LIN 313

Language and Computers

The University of Texas at Austin
Fall 2020

Course Information

Course Information

This undergraduate class looks at everyday tasks that involve natural language processing: document classification, spelling and grammar correction, dialogue systems, machine translation, search, and forensic linguistics. Students will get insight into how these systems work (and why it is still so difficult to do natural language processing well). We also consider social and ethical considerations such as privacy, job creation and loss due to language technologies, and the nature of machine intelligence.


Contact information

Text and readings

COVID-19 and Fall 2020 updates

Content overview

In the past decades, the widening use of computers has had a profound influence on the way ordinary people communicate, search and store information. For the overwhelming majority of people and situations, the natural vehicle for such information is natural language. Text and to a lesser extent speech are crucial encoding formats for the information revolution.

In this course, you will be given insight into the fundamentals of how computers are used to represent, process and organize textual and spoken information, as well as tips on how to effectively integrate this knowledge into working practice. We will cover the theory and practice of human language technology. Topics include text encoding, search technology, tools for writing support, machine translation, dialog systems, computer aided language learning and the social context of language technology.

This course uses natural language systems to motivate students to exercise and develop a range of basic skills in formal and computational analysis. The course philosophy is to ground abstract concepts in real world examples. We introduce strings, regular expressions, finite-state and context-free grammars, as well as algorithms defined over these structures and techniques for probing and evaluating systems that rely on these algorithms. The course goes beyond merely subjective evaluation of systems, emphasizing analysis and reasoning to draw and argue for valid conclusions about the design, capabilities and behavior of natural language systems.

Evaluation will be based on the exams, homeworks, and the essay.

Topics include:

Quantitative Reasoning

This course carries the Quantitative Reasoning flag. Quantitative Reasoning courses are designed to equip you with skills that are necessary for understanding the types of quantitative arguments you will regularly encounter in your adult and professional life. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from your use of quantitative skills to analyze real-world problems.

Course requirements and grading policy

Grade Percentage
A >= 93%
A- >= 90%
B+ >= 87%
B >= 83%
B- >= 80%
C+ >= 77%
C >= 73%
C- >= 70%
D+ >= 67%
D >= 63%
D- >= 60%

Attendance is not used as part of determining the grade.

Extension policy

Academic dishonesty policy

You are encouraged to discuss assignments with classmates. But all written work must be your own. Students caught cheating will automatically fail the course. If in doubt, ask the instructor.

Notice about students with disabilities

The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. Please contact the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities.

Notice about missed work due to religious holy days

A student who misses an examination, work assignment, or other project due to the observance of a religious holy day will be given an opportunity to complete the work missed within a reasonable time after the absence, provided that he or she has properly notified the instructor. It is the policy of the University of Texas at Austin that the student must notify the instructor at least fourteen days prior to the classes scheduled on dates he or she will be absent to observe a religious holy day. For religious holy days that fall within the first two weeks of the semester, the notice should be given on the first day of the semester. The student will not be penalized for these excused absences, but the instructor may appropriately respond if the student fails to complete satisfactorily the missed assignment or examination within a reasonable time after the excused absence.

Safety and Class Participation/Masks

We will all need to make some adjustments in order to benefit from in-person classroom interactions in a safe and healthy manner. Our best protections against spreading COVID-19 on campus are masks (defined as cloth face coverings) and staying home if you are showing symptoms. Therefore, for the benefit of everyone, this is means that all students are required to follow these important rules.

Sharing of Course Materials is Prohibited

No materials used in this class, including, but not limited to, lecture hand-outs, videos, assessments (quizzes, exams, papers, projects, homework assignments), in-class materials, review sheets, and additional problem sets, may be shared online or with anyone outside of the class unless you have my explicit, written permission. Unauthorized sharing of materials promotes cheating. It is a violation of the University’s Student Honor Code and an act of academic dishonesty. I am well aware of the sites used for sharing materials, and any materials found online that are associated with you, or any suspected unauthorized sharing of materials, will be reported to Student Conduct and Academic Integrity in the Office of the Dean of Students. These reports can result in sanctions, including failure in the course.

FERPA and Class Recordings

Class recordings are reserved only for students in this class for educational purposes and are protected under FERPA. The recordings should not be shared outside the class in any form. Violation of this restriction by a student could lead to Student Misconduct proceedings.

COVID Guidance

To help keep everyone at UT and in our community safe, it is critical that students report COVID-19 symptoms and testing, regardless of test results, to University Health Services, and faculty and staff report to the HealthPoint Occupational Health Program (OHP) as soon as possible. Please see this link to understand what needs to be reported. In addition, to help understand what to do if a fellow student in the class (or the instructor or TA) tests positive for COVID, see this University Health Services link.