CS 521: Statistical Natural Language Processing

Spring 2020

Contact Information

Professor: Natalie Parde (parde@uic.edu)
Office Hours: SEO 1132, Tuesday 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. / Thursday 3:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Piazza: https://piazza.com/uic/spring2020/cs521

What is this class about?

Natural language processing (NLP) is increasingly driven by statistical and neural methods. These techniques are leveraged in many everyday applications, including intelligent virtual assistants (e.g., Siri or Alexa), machine translation systems (e.g., Google Translate), and language models (such as those used for predictive text). This class will introduce advanced topics in statistical and neural NLP, and provide an overview of active research in those topic areas, through a combination of readings, paper presentations and critiques, a midterm exam, and a semester-long project. Topics covered will include logistic regression, vector semantics, neural networks, coreference resolution, discourse coherence, language modeling, language generation, figurative language processing, and multimodal NLP, among others.


Readings for the first part of the semester will be drawn from the following source:
- Daniel Jurafsky and James H Martin. Speech and Language Processing (3rd Edition). Draft, 2019.

Note that this resource is a draft of the upcoming third edition of Speech and Language Processing. Chapter order and content is subject to change throughout the semester (I'll try to update the course website whenever I notice this occurring, but feel free to ping me if you think something seems out of date). Readings for the second part of the semester will be drawn primarily from journals and conference proceedings. Some suggested papers for each topic in the second part of the semester are provided in the course syllabus. You are perfectly welcome to present a paper that is not in the list of suggestions, as long as I approve it.

Assignments and Exams

This course acts as a middle ground between UIC's introductory, lecture-based NLP course (CS 421) and the advanced, seminar-style NLP courses (CS 594) periodically offered by the department. Most of the coursework will be closer to what you would expect to find in a seminar-style course, but the general format of the class will contain elements of both. For the first portion of the semester, traditional lectures will be given about different statistical and neural techniques; this portion will conclude with a midterm exam. For the second portion of the semester, students will present and critique research from recent NLP papers. Some further details about the work you will be expected to complete for this course are provided below: Grading rubrics will be posted on Blackboard. Final course grades will be determined according to the following breakdown:


The most recent version of the course schedule is available below. This schedule is subject to change ...check back regularly for updates! I'll post my own lecture slides in the "Downloads" column soon after they are presented in class. All deadlines are at 12 p.m. (noon) unless otherwise stated.

Week Topic Readings Deliverables Downloads
1/13 - 1/17 Introduction and Language Modeling Chapter 3 Introduction to CS 521

Language Modeling
1/20 - 1/24 Data Collection and Logistic Regression Chapter 5 Data Collection
1/27 - 1/31 Vector Semantics, Word2Vec, and GloVe Chapter 6 1/31: Paper Critique (Topic from 1/13 - 1/31)
2/3 - 2/7 Feedforward Neural Networks and Convolutional Neural Networks Chapter 7
2/10 - 2/14 Recurrent Neural Networks, Encoder-Decoder Models, and Attention Chapter 9, Chapter 10 2/14: Project Proposal
2/17 - 2/21 Coreference Resolution and Discourse Coherence Chapter 22, Chapter 23 2/21: Paper Critique (Topic from 2/3 - 2/21)
2/24 - 2/28 Review and Exam (2/27)
3/2 - 3/6 Neural Language Modeling Research Papers 3/2: Paper Critique
3/9 - 3/13 Contextual Word Embeddings Deep contextualized word representations

Other Research Papers
3/9: Paper Critique
3/16 - 3/20 Natural Language Generation Deep reinforcement learning for dialogue generation

The curious case of neural text degeneration

Learning neural templates for text generation

Other Research Paper
3/16: Paper Critique
3/23 - 3/27 Spring Break
3/30 - 4/3 Multimodal NLP Research Papers 3/30: Paper Critique
4/6 - 4/10 Figurative Language Research Papers 4/6: Paper Critique
4/13 - 4/17 Healthcare Applications Automatic prediction of linguistic decline in writings of subjects with degenerative dementia

Other Research Papers
4/13: Paper Critique
4/20 - 4/24 Project Presentations
4/27 - 5/1 Project Presentations 5/1: Project Implementation and Write-Up
5/4 - 5/8 Finals Week (No Class)

Final Notes

This website is provided partially for student convenience, partially for my own record-keeping purposes, and partially for the benefit of others who are not able to enroll in the course but who may find the content interesting for one reason or another. It is not a substitute for the course page on Blackboard or the course discussion board on Piazza! Please refer to those sources for copies of the full syllabus, assignments, grading rubrics, submission links, and other useful information. If you are not enrolled in the course but would like to request access to those materials, please send me an email introducing yourself and explaining why you would like to have access to them.

Happy studying!