Linguistics Colloquia Series

Cognitive Science Dinner Talk

Benjamin Van Durme

Department of Computer Science, Johns Hopkins University

Monday, April 16, 2018
6:15 p.m.–8:30 p.m.

366 Meliora Hall

Universal Decompositional Semantics

The dominant strategy for capturing a symbolic representation of natural language has focused on categorical annotations that lend themselves to structured multi-class classification. For example, predicting whether a given syntactic subject satisfies the definition of the AGENT thematic role. These 
annotations typically result from professionals coming to mutual agreement on semantic ontologies. The Decompositional Semantics Initiative ( is exploring a framework for semantic 
representation utilizing simple statements confirmed by everyday people, e.g., "The [highlighted syntactic subject] was aware of the [eventuality characterized by the salient verb]". This is conducive 
to a piece-wise, incremental, exploratory approach to developing a meaning representation that we can build software systems to target. 

Time permitting, I will relate this work to a sympathetic effort in common sense and natural language inference, two topics of increasingly larger interest within computational linguistics.