Linguistics 245
Language and Computers
Fall 2013

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, and intelligent language tutoring systems.

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

Meeting time: TR 9:30-10:45am

Classroom: Ballantine (BH) 118

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


Office hours:

R 11am-noon
or by appointment

Course requirements: There will be reading selections throughout the semester from 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: Required textbook:

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 48%(8@6% each)
Midterm 22%Thursday, October 17 @ 9:30-10:45am
Final 22%Tuesday, December 17 @ 10:15am-12:15pm

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.

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

MonthDateTopic Reading Assignments

Aug. 27Intro to class
29Text & speech encoding (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) ch. 1, p. 1–17

Sep. 3Text & speech encoding p. 17–28
5Writers’ aids: spelling correctors (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) ch. 2, p. 34–44

10Writers’ aids: spelling correctors p. 44–49 HW1 due
12Writers’ aids: grammar correctors (handout) p. 49–65

17Language Tutoring Systems (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) ch. 3, p. 69–76
19Language Tutoring Systems (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) p. 76–83 HW2 due

24Language Tutoring Systems p. 83–87
26Searching (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) ch. 4, p. 91–100

Oct. 1Searching: internals (handout) p. 100–107 HW3 due
3Searching: regular expressions (RegEx, FSAs) p. 107–120

8Cryptography (.pdf) - with thanks to Jason Baldridge!
10Cryptography HW4 due

15Midterm review (review sheet)

22Classifying documents (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) (handout) ch. 5, p. 127–133
24Classifying documents p. 133–140

29Classifying documents p. 140–151
31Machine Translation (MT) (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) ch. 7, p. 181–191HW5 due

Nov. 5Machine Translation (MT) (handout)
7Symbolic MT p. 191–194

12Statistical MT (Handouts: 1, 2) p. 194–203 HW6 due
14Statistical MT p. 204–209

19Dialogue systems: dialogue (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) ch. 6, p. 153–166
21Dialogue systems: chatterbots p. 166–174 HW7 due

26No class, Thanksgiving Break
28No class, Thanksgiving Break

Dec. 3Dialogue systems: modern systems (slides) - with thanks to Jason Baldridge! p. 174–177
5Dialogue systems: modern systems

10Impact of language technology usech. 8, p. 215–219HW8 due
12Final review (review sheet)

17FINAL: Tuesday, December 17 10:15am-12:15pm

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.)