Time+Place: Monday 29/12/2014 14:30 Room Class 6, Floor 1, Taub Bld.
Title: Machine-Learning the Hidden Universal Semantics of Natural Languages
Speaker: Omri Abend - CS-Lecture - NOTE UNUSUAL DAY AND ROOM http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/oabend/
Affiliation: School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
Host: Alon Itai


The field of Natural Language Processing (NLP) has recently been pivotal 
in producing important language technologies such as machine translation 
and question answering. Such technologies are based on elaborate 
structural representations of text, detected by  statistical methods. 
However, common approaches to structural representation are 
language-specific or even domain-specific, limiting the applicability of 
NLP tools and models. How to represent both the idiosyncrasies of 
specific domains and languages as well as their commonalities is still 
an open question.

In my talk I will address these questions and propose an approach for 
discovering a level of representation shared by all languages using 
latent variable models for structured prediction. Under this approach, 
learning starts from universally-applicable coarse-grained logical 
structure, which is used to bootstrap the learning of more fine-grained 
semantic distinctions, as well as the learning of the specifics of 
individual languages. I will discuss the value of universal semantic 
structures both to the computational modeling of child language 
acquisition, and to leading NLP applications, focusing on 
machine-reading of web data and machine translation.

Joint work with Ari Rappoport, Shay Cohen and Mark Steedman.

Short Bio:
Omri Abend is a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Informatics of 
the University of Edinburgh, working in the fields of Natural Language 
Processing and Computational Linguistics in Mark Steedman's lab. Omri 
earned his PhD from the Hebrew University, under the supervision of Ari 
Rappoport. During his PhD studies, he was a member of the Azrieli 
Fellows Program for promoting academic excellence and leadership. Prior 
to that, Omri studied mathematics and cognitive sciences at the Hebrew 
University (BSc, summa cum laude).