Unravelling Language – What Does It Tell Us?

Module Leader:
Marcell Fekete
2018-2019 Summer
Natural Sciences
To understand language, we need to analyse where it comes from, how it is used and how it interacts with with other (social or cognitive) skills and abilities, such as memory, motor skills and social skills. In the course of the module, we will learn about the structure of language, synthesising psychological evidence and concepts of meaning with the findings of theoretical linguists. We will also consider the social aspects of language and the status of dialects and the standard language. Finally, we are going to look at some of the approaches to planning computer applications that process and work with language, including dialogue managers and machine translation software.
By the end of the module, students should have an idea about the ways language can be studied and the relevancy of that study for both modern applications and the study of social variation. In the first part of the course, Language, different theories are introduced with the common aim to try to explain how language works. This allows for the critical comparison of the evidence and arguments for and against the distinct approaches. The second part of the course, Society, unwraps the causes behind the difference of dialects and the attitude towards these dialectal differences, allowing for examining the social factors that guide language use. The last part of the course, Applications, features some methods with which ambiguity and data scarcity can be mitigated in computational natural language processing.

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