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UCREL Corpus Research Seminar: What the brain can tell us about semantics: evidence using WordNet and latent semantic analysis

Date: 24 January 2013 Time: 2.00 pm

Venue: FASS Meeting Room 3

UCREL Corpus Research Seminar

What the brain can tell us about semantics: evidence using WordNet and latent semantic analysis (Part one)

Colleen Crangle (US-UK Fulbright Fellow, SCC, Lancaster University)

This talk examines what we can conclude about language from the brain. It presents the analysis of electroencephalographic (EEG) data collected while participants were presented with commonly known geographic facts of Europe and asked to determine their truth or falsity. "Paris is the capital of Italy" and "Rome is not the largest city in Germany" are two examples. The semantic framework is provided by (a) WordNet, a human annotated lexical database of English words, and (b) latent semantic analysis (LSA), a statistical method of deriving semantic relatedness from distributional information in corpora.

Our approach consists of constructing two relational structures, one a representation of the neural activity and the other a representation of the stimuli eliciting the neural activity -- in this case, the individual words in the sentences as represented by each of the two semantic models WordNet and LSA. Using a machine-learning approach we predict which neural data is associated with which word. The results of this classification allow structural similarities to be identified between the neural data and the linguistic data under each of the two semantic models.

In this Part One talk, I present the results of our analysis. They show that many more statistically significant structural similarities can be found between the neural data and the WordNet-derived linguistic data than the LSA-derived linguistic data. The significance of this result for semantics and for neurolinguistics is discussed.

In a follow-up Part Two talk, the details of the analysis will be presented along with a discussion of its significance.

Colleen is a US-UK Fulbright Fellowand is here on a 6-month fellowship. Her home institution is a Silicon Valley based R&D company Converspeech and she is affiliated with the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford University.

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Computing and Communications, Linguistics and English Language, University Centre for Computer Corpus Research on Language (UCREL)


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