Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Course Description

How do words get their meanings? How can word meanings be represented and used by machines? We will explore three families of approaches to these questions from a computational perspective. Relational / structural methods such as semantic networks represent the meaning of words in terms of their relations to other words. Knowledge of the world through perception and action leads to the notion of external grounding, a process by which word meanings are 'attached' to the world. How an agent theorizes about, and conceptualizes its world provides yet another foundation for word meanings. We will examine each of these perspectives, and consider ways to integrate them.


Activities Percentages
Bi-weekly paper critiques 40%
Class participation 20%
Term project / paper 40%

Section 1 – Overview

Reading 1.1: Harnad, S. "The Symbol Grounding Problem." Physica D 42 (1990): 335-346

Reading 1.2: Quillian, M. "Semantic Memory." Semantic Information Processing. Edited by M. Minsky. Cambridge, M. A.: MIT Press, 1968, pp. 216-270.

Section 2 – Relational Networks

Reading 2.1: Miller, G. "Nouns in WordNet." WordNet: An Electronic Lexical Database. Edited by C. Fellbaum. MIT Press, 1998.

Reading 2.2: Pustejovsky, J. "Type construction and the logic of concepts." The language of word meaning. Edited by P. Bouillon, and F. Busa. Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Section 3 - External Grounding I

The following readings will be discussed in class during sess #7:

Reading 3.1: Brooks, R. A. "Intelligence Without Representation." Artificial Intelligence Journal 47 (1991): 139–159.

Reading 3.2: Smith, Brian Cantwell. On the origin of objects. MIT Press. excerpts.

Section 4 - External Grounding II

Reading 4.1: Gardenfors, P. "Symbolic, conceptual and subconceptual representations." Human and Machine Perception: Information Fusion. Edited by V. Cantoni, V. di Gesù, A. Setti, and D. Tegolo. N. Y.:Plenum Press, 1997, pp. 255-270.

Reading 4.2: Regier, T., and Carlson, L. "Grounding spatial language in perception: An empirical and computational investigation." Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130(2) (2001): 273-298.

Reading 4.3: Hofstadter, D. "A Review of Mental Leaps: Analogy in Creative Thought." AI Magazine (Fall 1995) 75-80.

Section 5 – Integration I

Reading 5.1: Goldstone, R. L., and Rogosky, B. J. "Using relations within conceptual systems to translate across conceptual systems." Cognition 84, 295-320.

Section 6 – Theory / Theory I

Summaries of papers only; to be discussed during sess #12.

Reading 6.1: Allen, James. Chapter 13 in Natural language understanding. Benjamin/Cummings, 1995.

Reading 6.2: Meuller, Erik T. ThoughtTreasure: A natural language/commonsense platform. 2002.

Section 7 – Theory / Theory II

Summaries / critiques due by noon, a day before sess #11; to be discussed during sess #11.

Reading 7.1: Gopnik, A. "The Scientist as Child." Philosophy of Science 63(4) (1996): 485-514.

Reading 7.2: Carey, S., and Spelke, E. "Science and core knowledge." Philosophy of science 63(4) (1996): 515-533.

Section 8 – Integration II

Summaries / critiques due by 10am, sess #12; to be discussed during sess #12

Reading 8.1: Jackendoff, R. Chapter 9 in Foundations of Language. Oxford University Press, 2002.

Reading 8.2: Jackendoff, R. Chapters 10a, 10b in Foundations of Language. Oxford University Press, 2002.