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Reasoning with Natural Language

Department of Computer Science

Applications accepted all year round Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

In recent years, there has been considerable interest in applying machine learning to tackle inferential problems in natural language. These include challenges such as, for example, recovering entailments from natural language text snippets, or constructing explanations and answering multiple-choice questions based on natural language resources. The emphasis here is on chaining together inferential steps in contexts featuring imprecision, uncertainty and ambiguity, perhaps with the aid of background knowledge. At the same time, there is a considerable body of theoretical knowledge concerning the computational complexity of solving logical problems involving specific fragments of natural language. For example, various grammatical constructions can be shown, on proof-theoretic, or even complexity-theoretic grounds, to generate entailments that cannot be retrieved using certain types of simple proof rules.

The aim of this project is to bring greater clarity to recent studies of entailment recognition using neural networks, by bringing to bear insights gained from the theoretical studies. The hypothesis under consideration is that neural networks are unable to replicate all but the simplest varieties of logical inference arising in natural language. We aim thereby to obtain more information on what, exactly, such techniques can and cannot do, and indeed, to what extent these limitations make a difference in respect of to practical tasks involving the processing of natural language.

Funding Notes

Candidates who have been offered a place for PhD study in the Department of Computer Science may be considered for funding by the Department. Further details on funding can be found at: View Website.

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