aspects of linguistic nuance, focusing on the differentiation of near-synonyms and on the consequences that arise for knowledge representation formalisms. In addition, I will discuss how contemporary views of meaning in computational linguistics need to be broadened to take into account the choices that the speaker or writer makes.

Graeme Hirst is a professor of computer science at the University of Toronto, whose research covers a broad but integrated range of topics in computational linguistics, natural language understanding, and related areas of cognitive science. He is the author of two monographs: Anaphora in Natural Language Understanding (1981) and Semantic Interpretation and the Resolution of Ambiguity (1987). Hirst has received two awards for excellence in teaching, and has supervised graduate students in more than 35 theses and dissertations, four of which have been published as books.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Wednesday Seminars series.

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