Language and common sense

Speaker: Joshua Hartshorne , Boston College, Psychology

Date: Thursday, May 09, 2019

Time: 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Public: Yes

Location: 46-5165

Event Type:

Room Description:


Contact: Yen-Ling Kuo,

Relevant URL:

Speaker URL: None

Speaker Photo:

Reminders to:,

Reminder Subject: TALK: [CompLang] Language and common sense

In popular culture, robots or other theory-of-mind-impaired fictional characters have difficulties with metaphors or indirect speech because they lack "common sense". In fact, common sense plays an even more central role in language processing than these depictions suggest. Compare:

(1) The city council denied the protesters a permit because they feared violence.

(2) The city council denied the protesters a permit because they advocated violence.

Most people interpret they as referring to the city council in (1) and the protesters in (2). It is hard to explain this without invoking common sense. Similarly, compare:

(3) The hat fit in the box because it was big.

(4) The hat didn't fit in the box because it was big.

Such examples are ubiquitous in natural language. In this talk, I will describe recent computational and experimental work that tries to make sense of this commonplace phenomenon.


About CompLang:
CompLang is a student-run discussion group on language and computation. The aim of the group is to bring together the language community at MIT and nearby, learn about each other's research, and foster cross-laboratory collaborations. The broad topic of the meetings is using computational models to study scientific questions about language. We will discuss work from computational linguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive science, natural language processing and formal linguistics. Please visit for future events.

Research Areas:
AI & Machine Learning

Impact Areas:

This event is not part of a series.

Created by Yen-Ling Kuo Email at Wednesday, May 08, 2019 at 9:47 AM.