Invited talk at Dept of Computational Linguistics, Düsseldorf

ElPaCo team members Andreas Liesenfeld and Mark Dingemanse visit Düsseldorf for an invited talk at the Department of Computational Linguistics. Abstract:

What social interaction and linguistic diversity can tell us about language (and technology)

The primary ecology of natural language is in real-life episodes of human interaction. This is where people learn language and where they use it to coordinate joint actions, build social relations, and exchange information. In contrast, when machines encounter language, it tends to be radically divorced from this habitat and reduced to large amounts of decontextualised non-interactive text. Natural languages are also characterized by diversity at many levels, from sound and sign systems to syntax and semantics. In contrast, the language samples that inform language technology tend to be limited to a handful of well-resourced languages, representing only a tiny sliver of the world’s linguistic diversity.

In this talk we show how a view of language rooted in social interaction sheds new light on turn-taking, pragmatic reasoning, and joint action coordination, with implications for linguistic typology, dialogue modelling, speech recognition, and the design of conversational interfaces. We will provide an overview of current work in our research project Elementary Particles of Conversation and cover a range of methods and results, from computational modelling to comparative linguistics and from distributional pragmatics to dialogue model evaluation.