Prof Bonnie Webber Seminar
Date: Wednesday, 1st August 2018, 2:30pm - 3:30pm
Venue: The Australian Hearing Hub, Level 3, Room 3.610, Macquarie University
Speaker Professor Bonnie Webber, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
Title: Discourse coherence: Concurrent explicit and implicit relations
Theories of discourse coherence posit relations between discourse segments as a key feature of coherent text. Our prior work suggests that multiple discourse relations can be simultaneously operative between two segments for reasons not predicted by the literature. Here we test how this joint presence can lead participants to endorse seemingly divergent conjunctions (e.g., 'but' and 'so') to express the link they see between two segments. These apparent divergences are not symptomatic of participant naíveté or bias, but arise reliably from the concurrent availability of multiple relations between segments -- some available through explicit signals and some via inference. We believe that these new results can both inform future progress in theoretical work on discourse coherence and lead to higher levels of performance in discourse parsing.
Bonnie Webber received her PhD from Harvard University and taught at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for 20 years before joining the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh, where she is now professor emeritus. Known for her research on discourse anaphora and discourse connectives, she is a Past President of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL); Deputy Chair of the European COST action IS1312, "TextLink: Structuring Discourse in Multilingual Europe", and co-developer (with Aravind Joshi, Rashmi Prasad, Alan Lee and Eleni Miltsakaki) of the Penn Discourse TreeBank (both the 2008 Version 2 release, and the soon-to-be-released Version 3). She is a Fellow of the Association for Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) and the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), where she is also convenor of the Research Awards Committee. She works towards promoting women to more prominent positions in the NLP community and in Science and Technology more generally.