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Probabilistic Models of Human Language Comprehension, Production, and Acquisition, Roger Levy, University of California, San Deigo
Sep 23 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm


Human language acquisition and use are central problems for the advancement of machine intelligence, and pose some of the deepest scientific challenges in accounting for the capabilities of the human mind. In this talk I describe several major advances we have recently made in this domain made possible by combining leading ideas and techniques from computer science and cognitive science. Central to these advances is the use of generative probabilistic models over richly structured linguistic representations. In language comprehension, I describe how we have used these models to develop detailed theories of incremental parsing that unify the central problems of ambiguity resolution, prediction, and syntactic complexity, and that yield compelling quantitative fits to behavioral data from both controlled psycholinguistic experiments and reading of naturalistic text. I also describe noisy-channel models relating the accrual of uncertain perceptual input with sentence-level language comprehension that account for critical outstanding puzzles for previous theories, and that when combined with reinforcement learning yield state-of-the-art models of human eye movement control in reading. This work on comprehension sets the stage for a theory in language production of how speakers tend toward an optimal distribution of information content throughout their utterances, whose predictions we confirm in statistical analysis of a variety of types of optional function word omission. Finally, I conclude with examples of how we use nonparametric models to account for some of the most challenging problems in language acquisition, including how humans learn phonetic category inventories and acquire and rank phonological constraints.


Roger Levy is Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, San Diego, where he directs the world’s first Computational Psycholinguistics Laboratory. He received his B.S. from the University of Arizona and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. He was a UK ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Edinburgh before his current appointment. His awards include an NSF CAREER grant, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, and a Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Levy’s research program is devoted to theoretical and applied questions at the intersection of cognition and computation, focusing on human language processing and acquisition. Inherently, linguistic communication involves the resolution of uncertainty over a potentially unbounded set of possible signals and meanings. How can a fixed set of knowledge and resources be acquired and deployed to manage this uncertainty? To address these questions Levy uses a combination of computational modeling and psycholinguistic experimentation. This work furthers our foundational understanding of linguistic cognition, and helps lay the groundwork for future generations of intelligent machines that can communicate with humans via natural language.

Engineering Innovation’s Tenth Annual Spaghetti Bridge Competition
Jul 24 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Engineering Innovation: Spaghetti Bridge Competition

Engineering Innovation: Spaghetti Bridge Competition

The Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University cordially invites family, friends, and sponsors of our Engineering Innovation students to the Tenth Annual Spaghetti Bridge Competition, where students put their creativity and newly learned engineering skills to the test!

James West to present Inaugural Professorial Lecture on September 15
Sep 15 @ 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Photo of James WestJames West, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Whiting School of Engineering, will deliver his Inaugural Professorial Lecture from 3 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, September 15, in the Mason Hall Auditorium on the Homewood campus.

In a lecture titled “Electret and Piezoelectric Polymer Transducers,” West will discuss the research impact of inexpensive condenser microphones on multiple microphone arrays and current medical device applications. He will also present recent research on push-pull electret transducers with a very low resonance for energy harvesting, as well as new biopolymer-based piezoelectric nanofibers.

The lecture is part of the Don P. Giddens Inaugural Professorial Lecture series, established in 1993 to honor newly promoted full professors. It is named for the fifth dean of the Whiting School of Engineering.

2016 Johns Hopkins Engineering Alumni Career Night
Sep 21 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

The program will begin with an alumni panel sharing their real-world experiences, followed by an open networking reception with engineering students. We hope that you will be interested in joining us to offer advice on job searching, internships, graduate school, and career paths.

Click here to register!
2017 Hopkins Engineering Alumni Career Night
Sep 19 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

Join us for Johns Hopkins Engineering Alumni Career Night! A small alumni panel sharing their real-world experiences, followed by an open networking reception for panelists, all alumni attendees, and engineering students.

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