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A Probabilistic Approach to Language Change
Alexandre Bouchard-Côté · Percy Liang · Tom Griffiths · Dan Klein

Mon Dec 03 10:30 AM -- 10:40 AM (PST) @

We present a probabilistic approach to language change in which word forms are represented by phoneme sequences that undergo stochastic edits along the branches of a phylogenetic tree. Our framework combines the advantages of the classical comparative method with the robustness of corpus-based probabilistic models. We use this framework to explore the consequences of two different schemes for defining probabilistic models of phonological change, evaluating these schemes using the reconstruction of ancient word forms in Romance languages. The result is an efficient inference procedure for automatically inferring ancient word forms from modern languages, which can be generalized to support inferences about linguistic phylogenies.

Author Information

Alexandre Bouchard-Côté (UBC)
Percy Liang (Stanford University)
Percy Liang

Percy Liang is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University (B.S. from MIT, 2004; Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, 2011). His research spans machine learning and natural language processing, with the goal of developing trustworthy agents that can communicate effectively with people and improve over time through interaction. Specific topics include question answering, dialogue, program induction, interactive learning, and reliable machine learning. His awards include the IJCAI Computers and Thought Award (2016), an NSF CAREER Award (2016), a Sloan Research Fellowship (2015), and a Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship (2014).

Tom Griffiths (Princeton)
Dan Klein (UC Berkeley)

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