CS 35100-1: Natural Language Processing

       Introduction to Discourse and Dialogue

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Course Description

Term: Winter 2008 
When: T 3-5:30pm 
Where: Ryerson 277
Instructor: Gina-Anne Levow

Utterances in natural language rarely occur in isolation; instead, they appear in context, as
part of a larger span of extended text or dialogue.  How does the context affect the meaning
of the utterance?  How does the meaning of a dialogue differ from the meaning of the individual
utterances of which it is composed?  Importantly, how can we as computer scientists automatically interpret
these contextual meanings?  How can a system identify indirect requests, miscommunications, or politeness? 
We will examine techniques that exploit different cues
to discourse meaning and structure, including textual cues, intonation, and even non-verbal
signals.  We will discuss different theories that have been proposed to correctly interpret 
utterances in context, drawing from work  in computer science planning, linguistics, and
even philosophy.  We will explore ways in which system designers have attempted to
improve human-computer interaction through discourse and dialogue handling, and assess
the limitations of current approaches, identifying key challenges and proposing some

Requirements: Permission of instructor. Background in Linguistics, AI, AND/OR building interactive systems preferable.