Linguistics 245
Language and Computers
Spring 2012

Course goals Present-day computer systems work with human language in many different forms, whether as stored data in the form of text, typed queries to a database or search engine, or speech commands in a voice-driven computer system. We also increasingly expect computers to produce human language, such as user-friendly error messages and synthesized speech. Through readings, exercises, demonstrations, and in-class discussion, this course will survey a range of issues relating natural language to computers, covering real-world applications.

Topics include text encoding, search technology, tools for writing support, machine translation, dialogue systems, computer-aided language learning, and the social context of language technology.

There are no prerequisites for this course. This course satisfies a Natural and Mathematical Sciences (N&M) Breadth of Inquiry credit.

Meeting time: MW 1:00pm-2:15pm

Classroom: Psychology (PY) 111

Course website:

Assignments, slides, etc. will be posted here.

Credits: 3

Course prerequisites: None.

Instructor: Markus Dickinson

Office: Memorial Hall (MM) 317

Phone: 856-2535

E-mail: (remove candy bar)

Office hours:

R 11am
or by appointment

Course requirements: There will be reading selections throughout the semester from a draft of a textbook. There will be approximately one exercise sheet, or homework, every two weeks. These assignments give you the opportunity to explore new aspects of the topics discussed in class, as well as to ensure that you are comprehending the material covered in class. Additionally, there will be in-class exercises which are included in your participation grade.

Readings: There is no textbook to purchase for this course, but there will be readings assigned throughout the course, mainly from a textbook-in-progress.

For each unit, slides will be available from the webpage, generally before class. These slides are meant to aid classroom discussion and cannot replace actually being in class.

Grading: Grades will be based on classroom discussion/participation, homeworks, a midterm exam, and a final examination.

Homeworks 42%(7@6% each)
Midterm 25%Monday, February 27 @ 1:00-2:15pm
Final 25%Wednesday, May 2 @ 5:00-7:00pm

Grading scale: (Scores in percentages)

A 93-98B 83-86C 73-76D 63-66
A- 90-92B- 80-82C- 70-72D- 60-62

Make-up Policy: If you plan on missing either the midterm or final, you will have to provide extensive documentation for your excuse. See me immediately if this is the case.

Academic Misconduct: Academic misconduct is not allowed in this course. The Indiana University Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct ( defines academic misconduct as “any activity that tends to undermine the academic integrity of the institution . . . Academic misconduct may involve human, hard-copy, or electronic resources . . . Academic misconduct includes, but is not limited to . . . cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, interference, violation of course rules, and facilitating academic misconduct” (II. G.1-6).

Students with Disabilities: Students who need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me to arrange an appointment as soon as possible to discuss the course format, to anticipate needs, and to explore potential accommodations.

I rely on Disability Services for Students for assistance in verifying the need for accommodations and developing accommodation strategies. Students who have not previously contacted Disability Services are encouraged to do so (812-855-7578;

Computational Linguistics: If you find yourself loving this material, I encourage you to come see me or Professor Sandra Kübler for more information about computational linguistics.

Disclaimer This syllabus is subject to change. All important changes will be made in writing, with ample time for adjustment. (Midterm and final dates, however, will not change.)

Schedule: Links to notes and homeworks will be posted on the course website.

MonthDateTopic Assignments

Jan. 9Intro to class
11Text & speech encoding (.pdf, -2x3.pdf)

16No class, Martin Luther King Jr. Day
18Text & speech encoding

23Writers’ aids: spelling correctors (.pdf, -2x3.pdf)
25Writers’ aids: spelling correctors HW1 due

30Writers’ aids: grammar correctors (handout)
Feb. 1Language Tutoring Systems (.pdf, -2x3.pdf)

6Language Tutoring Systems (.pdf, -2x3.pdf) HW2 due
8Language Tutoring Systems

13Searching (.pdf, -2x3.pdf)
15Searching: internals (handout)

20Searching: regular expressions (handouts: 1, 2) HW3 due
22Midterm review (review sheet)

29Classifying documents (.pdf, -2x3.pdf)

Mar. 5Classifying documents
7Classifying documents HW4 due

12No class, Spring Break
14No class, Spring Break

19Cryptography (slides - from Jason Baldrige)

26Machine Translation (MT) (.pdf, -2x3.pdf)
28Machine Translation (MT) HW5 due

Apr. 2Symbolic MT
4Statistical MT

9Statistical MT
11Dialogue systems: dialogue (.pdf, -2x3.pdf)

16Dialogue systems: chatterbots HW6 due
18Dialogue systems: modern systems (slides - from Jason Baldrige)

23Dialogue systems: modern systems HW7 due
25Impact of language technology use

May 2FINAL EXAM (review sheet): Wednesday, May 2 5:00-7:00pm