Universiteit van Amsterdam

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Four Vidi grants at ILLC

The ILLC is extremely proud to announce that NWO has awarded prestigious VIDI grants to four ILLC researchers. Congratulations to Raquel Fernandez, Floris Roelofsen, Christian Schaffner en Ivan Titov.

The VIDI grant is part of the Innovational Research Incentives Scheme run by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). It is one of the most prestigeous grants for researchers in the Netherlands, enabling researchers who have already spent several years doing postdoctoral research to develop their own innovative lines of research, and to appoint one or more researchers.

  • Raquel Fernández: Asymmetry in Conversation

    Although we tend to take our conversational abilities for granted, spontaneous dialogue requires a substantial amount of linguistic, cognitive, and social skills. Uncovering how these hidden skills manifest themselves in language is of crucial importance to be able to understand human communication, to help people communicate more effectively, and to build computer systems that successfully interact with people using natural language. This research programme will contribute to this fascinating challenge by specifically focusing on linguistic interaction in the presence of asymmetry, i.e., imbalances or mismatches between dialogue participants on three different dimensions: (a) linguistic abilities, as in child-adult dialogue; (b) topical knowledge, as in interaction between experts and novices; and (c) social roles, as in conversations between individuals with power differences. Looking into asymmetric settings provides a great opportunity for investigating the changes that linguistic interaction can bring about -- how do our choices of words and phrases contribute to language learning, to knowledge transfer, or to opinion shifts? I will seek to answer such questions by exploiting theoretical insights from linguistics, psycholinguistics, and sociology and by applying sophisticated computational techniques to large amounts of data collected from real conversations.

  • Floris Roelofsen: Inquisitiveness below and beyond the sentence boundary

    The interpretation of linguistic expressions has been investigated from various theoretical perspectives, and this has led to many practical applications, ranging from automated reasoning to dialogue systems and search. However, while the focus in this endeavor has been on assertions, an equally important role in communication is played by questions. What is needed is a semantic framework in which questions and assertions can be analyzed in an integrated way.

    Recent work by the applicant and colleagues on *inquisitive semantics* has begun to address this need. However, a number of significant steps are yet to be taken. First, we need to understand how the inquisitive content of a sentence is built up step-by-step from the meanings of the words in the sentence. And second, we need to understand how the interpretation of one sentence in a discourse may influence the interpretation of another. In a slogan, inquisitive semantics needs to be taken below and beyond the sentence boundary. We intend to demonstrate that this will not only substantially advance current semantic accounts of questions and assertions, but will also facilitate new practical applications in automated reasoning and dialogue systems.

  • Christian Schaffner: Cryptography in the Quantum World

    Quantum cryptography can provide security. Its best-known achievement is Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), which allows the generation of cryptographic keys based on the laws of quantum mechanics. However, modern cryptography studies a broad variety of other scenarios such as identification, secure collaboration, electronic voting, etc. that go far beyond the task of key distribution. As a main topic of this VIDI project, I will investigate the area of position-based quantum cryptography. The goal of position-based cryptography is to use the geographical position as a cryptographic credential. The combination of relativistic constraints (assuring that information cannot travel faster than the speed of light) and quantum mechanical effects (such as the impossibility to perfectly copy a quantum state) enables entirely new cryptographic applications like sending a message in such a way that it can only be read at a particular geographic position. Taken as a whole, this project will make cryptography ready for the quantum age and improve the privacy of individuals, companies and public administration.

  • Ivan Titov: Scaling Semantic Parsing to Unrestricted Domains

    Enabling a machine to understand human language – that is, to process any input text or utterance and be able to answer questions or perform actions on its basis – is one of the main goals of natural language processing. The lack of accurate methods for predicting meaning representations of texts is the key bottleneck for many natural language processing applications such as question answering, text summarization and information retrieval. Although state-of-the-art semantic parsers work fairly well on closed domains (e.g., interpreting natural language queries to databases), accurately predicting even shallow forms of semantic representations for less restricted texts remains a challenge. The reason for the unsatisfactory performance is reliance on supervised learning from human-annotated text collections, with the amounts of annotation required for accurate open-domain parsing exceeding what is practically feasible. In order to deal with this challenge, in this project, we will introduce methods for inducing semantic parsers primarily from un-annotated data (e.g., text on the Web).

For more information, see http://www.nwo.nl/onderzoek-en-resultaten/programmas/vernieuwingsimpuls/.

Please note that this newsitem has been archived, and may contain outdated information or links.