Monthy online ILFC Seminar

[Version française ici]

GdR LIFT is organising a monthly online seminar on the interactions between formal and computational linguistics.

The seminar is intended to make members of diverse scientific communities around the world meet and share their different perspectives.

It is free to attend the seminar and it is held on Zoom.
To attend the seminar and get updates, please register to be on our mailing list: [here]

Future sessions:

  • 2021/10/12 17:00-18:00 UTC+2: Christopher Potts (Stanford University; 8:00-9:00 UTC-7)
    Title: Causal Abstractions of Neural Natural Language Inference Models
    Abstract: Neural networks have a reputation for being « black boxes » — complex, opaque systems that can be studied using only purely behavioral evaluations. However, much recent work on structural analysis methods (e.g., probing and feature attribution) is allowing us to peer inside these models and deeply understand their internal dynamics. In this talk, I’ll describe a new structural analysis method we’ve developed that is grounded in a formal theory of causal abstraction. In this method, neural representations are aligned with variables in interpretable causal models, and then *interchange interventions* are used to experimentally verify that the neural representations have the causal properties of their aligned variables. I’ll use these methods to explore problems in Natural Language Inference, focusing in particular on compositional interactions between lexical entailment and negation. Recent Transformer-based models can solve hard generalization tasks involving these phenomena, and our causal analysis method helps explain why: the models have learned modular representations that closely approximate the high-level compositional theory. Finally, I will show how to bring interchange interventions into the training process, which allows us to push our models to acquire desired modular internal structures like this.
    Joint work with Atticus Geiger, Hanson Lu, Noah Goodman, and Thomas Icard
  • 2021/11/16 17:00-18:00 UTC+2: Alex Lascarides (University of Edinburgh; 16:00-17:00 UTC+1)
    Title: Situated Communication
    Abstract: This talk focuses on how to represent and reason about the content of conversation when it takes place in an embodied, dynamic environment. I will argue that speakers can, and do, appropriate non-linguistic events into their communicative intents, even when those events weren’t produced with the intention of being a part of a discourse. Indeed, non-linguistic events can contribute an (instance of) a proposition to the content of the speaker’s message, even when her verbal signal contains no demonstratives or anaphora of any kind.
    I will argue that representing and reasoning about discourse coherence is essential to capturing these features of situated conversation. I will make two claims: first, non-linguistic events affect rhetorical structure in non-trivial ways; and secondly, rhetorical structure guides the conceptualisation of non-linguistic events. I will support the first claim via empirical observations from the STAC corpus (—a corpus of dialogues that take place between players during the board game Settlers of Catan. I will support the second claim via experiments in Interactive Task Learning: a software agent jointly learns how to conceptualise the domain, ground previously unknown words in the embodied environment, and solve its planning problem, by using the evidence of an expert’s corrective (verbal) feedback on its physical actions.

Past sessions:

Contact : Timothée BERNARD ( and Grégoire WINTERSTEIN (