Linguistics 567: Knowledge Engineering for NLP

An elective course in UW's Professional Master's in Computational Linguistics

Spring 2019

(Course websites from previous years: 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005)

Course Info

  • Required Text:
  • Recommended Text:
  • Software

    This software is available in the Treehouse. You can also install it on your home machines, but you'll need to be running linux. If you don't already have a linux machine, we suggest Ubuntu+LKB.

    Instructor Info




    Natural language processing (NLP) enables computers to make use of data represented in human language (including the vast quantities of data available on the web) and to interact with computers on human terms. Applications from machine translation to speech recognition and web-based information retrieval demand both precision and robustness from NLP technology. Meetings these demands will require better hand-built grammars of human languages combined with sophisticated statistical processing methods. This class focuses on the implementation of linguistic grammars, drawing on a combination of sound grammatical theory and engineering skills.

    Class meetings will alternate between lectures and discussion sessions. We will cover the implementation of constraints in morphology, syntax and semantics within a unification-based lexicalist framework of grammar. Weekly exercises will focus on building up an implemented grammar for a language (everyone must work on a different language, so be prepared to work with a language you don't know well!), based on the LinGO Grammar Matrix. At the end of the quarter, we will use the various grammars in a machine translation task. New in 2019: We will be testing out the software of the AGGREGATION project and starting from automatically constructed grammar specifications.

    Prerequisites: Linguistics 566 or equivalent. No programming experience is required.

    Note: To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, 206-543-8924 (V/TTY). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating that you have a disability which requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to the instructor so we can discuss the accommodations you might need in this class.


    Weekly lab exercises, typically assigned on Mondays and due by Friday night. Course time on Thursdays will be used for discussion of the exercises, so please work on them ahead of time and bring questions. Lab exercises will require write-ups to explain the phenomena as manifested in your language and how you implemented your analysis. Active class participation will be viewed favorably when it comes to grading.

    Everyone will complete Lab 1 individually, but students are be expected to work in pairs starting with Lab 2. Partners will alternate doing the write up portion of the lab, and have the grades for the labs where they did the write up weighted more heavily in their final course grade.

    Lab exercises are to be turned in via Canvas.

    Late homework policy

    Schedule of Topics and Assignments

    Under construction---will be updated.

    All course recordings will be posted on our Canvas page. If I'm slow to make them available there, please ping me over the Canvas discussions.
    DatesLectureLabDue dateReading
    4/2, 4/4 Overview, Introduction
    LKB Formalism
    Lab 1:
    • Getting to know the LKB and the Grammar Matrix
    • Choose language
    4/5 Ch 1-3
    4/9, 4/11 Testsuites, [incr tsdb()]
    Grammar Matrix

    Lab 2: Initial test run, attempts at getting grammars out of the customization system. 4/12Ch 4-5, Bender et al 2010 (in 'Files' Canvas)
    4/16, 4/18 Lab 3 phenomena Lab 3: Three of
    • Case
    • Agreement
    • Pronouns
    • Tense/aspect
    • Morphotactics
    4/19Goodman 2013
    4/23, 4/25 Lab 4 (& maybe 5) phenomena Lab 4: Three of
    • Negation
    • Adnominal possession
    • Coordination
    • Case
    • Agreement
    • Pronouns
    • Tense/aspect
    • Morphotactics
    4/30, 5/2 MRS Lab 5: Three more phenomena from above or:
    • Clausal complements
    • Adverbial clauses
    • Attributive adjectives
    • Valence-changing morphology
    • Evidentials
    5/3Copestake et al 2005, especially Sec 3
    5/7, 5/9 Non-verbal predicates, ace, Lab 6 preview Lab 6: Non-verbal predicates, locative modifiers 5/10 
    5/14, 5/16 Reflections, MMT sentences, coordination, discourse status, wh questions Lab 7: MMT sentences, two additional phenomena 5/17 
    5/21, 5/23 LOGON MT, VPM Lab 8: VPM, First translation 5/24 
    5/28, 5/29 Transfer rules Lab 9: MT 5/31 
    6/4, 6/6 The Grammar Matrix: Future directions Machine Translation Extravaganza
    Course evals

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