Linguistics 567: Knowledge Engineering for NLP

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

Winter 2020

(Course websites from previous years: 2019 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.

    Accesibility Policies

    If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

    If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or or DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

    Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW's policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Faculty Syllabus Guidelines and Resources. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form available at

    [Note from Emily: The above language is all language suggested by UW and in the immediately preceding paragraph in fact required by UW. I absolutely support the content of both and am struggling with how to contextualize them so they sound less cold. My goal is for this class to be accessible. I'm glad the university has policies that help facilitate that. If there is something you need that doesn't fall under these policies, I hope you will feel comfortable bringing that up with me as well.]


    Weekly lab exercises, typically assigned on Mondays and due by Friday night. Course time on Wednesdays 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
    1/6, 1/8 Overview, Introduction
    LKB Formalism
    Lab 1:
    • Getting to know the LKB and the Grammar Matrix
    • Choose language
    1/10 Ch 1-3
    1/13, 1/15 Testsuites, [incr tsdb()]
    Grammar Matrix

    Lab 2: Testsuites/customization I:
    Initial test run, plus two of:
    • Case
    • Agreement
    • Pronouns
    • Tense/aspect
    • Morphotactics
    1/17Ch 4-5, Bender et al 2010 (in 'Files' Canvas)
    [Monday holiday]
    Lab 3 phenomena Lab 3: Testsuites/customization II:
    Three of
    • Negation
    • Adnominal possession
    • Coordination
    • Case
    • Agreement
    • Pronouns
    • Tense/aspect
    • Morphotactics
    1/22Goodman 2013
    1/27, 1/29 Lab 4 phenomena Lab 4: Testsuites/customization III:
    Three more phenomena from above or:
    • Clausal complements
    • Adverbial clauses
    • Attributive adjectives
    • Valence-changing morphology
    • Evidentials
    • wh-questions [priority]
    2/3, 2/5 MRS Lab 5:
    • tdl fix-ups from labs 2-4
    • non-verbal predicates
    • locative modifiers
    2/7Copestake et al 2005, especially Sec 3
    2/10, 2/12 Lab 6:
    • questions (wh, yesno)
    • embedded clauses (delcarative, interrogative)
    • tdl fix-ups from Lab 5
    • One corpus sentence
    [Monday holiday]
    Reflections, MMT sentences, coordination, discourse status, wh questions Lab 7: MMT sentences, two additional phenomena 2/21 
    2/24, 2/26 LOGON MT, VPM Lab 8: VPM, First translation 2/28 
    3/2, 3/4 Transfer rules Lab 9: MT 3/6 
    3/9, 3/11 The Grammar Matrix: Future directions Machine Translation Extravaganza
    Course evals

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