Short course on grammar for language technologists

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Yes, as Mark reveals, we Language Log writers sometimes leave our custom-designed luxury tower block at One Language Log Plaza (which, regrettably, exists mainly in the realm of our imagination), and get out there into what we refer to as "the real world", to teach courses. Not just in the regular linguistics programs of our home universities, but in summer schools and other events where we can lecture to a wider cross-section of the linguistically interested public. For example, are you a student broadly interested in computational linguistics and (ideally) resident in continental Europe? Quite probably not, in which case this particular post is not for you. But if you are, read on for a brief announcement about a course I'll be offering this coming January in the delightful coastal town of Tarragona in eastern Spain.

The one-week Winter School in Language and Speech Technologies, 2012 will run from January 23 to January 27 at the Campus Catalunya building of the Rovira i Virgili University in Tarragona. It's sponsored by the Research Group on Mathematical Linguistics there. I'm going to offer a beginning-to-intermediate-level 8-hour course on January 23 and 24. There are still some places available.

My course has two separate but concurrent parts. In the middle of the day (12 – 2 p.m.) I'll be surveying what we know about the mathematical properties of human languages: the approach based on formal language theory (where you idealize a language as an infinite set of objects such as strings or trees or other graphs and consider what sort of generation or acceptance procedure might define the entire set of properly structured objects) and the approach based on model theory (where you ask how a logical characterization of the common properties of the well-formed objects could be stated).

In the evening classes (8 – 10 p.m.) I'll be providing a compact overview of the informal description of English grammar presented in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, and relating some aspects of its analysis of the syntactic categories and phrase structure of English to the one found in the treebank constructed by the Penn Treebank project.

This is a very wide range of material, and naturally I will only be able to offer a minimal introduction; but I will try to slant it toward coverage of the most crucially important things to understand about both the mathematical-linguistic and the descriptive-grammatical domains, always keeping in mind the needs of those who expect to be involved in research on modern speech and language technologies. See the WSLST-2012 website for details of tuition fees, how to register, and what the accommodation possibilities are.

By the way, this work is often done on a volunteer basis. Mark will get no pay for his course at the Linguistic Institute in summer 2013, and I will get no pay for my course in Tarragona. These, like all of the blogging, we do pro bono — in fact, for love.

[Owing to a technical fault comments seem to have been left open below. Sorry about that.]


  1. Joe said,

    December 24, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

    If it isn't too forward of me, I just wanted to wish you the best holidays that would be possible in these circumstances.

    [Thank you, Joe. It isn't too forward. This Christmas would be a thousand times better if I still had Barbara, but it'll be all right. Happy 2012.—GKP]

  2. Mark Johnson said,

    December 24, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

    Sounds like a great course! Would you be able to post the course handouts and/or slides?

    (I'd like to echo Joe's sentiments as well).

    [The frightening thing about teaching in the 21st century is the number of times people ask you to put stuff on the web when privately you know that you haven't actually finished writing it yet. —GKP]

  3. Shangwen said,

    December 24, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

    Merry Christmas Geoffrey!

  4. Stuart said,

    December 24, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

    What a delightful holiday gift – the opportunity to say thank you for your articles over the year, and to wish you the best holiday season possible. I look forward to being educated and informed by your posts and amused by your "comments are closed" excuses again next year.

  5. Xmun said,

    December 24, 2011 @ 6:14 pm

    Let me too echo the sentiments expressed above by Stuart, Shangwen, Mark Johnson, and Joe, and wish you and the students of your winter school and evening classes every success. I have a pipe dream that perhaps one day you will visit New Zealand and offer some lectures or a course here.

  6. Theophylact said,

    December 24, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

    How can I not take advantage of this brief window of opportunity to

  7. John Walden said,

    December 24, 2011 @ 6:39 pm

    ____ Christmas ____a ____ New____

    Comments are clozed.

    Not a good pun, to express my appreciation.

  8. Robert Harris said,

    December 24, 2011 @ 11:36 pm

    Thanks for all your posts.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

  9. linda seebach said,

    December 25, 2011 @ 10:28 am

    Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!

    I liked it when you had comments, but your inventive reasons for not having them are an excellent alternative.

  10. George Amis said,

    December 25, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

    Since I can't comment there, just let me say that your post "Calling Christmas Christmas" really nailed it. I wish people Merry Christmas, and I'm not annoyed if someone wishes me Happy Hanukkah, and I'm at least as secular as you are. So Merry Christmas, GKP. My thoughts are with you.

  11. yonray said,

    December 26, 2011 @ 6:27 pm

    Yes, we must all pounce on the opportunity to wish GKP all the best! And thanks for letting us, GKP – there are many of us who don't know you and probably never will who agree with me, I feel sure.

  12. Sandra wilde said,

    December 28, 2011 @ 10:56 pm

    I'd like to attend, as long as your course isn't completely over my head. I'm an education professor with a reasonable layperson's knowledge of linguistics. Will i manage okay?

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