Philosophical Foundations of Distributional Semantics: Project

Master of Logic (ILLC) Coordinated Project, University of Amsterdam, January 2018
Arianna Betti

This project is a (shorter) version of a MA course with the same name.

None. A philosophy background is likely to be very helpful.

Final written report (pass / no pass) and seminar participation.

Themes & Readings & Schedule

All readings including background literature are here. You can get a study guide with all the info on this page also here.

Week 1: (January 5th, 2018, 15:30-18:30 ILLC Science Park 107 room F2.02, Amsterdam)

Central piece(s)

  • Sahlgren, Magnus. 2008. “The Distributional Hypothesis.” Italian Journal of Linguistics 20 (1):33–54.
  • Scholz, Barbara C., Francis Jeffry Pelletier, and Geoffrey K. Pullum. 2016. “Philosophy of Linguistics.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta, Winter 2016. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
  • Harris, Z.S. 1951. [Methods in] Structural Linguistics. University of Chicago Press. [especially pp172-3, and 186-195].
  • Harris, Zellig S. 1954. “Distributional Structure.” WORD 10 (2–3):146–62.

Other literature & background

  • Bloomfield, Leonard. 1933. Language. New York: Holt. [chapter 2, The Use of Language; chapter 9: Meaning; chapter 10: Grammatical Forms; take notice of chapters 5-8, on phonemes]
  • Juravsky, Daniel, and James H. Martin. 2017. Speech and Language Processing – An Introduction to Natural Language Processing, Computational Linguistics, and Speech Recognition. 3rd ed. Especially Ch 15: Vector Semantics.

Week 2: Language, Mind, Both? (January 12th, 2018, 15:30-18:30 ILLC Science Park 107 room F2.02, Amsterdam)

Central piece(s)

  • Herbelot, Aurélie, and Marco Baroni. 2017. “High-Risk Learning: Acquiring New Word Vectors from Tiny Data.” Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, 304–9.
  • Lenci, Alessandro. 2008. “Distributional Semantics in Linguistic and Cognitive Research.” 2008.
  • Miller, George A., and Walter G. Charles. 1991. “Contextual Correlates of Semantic Similarity.” Language and Cognitive Processes 6 (1):1–28.

Other literature 

  • Erk, Katrin. 2012. “Vector Space Models of Word Meaning and Phrase Meaning: A Survey.” Language and Linguistics Compass 6 (10):635–53.

Week 3: Descriptive, Normative, Both? (January 19th, 2018, 15:30-18:30 ILLC Science Park 107 room F2.02, Amsterdam)

Central piece(s)  

  • Herbelot, Aurélie, Eva Von Redecker, and Johanna Müller. 2012. “Distributional Techniques for Philosophical Enquiry.” In Proceedings of the 6th Workshop on Language Technology for Cultural Heritage, Social Sciences, and Humanities, 45–54. Association for Computational Linguistics.
  • Betti, Arianna. 2014. “On Haslanger’s Focal Analysis of Race and Gender in Resisting Reality as an Interpretive Model.” Krisis 1:13–18. (especially section 2)
  • Bolukbasi, Tolga, Kai-Wei Chang, James Zou, Venkatesh Saligrama, and Adam Kalai. 2016. “Man Is to Computer Programmer as Woman Is to Homemaker? Debiasing Word Embeddings.” ArXiv:1607.06520 [Cs, Stat], July.
  • Caliskan, Aylin, Joanna J. Bryson, and Arvind Narayanan. 2017. “Semantics Derived Automatically from Language Corpora Contain Human-like Biases.” Science 356 (6334):183.

Other literature

Week 4: Sense, Reference, Both?(January 24th, 2018, 15:30-18:30 ILLC Science Park 107 room F2.02, Amsterdam)

Central piece(s) Team 1

  • Herbelot, Aurélie. 2015. “Mr Darcy and Mr Toad, Gentlemen: Distributional Names and Their Kinds.” In Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Computational Semantics, 151–61.
  • Boleda, Gemma, and Aurélie Herbelot. 2016. “Formal Distributional Semantics: Introduction to the Special Issue.” Comput. Linguist. 42 (4):619–35. <a href="″>
  • Gupta, Abhijeet, Gemma Boleda, Marco Baroni, and Sebastian Padó. 2015. “Distributional Vectors Encode Referential Attributes.” In Proceedings of the 2015 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, EMNLP 2015, Lisbon, Portugal, September 17-21, 2015, 12–21.

Central piece(s) Team 2

  • Quine, Willard Van Orman. 1960. Word and Object. 3rd Edition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.!AgPq3zEkkYuOgZwZzNSmUOCRI_wf6g. [Chapter 1-3; Chapter 1 is very dense and hard to read, but fascinating as it serves as a summary of the whole book]

Week 5 (29 January): One individual meeting per student on the assignment (January 29th, 2018, 10:00-18:00 ILLC Science Park 107 room F2.02, Amsterdam)

February 2, 2018, 23:59: Deadline Final Assignment