About the ILLC

Institute for Logic, Language and Computation

History of the ILLC

The ILLC stands in a long tradition of logic in Amsterdam, pursued in a broad sense.

In the 1950s, Evert Willem Beth, a colleague of L.E.J. Brouwer and Arend Heyting, founded the Institute for Logic and Philosophy of the Exact Sciences which brought together mathematicians and philosophers, and which also initiated a first outreach toward linguistics and the then nascent computer science. Together with Alfred Tarski, Beth was also the initiator of the well-known international conferences of the Division of Logic and Methodology of Science, which have been important to logic worldwide.

Around 1970, this institute was reorganized into the Interfacultaire Vakgroep Logica, still spanning both mathematical and philosophical logic, which attracted a new generation of students interested in new interfaces developing fast at that time with philosophy of language, linguistics, and theoretical computer science. One well-known heritage from this phase is the international Amsterdam Colloquium (formerly, Montague Colloquium) which is now into its 22d installment.

In 1986, groups within the departments of mathematics, computer science and philosophy started an informal Institute for Language, Logic and Infomation, which became an official university research institute in 1991 under the name Institute for Logic, Language and Computation. Amongst other things, these name changes reflected the joining in of various further groups for shorter or longer periods: computational linguistics (faculty of humanities, since 1989), theoretical computer science (faculty of science and CWI, since 1991), programming research (faculty of science, 1991–1996), applied logic lab (faculty of social sciences, 1996-2004).

Another noteworthy development in shaping the ILLC were was the hosting of various large-scale research projects such as the national progamme Parallels in Natural Language and Computation (1990–1993), the EU project Dynamic Analysis of Natural Language (1991–1995), the Spinoza Award project Logic in Action (1996–2001), the Marie Curie Centre Gloriclass (2005–2009), and several Pionier and VICI projects form the Dutch national science organization NWO.

The ILLC is home to research lines such as the Amsterdam tradition in modal and intuitionistic logic, and dynamic semantics of natural language, which have fed into subsequent research on logics of information dynamics and agency. These themes connect mathematics and philosophy in various ways that keep evolving. In addition, computational complexity in various forms is a long-standing theme. Other lines have kept emerging since the institute was founded. The ILLC has a large programme in computational linguistics starting with the paradigm of data-oriented parsing, with applications from language to music leading to new mixtures of logic, probability and computation. Likewise, outreach to social sciences is a new trend, witness a programme in computational social choice. Finally, the ILLC is pursuing contacts with cognitive science, as an active participant in the Cognitive Science Centre Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Center for Brain and Cognition, and the national project Language in Interaction.

In the 1990s, the ILLC was the main hub of the National Graduate Programme in Logic for Ph.D. students. In 1995, a Master Programme in Logic was established, the first such international programme at the University of Amsterdam. Next to the Master Programme in Logic, the ILLC currently organizes its own PhD programme. So far, the ILLC has produced more than 175 Ph.D. students and more than 300 master's students.

Directors of the institute:

  • Johan van Benthem 1991–1998
  • Martin Stokhof 1998–2003
  • Frank Veltman 2003–2009
  • Jeroen Groenendijk 2009
  • Leen Torenvliet 2009–2011
  • Yde Venema 2011–2016
  • Sonja Smets 2016–

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