Syllabus: Computational Semantics

Course Information

  • Course: Computational Semantics, LIN386M
  • Unique number: 48360
  • Semester: Spring 2014
  • Course page: 
  • Course location: CLA 0.108

Instructor Contact Information

  • office hours: Tuesday 3:30-4:30pm. Wednesday 2-4pm.
  • office: Liberal Arts Building 4.734
  • phone: 471-9020
  • fax: 471-4340
  • email: katrin dot erk at mail dot utexas dot edu


Graduate standing, introduction to computational linguistics

Syllabus and Text

This page serves as the syllabus for this course.

There is no course textbook. Readings will be made available through the Schedule page.

Exams and Assignments

There will be four homework assignments and a project.

Course Project (60%)

  • Proposal (5%, 2 pages).
  • Progress Report (10%, 6 pages).
  • Final Report (30%, 8 pages).
  • Final Presentation (15%).

Assignments: 40% (10% each)

Assignments will be updated on the assignments page. A tentative schedule for the entire semester is posted on the schedule page. Readings and exercises may change up one week in advance of their due dates. Attendance is not factored into the grade, but will be very helpful in achieving the course goals.

Philosophy and Goal

Semantics is currently a very active area of computational linguistics -- but also a very diverse one. People work on word sense, semantic roles, selectional preferences, logic-based semantics and shallower approximations of it, as well as on many semantics-related tasks and task-specific semantic representations. But there are problems that come up again and again in different tasks, and representation ideas that come up again and again in different variants. In this course, we focus on two influential classes of representations: logic-based semantics and distributional semantics, and on central phenomena that they address.

Content Overview

Topics of this course include:

Logic-based semantics:

  • Semantics construction
  • Typed lambda calculus
  • Inferences and theorem proving
  • Quantifiers, generalized quantifiers, and underspecification
  • Intensions

Distributional semantics:

  • Induction of distributional models from corpus data
  • Practical issues in computing distributional models
  • Distributional models for word meaning in context
  • Compositional distributional semantics

We will also discuss possibilities for integrating the two approaches.

Detailed Course Content

Detailed course content is given on the Schedule page.

Extension Policy

If you turn in your assignment late, expect points to be deducted. Extensions will be considered on a case-by-case basis, but in most cases they will not be granted.

For other assignments, by default, 5 points (out of 100) will be deducted for lateness, plus an additional 1 point for every 24-hour period beyond 2 that the assignment is late. For example, an assignment due at 2pm on Tuesday will have 5 points deducted if it is turned in late but before 2pm on Thursday. It will have 6 points deducted if it is turned in by 2pm Friday, etc.

Notify me in advance if you need an extension on a course requirement. The greater the advance notice of a need for an extension, the greater the likelihood of leniency.

Academic Dishonesty Policy

You are encouraged to discuss assignments with classmates. But all written work must be your own. Students caught cheating will automatically fail the course. If in doubt, ask the instructor.

Notice about students with disabilities

The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. To determine if you qualify, please contact the Dean of Students at 471-6529; 471-4641 TTY. If they certify your needs, we will work with you to make appropriate arrangements.

Notice about missed work due to religious holy days

A student who misses an examination, work assignment, or other project due to the observance of a religious holy day will be given an opportunity to complete the work missed within a reasonable time after the absence, provided that he or she has properly notified the instructor. It is the policy of the University of Texas at Austin that the student must notify the instructor at least fourteen days prior to the classes scheduled on dates he or she will be absent to observe a religious holy day. For religious holy days that fall within the first two weeks of the semester, the notice should be given on the first day of the semester. The student will not be penalized for these excused absences, but the instructor may appropriately respond if the student fails to complete satisfactorily the missed assignment or examination within a reasonable time after the excused absence.

Emergency Evacuation Policy

Occupants of buildings on The University of Texas at Austin campus are required to evacuate buildings when a fire alarm is activated. Alarm activation or announcement requires exiting and assembling outside. Familiarize yourself with all exit doors of each classroom and building you may occupy. Remember that the nearest exit door may not be the one you used when entering the building. Students requiring assistance in evacuation shall inform their instructor in writing during the first week of class. In the event of an evacuation, follow the instruction of faculty or class instructors. Do not re-enter a building unless given instructions by the following: Austin Fire Department, The University of Texas at Austin Police Department, or Fire Prevention Services office. Information regarding emergency evacuation routes and emergency procedures can be found at

Behavior Concerns Advice Line (BCAL)

If you are worried about someone who is acting differently, you may use the Behavior Concerns Advice Line to discuss by phone your concerns about another individual's behavior. This service is provided through a partnership among the Office of the Dean of Students, the Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC), the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and The University of Texas Police Department (UTPD). Call 512-232-5050 or visit