Linguistics 245
Language and Computers
Spring 2015

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 2:30–3:45pm

Classroom: Cedar Hall (AC) C116

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 the tree, of course)

Office hours:

R 1–2pm
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%Tuesday, March 10 @ 2:30–3:45pm
Final 22%Tuesday, May 5 @ 2:45–4:45pm

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 Integrity: (from the Dean for Academic Standards and Opportunities)

Academic Integrity: As a student at IU, you are expected to adhere to the standards and policies detailed in the Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct ( When you submit an assignment with your name on it, you are signifying that the work contained therein is all yours, unless otherwise cited or referenced. Any ideas or materials taken from another source for either written or oral use must be fully acknowledged. If you are unsure about the expectations for completing an assignment or taking a test or exam, be sure to seek clarification beforehand. All suspected violations of the Code will be handled according to University policies. Sanctions for academic misconduct may include a failing grade on the assignment, reduction in your final course grade, a failing grade in the course, among other possibilities, and must include a report to the Dean of Students who may impose additional disciplinary sanctions.

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 assignments will be posted on the course website.

MonthDateTopic Reading Assignments

Jan. 13Intro to class
15Text & speech encoding (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) ch. 1, p. 1–17

20Text & speech encoding p. 17–28
22Writers’ aids: spelling correctors (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) ch. 2, p. 34–44

27Writers’ aids: spelling correctors p. 44–49 A1 due
29Writers’ aids: grammar correctors p. 49–65

Feb. 3Language Tutoring Systems (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) ch. 3, p. 69–76
5Language Tutoring Systems p. 76–83

10Language Tutoring Systems p. 83–87 A2 due
12Extra: Grammatical error correction (.pdf, 2x3.pdf)

17Searching (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) ch. 4, p. 91–100
19Searching: internals (handout) p. 100–107

24Searching: regular expressions (handouts: 1, 2) p. 107–120 A3 due
26Cryptography Searching: linguistic searching (handout)

Mar. 3Cryptography A4 due
5Midterm review (.pdf)

12Classifying documents (.pdf, 2x3.pdf), (handout) ch. 5, p. 127–133

17No class, Spring Break
19No class, Spring Break

24Classifying documents p. 133–140
26Classifying documents (handout) p. 140–151

31Extra: Author profiling A5 due
Apr. 2Machine Translation (MT) (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) (handout) ch. 7, p. 181–191

7Symbolic MT (handout) p. 191–194
9Statistical MT p. 194–203 A6 due

14Statistical MT p. 204–209
16Dialogue systems: dialogue (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) ch. 6, p. 153–166

21Dialogue systems: chatterbots p. 166–174 A7 due
23Dialogue systems: modern systems p. 174–177

28Dialogue systems: modern systems A8 due
30Final review (.pdf)

May 5Final: Tuesday, May 5 2:45–4:45pm

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.)