Figurative language: its patterns and meanings in domain-specific discourse

Michael Tippett Room (Third Floor), Staff House (R24 on the Campus Map)
Lectures Talks and Workshops
Monday 18th (09:00) - Tuesday 19th August 2014 (17:00)
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Workshop Leaders: Professor John Barnden (School of Computer Science), Dr Andrew Gargett (School of Computer Science)

There is a growing consensus across many modern research disciplines that when considering how to model natural language better, that such modelling cannot be done separately from culture, society, nor from specific communicative modes such as gestures, diagrams and pictures.

Such issues impact on everyday communication, whether this might be in the realms of good governance, teaching practice, service provision, or access to information technology. One especially difficult problem has been how to better handle figurative forms of language such as metaphor and metonymy. Such forms of language are key communicative resources for grounding domain-specific concepts in everyday experience (e.g. in political discourse, presenting an argument can be described as “attacking” an opponent's position, or in health discourse, infection can be described in terms of microbes “attacking” someone's body).

Moreover, even more so than many other core natural language phenomena, figurative language turns out to be highly resistant to separation from the entanglement of culture, society, and specific modes of communication. Investigating phenomena of the level of complexity of figurative language requires joint effort across traditional disciplinary boundaries.

Modelling the patterns of such figurative language, and how we make sense of these patterns, is a key aim of academic disciplines such as linguistics, discourse studies, and psycholinguistics, to name a few. Moreover, automatically processing such phenomena is an emerging goal within Artificial Intelligence and the related field of Natural Language Processing, and some of the most exciting work in this area involves identifying and understanding figurative language, and/or automatically generating such forms of language.

This two-day workshop will explore modelling the meanings and patterns of health and political conflict discourse, two of the most central aspects of human experience, especially as these relate to figurative forms of expression. Discussions surrounding these apparently disparate topics typically give rise to some of the richest forms of human discourse, often complex, intractable, highly figurative and seemingly mired in meanings. This latest workshop follows on from an earlier workshop organised through the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS), University of Birmingham, and will be jointly organized through the IAS as well as The Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour (AISB). We will be calling for 500 word proposals for presentations at this workshop.

This workshop is timed to coincide with the visit of an IAS Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Dr. Josef Ruppenhofer (Universität Hildesheim), whose research overlaps with key themes of the workshop.

Registration for this workshop is now closed.