UTCS Colloquia/AI - John Hale/Cornell, "Entropy Reduction and Asian Languages," PAR 101

Contact Name: 
Jenna Whitney
May 17, 2012 11:00am - 12:30pm

There is a sign-up schedule for this event that can be found at


Type o

f Talk: UTCS Colloquia/AI

Speaker/Affiliation: John Hale/Cornell

Talk Audience: UTCS Faculty, Graduate Students, Undergraduate Students an

d Outside Interested Parties

Date/Time: Thursday, May 17, 2012, 11:

00 am

Location: PAR 101

Host: Ray Mooney

Talk Title: Entropy
Reduction and Asian Languages

This talk presents a partic

ular conceptualization of human language understanding as information proce

ssing. From this viewpoint, understanding a sentence word-by-word is a kin

d of incomplete perception problem in which comprehenders over time become

more certain about the linguistic structure of the utterance they are tryin

g to understand. The Entropy Reduction hypothesis holds that the scale of t

hese certainty-increases reflects psychological effort. This claim revives

the application of information theory to psycholinguistics, which languish

ed since the 1950s. But in contrast to that earlier work, modern applicati

ons of information theory to language-understanding now use generative gram

mars to specify the relevant structures and their probabilities. This repre

sentation makes it possible to apply standard techniques from computational
linguistics to work out weighted "expectations" about as-yet-unheard words

. The talk exemplifies the general theory using examples from Korean and Ch

inese. The prenomial character of relative clauses in these languages is an
important test case for any general cognitive theory of sentence processin


John Hale''s research focuses on cognitive models of human l

anguage. He is particularly interested in combining ideas from AI, (Comput

ational) Linguistics and Psychology to address questions about human senten

ce comprehension. He has been an Associate Professor at Cornell University
since 2008. His PhD is from Johns Hopkins University (2003).