HLT Lecture Series

This CSAIL seminar series, organized in cooperation with the Siri team at Apple, invites leading researchers in Human Language Technology to give lectures that introduce the fundamentals of spoken language systems, assess the current state of the art, outline challenges, and speculate on how they can be met. Lectures occur approximately 2 times per semester and should be accessible to undergraduates with some technical background.

Dan Jurafsky- Extracting Social Meaning from Language: The Computational Linguistics of Food and the Spread of Innovation
Automatically extracting social meaning from language is one of the most exciting challenges in natural language understanding. In this talk I’ll summarize a number of recent results using the tools of natural language processing to help extract and understand social meaning from texts of different sorts. We’ll explore the relationship between language, economics and social psychology in the automatic processing of the language of restaurant menus and reviews. And I’ll show how natural language processing can help model different aspects of the spread of innovation through communities: how interdisciplinarity plays a crucial role in the spread of scientific innovation, and how the spread of linguistic innovation is intricately tied up with people's lifecycle in online communities.

Steve Young - Towards Open-domain Spoken Dialogue Systems
In contrast to traditional rule-based approaches to building spoken dialogue systems, recent research has shown that it is possible to implement all of the required functionality using statistical models trained using a combination of supervised learning and reinforcement learning. This new approach to spoken dialogue is based on the mathematics of partially observable Markov decision processes (POMDPs) in which user inputs are treated as observations of some underlying belief state, and system responses are determined by a policy which maps belief states into actions. Virtually all current spoken dialogue systems are designed to operate in a specific carefully defined domain such as restaurant information, appointment booking, product installation support, etc.

Michael Picheny - Spoken Term Detection - A Loss for Words
As speech recognition continues to improve, new applications of the technology have been enabled. It is now common to search for information and send accurate short messages by speaking into a cellphone - something completely impractical just a few years ago. Another application that has recently been gaining attention is "Spoken Term Detection" - using speech recognition technology to locate key words or phrases of interest in running speech of variable quality. Spoken Term Detection can be used to issue real time alerts, rapidly identify multimedia clips of interesting content, and, when combined with search technology, even provide real-time commentary during broadcasts and meetings.

Lillian Lee - Language as Influence(d): Power and Memorability
What effect does language have on people, and what effect do people have on language? You might say in response, "Who are you to discuss these problems?" and you would be right to do so; these are Major Questions that science has been tackling for many years. But as a field, I think natural language processing and computational linguistics have much to contribute to the conversation, and I hope to encourage the community to further address these issues. To this end, I'll describe two efforts I've been involved in. The first project provides evidence that in group discussions, power differentials between participants are subtly revealed by how much one individual immediately echoes the linguistic style of the person they are responding to.