Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cognitive Modeling and Computational Linguistics

It has been some years since I quit my membership in the Association for Computational Linguistics.  I quit because, in simplest terms, I wasn't getting much out of the membership and I was not encouraged by the direction of the field of Comp Ling.  My impressions from about 2000 through 2008 were that Comp Ling was getting more and more "engineering" oriented, and more and more hostile to any other purpose for computational modeling.  I have a few anecdotes I could tell about my own papers on that score; one appeared in JoLLI after referees for Computational Linguistics suggested it be sent there, since it had no "practical application."  (Being naive at the time, I did not realize that every paper in Computational Linguistics had to have a practical application.) 

A new topic which appeared in the July issue of Topics in Cognitive Science gives some hope for a different future.  Here one finds 11 papers under Computational Models of Natural Language, edited by John Hale and David Reitter.  The overarching theme is basically computational psycholinguistics relaunched.  The papers include many which I would like to comment on here in later posts.   They were presented at the first workshop on Cognitive Modeling and Computational Linguistics, held at the ACL meeting in 2010.  This workshop has since been reprised in the succeeding years, so it seems that this is not a one-time aberration.  The notion of using computational linguistics to investigate linguistic theory was purged from the ACL (especially the North American chapter) before I finally quit.  I'm glad to see this research avenue explored under the auspices of this Association once again.


  1. The most recent CMCL which was at this years ACL (In Bulgaria in 2013) was really excellent I thought. There is a space for scientific computational linguistics in the ACL, perhaps not at the main session, but in CoNLL and MoL and CMCL for sure

  2. It's good that these venues are available, I suppose, though I long ago stopped trying to attend conferences in this field. Too much gatekeeping, not enough travel funding. And then there's the collective carbon footprint of computational linguistics. Pretty big, I'd say!