Linguistics 575: Information Structure in Computational Syntax

Winter quarter, 2010

Course Info

Instructor Info



Information structure is an important part of the meaning of natural language sentences, indicating which information is given/topical and which information is new/in focus. As Partee (1991) notes, certain aspects of information structure can interact with truth conditional semantics. In addition, different languages use different morphological, syntactic, and phonological means of marking information structure in sentences. Thus information structure is an important point of contact in the interfaces between levels of linguistic structure, and critical in applications such as (transfer-based) machine translation.

In this seminar, we will survey the literature on information structure, including computational and non-computational approaches. The central research questions will be: How can we design a system of representations for information structure that captures the relevant distinctions and can be calculated compositionally in the course of syntactic processing? How do languages vary in the means they use to express information structural concepts, and what are the bounds on that variation?

Note: To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, 206-543-8924 (V/TTY). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating that you have a disability which requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to the instructor so we can discuss the accommodations you might need in this class.


Schedule of Topics and Assignments (may be updated)

1/7 Introduction, organization
What is information structure? Why should computational linguists care?
Lambrecht 1996, Chs 1&2  
1/14 Information structure and Semantics (particularly MRS) Copestake et al 2005 (Bender), Partee 1991 (Goodman) KWLH: K and W due
1/21 Topic: Definitions
Reading questions
Büring 1999 (Mirambeau), Lambrecht 1996 Ch 4 (Bender), Gundel 1988 (Goodman), Casielles-Suarez 2004 Ch 2 (Alvarez-Godinez), Erteschik-Shir 2007 Ch 2.1 (Song)  
1/28 Focus: Definitions
Reading questions
Gundel 1999 (Bender), Lambrecht 1996 Ch 5 (Slayden), Gussenhoven 2007 (Keesling), Rebuschi & Tuller 1999 (Kauhl), Casilles-Suarez 2004 Ch 5 (Shaw), Erteschik-Shir 2007 Ch 2.2 (Wax)  
2/4 Annotations and applications Jokinen & Wilcock 2003 (Alvarez-Godinez), Paggio 1997 (Chs 2 and 6; Slayden), Navarretta 2002 (Shaw), Hempelmann et al 2005 (Mirambeau) Project/paper plan
2/11 Universals and typology Molnr 2002 (Wax), Kruijff 2002 (Bender), Mereu 2009 (Kauhl)  
2/18 Cross-linguistic perspective Reading questions  
2/25 Information structure in HPSG Engdahl and Vallduvi 1996 (Sanghoun), Wilcock 2005 (Bender), Paggio 2009 (Keesling)  
3/4 Project/paper presentations: Mirambeau, Slayden, Keesling, Alvarez-Godinez
Course evals
  Project interim results or paper draft
3/11 Project/paper presentations: Kauhl, Shaw, Wax, Song, Goodman   KWLH papers due
3/18     Final papers/projects due 5pm


Papers that are available online will be linked to directly. Others will be uploaded to our e-reserves page.

ebender at u dot washington dot edu
Last modified: Thu Feb 4 20:34:51 PST 2010