Talk by Ryan Cotterell: Musings on Linguistic Complexity and Typology

Ryan Cotterell, PhD student in the Johns Hopkins Computer Science Department, will give a talk at DIKU on Musings on Linguistic Complexity and Typology.


Linguistic typology studies the range of structures present in human language. The main goal of the field is to discover which sets of possible phenomena are universal, and which are merely frequent. For example, all languages have vowels, while most—but not all—languages have an [u] sound. In this paper we present the first probabilistic treatment of a basic question in phonological typology: What makes a natural vowel inventory? We introduce a series of deep stochastic point processes, and contrast them with previous computational, simulation-based approaches. We provide a comprehensive suite of experiments on over 200 distinct languages.


Ryan is a fifth year PhD student in the Johns Hopkins Computer Science department affiliated with the Center for Language and Speech Processing, where he is coadvised by Jason Eisner and David Yarowsky. He is the 2018 Facebook PhD Fellow in natural language processing. He has over 40 papers, most in top NLP venues. His work has received best paper awards at ACL 2017 and EACL 2017 as well as two honorable mentions for best paper at EMNLP 2015 and NAACL 2016. Previously, he was a visiting PhD student at the Center for Information and Language Processing at LMU Munich supported by a Fulbright Fellowship and a DAAD Research Grant under the supervision of Hinrich Schütze.

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