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Computational Semantics and Pragmatics

Catalogue Number
Admin. code
Time Period(s)
Semester 1 block 1 More info
Educational institute
Graduate School of Informatics
dr. R. Fernandez Rovira (co-ordinator)
Is part of ...


The overall objective of the course is to introduce some of the major topics and methodologies in the study of natural language semantics and pragmatics, from an empirical and computational point of view. By the end of the course, students should demonstrate an understanding of the most important concepts in the topics treated during the course by being able to:

  • Analyse and critique the research questions and the methodology used to address them in existing relevant literature.
  • Formulate their own research questions and select appropriate techniques and methods to address them.
  • Apply empirical or computational techniques to issues in semantics and pragmatics.
  • Explain the work of others and their own work in proper scientific writing.
  • Present the work of others and their own work to an audience in a clear and engaging way.


Semantics and pragmatics are concerned with the study of natural language meaning and its context of use in written texts and in conversation. The computational counterparts of these disciplines address these issues from an explicitly computational point of view, combining insights from linguistic theory, computational linguistics, and artificial intelligence. The course will introduce some of the fundamental concepts in contemporary computational semantics and pragmatics, exposing students to current research in topics such as distributional lexical semantics, generation and resolution of referring expressions, speech acts, and dialogue modelling. The exact topics to be covered will be decided at the beginning of the course, depending on the interests of the group. Students will also get acquainted with current methodologies and techniques, such as working with annotated and unannotated corpora and setting up experiments to collect data.

Recommended prior knowledge

There are no formal prerequisites as such, although some basic knowledge of natural language semantics or pragmatics is recommended. Basic programming skills are useful but not required.

Registration at

Registration is required via https://www.sis.uva.nl until four weeks before the start of the semester. However, first year master students Logic will be automatically registered for the obligatory courses in the first semester.


The course will consist of lectures and discussions of research papers. Students are expected to play an active role in class and are encouraged to contribute in the shaping of the contents of the course.

Study materials

Research papers and selected book chapters, as well as online tools and online corpora. All materials will be available on the website of the course.


Students will be asked to write a short paper by the end of the course. This final paper will account for 70% of the overall grade. The remaining 30% will correspond to presentations and discussions of readings, and possibly some homework exercises.


Further details will be available at: http://www.illc.uva.nl/~raquel/teaching/cosp/cosp2013/