LIN350 Computational Semantics: Syllabus

Course Information

Instructor Contact Information

    • Katrin Erk

    • office hours: Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday 1-2pm. Office hours will be via Zoom.

    • office: RLP 4.734

    • email: katrin dot erk at utexas dot edu

Teaching Assistant

    • Yejin Cho

    • office hours: Wednesday/Friday 9:30-11am

    • office: RLP 4.400, desk W3 (a cubicle just next to 4.426 near skybridge)

    • email: ycho at utexas dot edu


Upper-division standing.

Syllabus and Text

This page serves as the syllabus for this course.

There is no textbook for this course.

Readings will be made available for download from the course website.

Content Overview

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.

This course focuses on two frameworks in semantics, distributional models and logic-based semantics. Topics include:

Embeddings / Distributional representations:

    • What are embeddings/distributional models, and what they can be used for?

    • Making embeddings by counting words

    • Making embeddings using neural networks

    • Using embeddings

    • Characterizing whole texts

Logic-based semantics:

    • Semantics construction

    • Typed lambda calculus

    • Inferences and theorem proving

A detailed schedule for the course, with topics for each lecture, is available at the schedule page, which forms part of the syllabus.


This course carries the Quantitative Reasoning flag. Quantitative Reasoning courses are designed to equip you with skills that are necessary for understanding the types of quantitative arguments you will regularly encounter in your adult and professional life. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from your use of quantitative skills to analyze real-world problems.

This course also carries the Independent Inquiry flag. Independent Inquiry courses are designed to engage you in the process of inquiry over the course of a semester, providing you with the opportunity for independent investigation of a question, problem, or project related to your major. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from the independent investigation and presentation of your own work.

Course requirements and grading policy

    • Assignments: 60% (4 assigments, 15% each)

    • Course project:

      • Initial project description: 5%

      • Intermediate project report: 10%

      • Course presentation: 5%

      • Final report: 20%

Course projects should be done by teams of 2 students. Projects done by 1 or 3 students are only possible with prior approval of the instructor.

Project presentations will be in the final week of classes, in the order given on the schedule page (which will be generated via Python's random.shuffle()). Each presentation will be 5 minutes long. If possible, all members of a project team should get some time to speak. By default, presentations will be at class time through Zoom. Groups that cannot be present at class time may submit a recording of their presentation (5 minutes), which will be due at the beginning of class (12pm) on the day for which the group's presentation is scheduled. By default, this presentation will be shown to the whole class at class time, unless the group asks me not to.

Assignments will be updated on Canvas, There will be 4 assignments. 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.

This course does not have a midterm or final exam.

Options for course projects, and more details on the project requirements are listed on the project page.

The course will use plus-minus grading, using the following scale:

Attendance is not required. However, given that we will do a lot of hands-on exercises in class, and the homework assignments and the project address the material covered in class, good attendance is essential for doing well in this class.

Extension Policy

If you turn in your assignment late and we have not agreed on an extension beforehand, expect points to be deducted. Extensions will be considered on a case-by-case basis. I urge you to let me know if you are in need of an extension, such that we can make sure that you get the time necessary to complete the assignments.

If an extension has not been agreed on beforehand, then for 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.

Note that there are always some points to be had, even if you turn in your assignment late. So if you would like to know if you should still turn in the assignment even though it is late, the answer is always yes. The last day in the semester on which the class meets is the last day to turn in late assignments for grading.

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. Please contact the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities, 471-6259.

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

Senate Bill 212 and Title IX Reporting Requirements

Under Senate Bill 212 (SB 212), the professor and TAs for this course are required to report for further investigation any information concerning incidents of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking committed by or against a UT student or employee. Federal law and university policy also requires reporting incidents of sex- and gender-based discrimination and sexual misconduct (collectively known as Title IX incidents). This means we cannot keep confidential information about any such incidents that you share with us. If you need to talk with someone who can maintain confidentiality, please contact University Health Services (512-471-4955 or 512-475-6877) or the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center (512-471-3515 or 512-471-2255). We strongly urge you make use of these services for any needed support and that you report any Title IX incidents to the Title IX Office.