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Patterns in Language (Fall 2020)

Course Description

If a computer can beat humans at Jeopardy!, does it follow that machines can think? Is it possible to predict the spread of the flu based on patterns in Google searches? Did Shakespeare really write that sonnet? Scientists use patterns in language to answer these questions, using the same concepts that underlie such everyday applications as search engines, automatic translators, speech recognition, spell-checkers, and auto-correction tools. We examine these applications, focusing on the technological and linguistic ideas behind them and gaining practical hands-on experience and insight into how they work. No programming experience is required; students only need curiosity about language and some everyday experience with computers.

Course Details

  • Title: LING-UA 6 Patterns in Language
  • Lecture (section 001): 
    • Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:55pm-6:10pm
    • Either online or Silver Center 206; to be determined
    • Instructor: Lucas Champollion
  • Recitation (section 002):
    • Tuesdays, 4:55pm-6:10pm
    • Either online or 10 Washington Pl, room 104; to be determined
    • Instructor: Alex Warstadt
  • Recitation (section 003): 
    • Wednesdays, 11:00am-12:15pm
    • Either online or 10 Washington Pl, room 104; to be determined
    • Instructor: Anna Alsop
  • Prerequisites: None; this course assumes no prior knowledge of linguistics or computer science, and only high-school level math background. Don’t worry if you are not a native speaker of English.

Textbook

Language and computers by Markus Dickinson, Chris Brew, Detmar Meurers

ISBN: 978-1-4051-8305-5

Available at the NYU Bookstore, and online (about $35). Also available as an ebook, to buy or rent.

Course Requirements (if the course meets in person)

  • Homework assignments (30%)
  • Midterm exam (30%)
  • Final exam (30%)
  • Recitation (10%)

Tentative syllabus

  • Week 1 (Aug 31)
    • M: (no class)
    • W: Organization, Introduction
  • Week 2 (Sep 7)
    • M: (no class – Labor Day)
    • W: Jupyter notebook crash course in Python
  • Week 3 (Sep 14)
    • M: Ch 1 (w/o Section 1.4): Encodings
    • W: Ch 1: Probability and language models
  • Week 4 (Sep 21)
    • M: Ch 1: Probability and language models
    • W: Ch 2: Writers’ Aids
  • Week 5 (Sep 28)
    • M: Ch 2: Writers’ Aids
    • W: Ch 4: Search
  • Week 6 (Oct 5)
    • M: Ch 4: Search
    • W: Regular expressions & command line
  • Week 7 (Oct 12)
    • M: midterm review
    • W: midterm
  • Week 8 (Oct 19)
    • M: Guest speaker?
    • W: Ch 5: Classifiers and machine learning
  • Week 9 (Oct 26)
    • M: Ch 5: Classifiers and machine learning
    • W: Ch 6: Dialog systems and AI
  • Week 10 (Nov 2)
    • M: Guest speaker?
    • W: Ch 6: Dialog systems and AI
  • Week 11 (Nov 9)
    • M: Ch 7: Machine translation
    • W: Ch 7: Machine translation
  • Week 12 (Nov 16)
    • M: Ch 7: Machine translation
    • W: Forensic linguistics
  • Week 13 (Nov 23)
    • M: Guest speaker?
    • W: Speech synthesis
  • Week 14 (Nov 30)
    • M: Ch 1 Section 1.4: Speech recognition
    • W: Ch 8: Impact of LT / Google Flu Trends
  • Week 15 (Dec 7)
    • M: (spillover day)
    • W: Final review
  • Week 16 (Dec 14)
    • Final exam (date set by registrar’s office)

Coronavirus considerations

The current situation makes it difficult to plan ahead. As of today (May 7, 2020) there is no way to tell if this course will take place in-person, online, or as a mix of the two. The course requirements might be adapted as a result.

If you are planning on taking this course, I am eager to hear from you about how your personal situation is being affected by the coronavirus, and any concerns you might have that relate to how this course will be held. Drop me a line at champollion@nyu.edu.

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