Language and Computation (LaCo)

Project Leaders

Senior Staff

Other Staff

PhD Candidates

Guest Researchers

The Language & Computation group is focused on fundamental research into human information processing, especially in computational linguistics/natural language processing, music cognition and digital humanities. The group has a long history in those fields; since 1990, we have made many pioneering contributions to research on statistical parsing, dialogue modelling, information retrieval, machine translation, rhythm perception, the evolution of language and music, and deep learning.

Today, Language & Computation is a thriving research group, with 17 senior staff members and about 20 PhD students and postdocs. Members of the group have received VICI (2x), VIDI (5x), and VENI (2x) awards from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), and an ERC Starting Grant from the European Union. The group participates in the Language in Interaction Gravitation program of NWO, in Amsterdam Brain & Cognition and receives funding from a range of other organizations and companies (including SAP, Yandex, Google, Facebook and Amazon).

In our work in Computational Linguistics we develop state of the art statistical and deep learning models (for machine translation, dialogue, computational semantics, parsing and other domains), while incorporating insights from linguistics and cognitive science. The ILLC’s computational linguistics meet regularly (since 2004) at the Computational Linguistics Seminar, which features top researchers from around the world. They also organize various other lab meetings and reading groups, including the deep learning reading group (since Jan 2016).


Our research on Music Cognition focuses on an aspect of music which is fundamental but ill-understood: the perception of the temporal aspects of music, such as rhythm, tempo and timing. We develop computational models which implement mathematically articulated theories, and which are validated through psychological experiments with human listeners. The models we develop here can be applied in algorithms for automatic transcription, automatic accompaniment and music generation. The music cognition researchers at ILLC (and elsewhere) meet regularly in the Music Reading Group.


In our work in Digital Humanities, one important application area is Information Retrieval and Question Answering. In this area, we employ the state-of-the-art retrieval techniques, and focus on improving the practical usefulness of these systems through innovations in user-interfaces and cognitive ergonomics.


The methods we use in Language & Computation thus range from mathematical and computational techniques (including symbolic, statistical and neural network models) to experimental methods in collaboration with linguists, psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists.