Towards mechanistic models of meaning composition

International symposium · October 11-12, 2018

Scandic Nidelven Hotel, Trondheim

The language we use in everyday life, even the most concise of text messages, consists of combinations of words of varying complexity and length. Words are pronounced and heard, written and read, and signed and perceived, in strings or sequences. Understanding such strings or sequences requires, moreover, that the meanings of words are composed together.

This composition process need not mirror regularities in our experience of the world: for instance, all bananas are yellow, yet we can easily conceive of a blue banana, encode this thought in the phrase ‘A blue banana’, and safely assume that anyone who hears it or reads it will form the same thought we started with. Meaning composition is, therefore, the linchpin of cognition: it is necessary for explaining the creativity of human thought and communication.

This international symposium investigates the mechanisms of meaning composition, both in the human brain and in artificial computational systems. It includes ten talks from leading and emerging experimentalists and modelers in the fields of linguistics, cognitive psychology and neuroscience, and computer science. The goal of the symposium is to effectively begin to integrate different perspectives into a new synthesis where meaning composition is seen as the common root of a wide range of open problems and current debates in linguistics, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence.

The symposium is funded by the Research Council of Norway (project number 251219) and by the Faculty of Humanities at NTNU.