Coursework and grading

Homework (30%)

There will be 5-6 homework assignments. Some of these will be programming assignments, usually starting from Python code that's provided. main from the Natural Language Toolkit. Other assignments will require essay answers. Homework will normally be assigned on Tuesday or Thursday, due on the following Wednesday or Friday, and discussed in the class after that. In figuring this part of your final grade, I will drop your lowest homework grade. Assignments will be linked from this page and from the Calendar page. You will submit them in the Oncourse DropBox.

You may discuss the homework assignments with other members of the class, but whatever code you write must be your own.


  1. Homework 1: The Big Picture, due Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, 11:00pm

    Answer one of the following questions in a few paragraphs. You should post your answer on the Oncourse Forums for the class (there is a Forum topic for each question). You may begin a new thread or respond to an ongoing thread. For this question, you get full credit no matter what you answer, as long as you make an obvious effort. Be specific in your answers; give examples.

    1. In what ways will language technology be crucial for the future of the world? (You can focus on economic, social, and/or political issues.)
    2. Machines are still very far from the ability to process natural language like humans do. Why do you think language is so difficult?
  2. Homework 2: working with raw text; some suggested functions
  3. Homework 3: statistical semantics; my answers
  4. Homework 4: chunking; one solution
  5. Homework 5: probabilistic context-free grammars; possible answers

Project (40%)

You will submit a programming project at the end of the semester, including both an oral report and a brief written report. Ideally you will collaborate with one or two other students in the class on the project. Two progress reports on projects will be due, in the ninth and thirteenth weeks of the semester.

The goal of the project is to gain more insight into a particular problem and a mechanism (or family of mechanisms) for dealing with it. Three kinds of projects are possible:

You will be expected to propose a project topic by the beginning of the fifth week of class and to turn in two progress reports. The first progress report, due in Week 9, should include at least the following:

What you're expected to turn in

Discussion (30%)

For many of the class meetings, there will be one or more assigned readings. For each reading, a subset of the class will be expected to come up with one or two questions to guide the discussion of the paper. These discussants should post their questions to the Oncourse Forum that is set up for the paper by 11pm on the evening before the class. Students other than the discussants are also encouraged to participate in the Oncourse discussion of the readings, either before or after the class. Each student will be expected to post something to at least five of these discussions. The Discussion portion of your grade will be based on your role as discussant and your participation in the discussions when you are not a discussant, both in class and on the Oncourse site.

Discussion question assignments will alternate among these four groups:

Grading procedures

Late submission

We will not accept late assignments. This means that if you can't submit an assignment on time, you don't have to explain, unless you are asking for, and believe you qualify for, an Incomplete in the class. Excuses end up being discriminatory because some students are more likely to use them than others, who have equally good reasons, so, in the interest of fairness, I prefer to ignore them altogether. Remember that one of your homework assignments and one of your discussion question assignments will be dropped, so even if you miss one of these each, you can get an "A" in the course.


The policy towards Incomplete grades in this course is the university's own policy. The following is from the IU Academic Handbook.

The grade of Incomplete used on the final grade reports indicates that the work is satisfactory as of the end of the semester but has not been completed. The grade of Incomplete may be given only when the completed portion of a student's work in the course is of passing quality. Instructors may award the grade of Incomplete upon a showing of such hardship to a student as would render it unjust to hold the student to the time limits previously fixed for the completion of his/her work.

Probable grading breakdown

97-100 A+
91-96 A
89-90 A-
87-88 B+
81-86 B
79-80 B-
77-78 C+
71-76 C
69-70 C-
67-68 D+
61-66 D
59-60 D-
<59 F







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