The 2008 lecture was delivered by Dr Ann Copestake as a tribute to the 2007 Lovelace medal winner, Karen Spärck Jones. The lecture also included tributes from Professor Wendy Hall and Dr David Hartley, both of whom knew Karen very well.
'What do we mean? Computational approaches to natural semantics'
Semantic representation and processing is central to relating speech and text to the information conveyed. But natural language meaning is inherently messy (or flexible) and sloppy (or adaptable): it has resisted attempts at formalisation, except in the very limited situations where language is used to talk about tiny closed worlds.
Recent research approaches this by exploiting approximate and partial representations of semantics: semantic interpretation can be seen as adding layers of annotation to text rather than completely replacing it with logical expressions.
This talk will describe some illustrative examples of current research in computational semantics, relating this, where possible, to the pioneering work of Karen Spärck Jones. I will discuss practical applications, concentrating in particular on scientific text processing, and consider how this might relate to semantic web publishing and to Karen's concept of the 'Information Layer'.