Collaborating Authors



Written in a rush, because time flies like an arrow (whereas fruit flies like a banana). Each entry is also a chain of Tweets. When we compose meanings, concepts, semantics or any other'elements' of cognition, the outcome is not easily predictable like it is when we compose functions in mathematics or operations in a computer programme. We all know, without really even having to think, that a wine hangover is a hangover caused by wine, but a college town is a town that has a college. It seems obvious to us that a honey bee is a bee that produces honey, but that a mountain lodge is a lodge located on a mountain.

Word meaning in minds and machines Artificial Intelligence

Machines show an increasingly broad set of linguistic competencies, thanks to recent progress in Natural Language Processing (NLP). Many algorithms stem from past computational work in psychology, raising the question of whether they understand words as people do. In this paper, we compare how humans and machines represent the meaning of words. We argue that contemporary NLP systems are promising models of human word similarity, but they fall short in many other respects. Current models are too strongly linked to the text-based patterns in large corpora, and too weakly linked to the desires, goals, and beliefs that people use words in order to express. Word meanings must also be grounded in vision and action, and capable of flexible combinations, in ways that current systems are not. We pose concrete challenges for developing machines with a more human-like, conceptual basis for word meaning. We also discuss implications for cognitive science and NLP.

Don't Blame Distributional Semantics if it can't do Entailment Artificial Intelligence

Distributional semantics has emerged as a promising model of certain'conceptual' aspects of linguistic meaning (e.g., Landauer and Dumais 1997; Turney and Pantel 2010; Baroni and Lenci 2010; Lenci 2018) and as an indispensable component of applications in Natural Language Processing (e.g., reference resolution, machine translation, image captioning; especially since Mikolov et al. 2013). Yet its theoretical status within a general theory of meaning and of language and cognition more generally is not clear (e.g., Lenci 2008; Erk 2010; Boleda and Herbelot 2016; Lenci 2018). In particular, it is not clear whether distributional semantics can be understood as an actual model of expression meaning - what Lenci (2008) calls the'strong' view of distributional semantics - or merely as a model of something that correlates with expression meaning in certain partial ways - the'weak' view. In this paper we aim to resolve, in favor of the'strong' view, the question of what exactly distributional semantics models, what its role should be in an overall theory of language and cognition, and how its contribution to state of the art applications can be understood. We do so in part by clarifying its frequently discussed but still obscure relation to formal semantics. Our proposal relies crucially on the distinction between what linguistic expressions mean outside of any particular context, and what speakers mean by them in a particular context of utterance.

Horse rides astronaut


"In the past few years, our tolerance of sloppy thinking has led us to repeat many mistakes over and over. If we are to retain any credibility, this should stop. It is hard to say where [we] have gone wronger, in underestimating language or overestimating computer programs." In April, Open AI released a neural network model called DALL-E 2 that blew people's minds; last week a new model came out from Google Brain called Imagen, and it was even better. Both turn sentences into art, and even a hardened skeptic like myself can't help but be amazed.

A deep dive into BERT: How BERT launched a rocket into natural language understanding - Search Engine Land


Editor's Note: This deep dive companion to our high-level FAQ piece is a 30-minute read so get comfortable! You'll learn the backstory and nuances of BERT's evolution, how the algorithm works to improve human language understanding for machines and what it means for SEO and the work we do every day. If you have been keeping an eye on Twitter SEO over the past week you'll have likely noticed an uptick in the number of gifs and images featuring the character Bert (and sometimes Ernie) from Sesame Street. This is because, last week Google announced an imminent algorithmic update would be rolling out, impacting 10% of queries in search results, and also affect featured snippet results in countries where they were present; which is not trivial. The update is named Google BERT (Hence the Sesame Street connection – and the gifs). Google describes BERT as the largest change to its search system since the company introduced RankBrain, almost five years ago, and probably one of the largest changes in search ever. The news of BERT's arrival and its impending impact has caused a stir in the SEO community, along with some confusion as to what BERT does, and what it means for the industry overall. With this in mind, let's take a look at what BERT is, BERT's background, the need for BERT and the challenges it aims to resolve, the current situation (i.e. The BERT backstory How search engines learn language Problems with language learning methods How BERT improves search engine language understanding What does BERT mean for SEO? BERT is a technologically ground-breaking natural language processing model/framework which has taken the machine learning world by storm since its release as an academic research paper. The research paper is entitled BERT: Pre-training of Deep Bidirectional Transformers for Language Understanding (Devlin et al, 2018). Following paper publication Google AI Research team announced BERT as an open source contribution. A year later, Google announced a Google BERT algorithmic update rolling out in production search. Google linked the BERT algorithmic update to the BERT research paper, emphasizing BERT's importance for contextual language understanding in content and queries, and therefore intent, particularly for conversational search. BERT is described as a pre-trained deep learning natural language framework that has given state-of-the-art results on a wide variety of natural language processing tasks. Whilst in the research stages, and prior to being added to production search systems, BERT achieved state-of-the-art results on 11 different natural language processing tasks. These natural language processing tasks include, amongst others, sentiment analysis, named entity determination, textual entailment (aka next sentence prediction), semantic role labeling, text classification and coreference resolution. BERT also helps with the disambiguation of words with multiple meanings known as polysemous words, in context.