George Lakoff at VU University Amsterdam

Event Date: March 13, 2015
Event Time: 14:00-15:00

This is a lecture in the Graduate Lecture series of the VU Graduate School of Humanities

George Lakoff, a world renowned linguist for his work on metaphors in language and psychology will be speaking at the VU on Friday, March 13 from 14:00-15:00 in the screening room (Filmzaal)  on the 1st floor of the VU main building. His work on linguistic metaphors and their influence on our lives dates bask to his 1980 book “Metaphors we live by”.

His talk is entitled “Why linguists are needed: The severe limitations of big data analysis of linguistic corpora”.

The Berkeley MetaNet Project was funded for three years by IARPA, the Intelligence branch of the U.S. Department of Defense, on an open source basis. IARPA wanted a completely automated machine learning approach to analyzing the conceptual metaphors in their vast corpora of documents. Luckily, they also put together an ace team of Berkeley linguists and psycholinguists from California campuses.

This talk will go over why the big data statistical methods by themselves were hopeless. The Linguistics Group, on the other hand, used computational methods to set up a wiki database of many hundreds of conceptual metaphor mappings, over a hundred frames, many dozens of image schemas, and a very simple embodied construction grammar (ECG) parser incorporating Karen Sullivan’s insights on the way conceptual metaphor functions in grammar.

We did find the ability to process large corpora extremely useful. We also found that if you took the corpora processing input and applied even a simple metaphorical ECG parser and links to the cascades of relationships in the wiki database, we began to get some interesting analyses. But it took a great team of linguists — and lots of serious linguistic research — to get even reasonable partial analyses at all.

The talk will discuss details to give you a feel for why linguists are needed for serious analyses of linguistic data.
The lecture is organized by the Language Use and Cognition chair group of the VU Faculty of Humanities and was sponsored by the Network Institute and the Spinoza Prize project “Understanding Language by Machines” in the Computational Lexicology & Terminology Lab of the VU Faculty of Humanities.

Those planning to attend need to register by emailing

Romy van den Heerik • February 20, 2015

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