Fall 2022

LIN/CSE 667: Advanced Topics in Computational Linguistics

Instructor Name: Dr. Cassandra Jacobs Class Day and Time: MW 9:00-10:20AM Number of Credits: 1-3 units Email Address: cxjacobs@buffalo.edu Office Location: 614 Baldy Hall Office Hours: On Zoom by appointment

Course description

This course aims to provide students with an overview of the key areas which make up the field called Computational Linguistics, an understanding of the major challenges of the field as well as the major application areas for language processing techniques, and the skills to implement fundamental language processing algorithms. This course is dual listed between CSE 667LEC and LIN 667LEC.

Required Text and Materials

All reading materials will be made available on UBLearns as well as the course webpage and will consist primarily of journal articles or conference proceedings.

Theme: Linguistic probes and linguistic representations in large language models

The landscape for natural language processing (NLP) has changed dramatically in the past decade with the explosion of neural language models for downstream NLP tasks. A persistent challenge, however, is that prior methods, e.g., structured perceptron approaches, random forests, etc., were significantly more transparent from the perspective of the modeler. Given the nature of the model representations, it was trivial to inspect why a classifier made the decision it did and cheap and easy to perform causal inference by performing feature ablation. While deep learning largely rejects interpretability, it is of great importance to scientists and practitioners of NLP to be able to understand what is encoded in neural language models concretely, e.g., linguistic or statistical regularities. This course is a deep dive into the literature on probing for linguistic factors (e.g., syntactic structure) in the decisions of neural language models, in addition to the statistical regularities that they encode (e.g., linguistic bias).


Course Learning OutcomeInstructional MethodsAssessment Methods
Obtain familiarity with probing methods to test for the presence of linguistic structure in neural language model representationsClassroom presentation; leading class discussion; course reading posts; classroom participationCompletion rubrics
Understand the effects of including linguistic features or metadata as part of neural language model feature engineering; better understand types of probes and fine-tuning methodsCourse readings and classroom participationForum participation on Blackboard/UBLearns
Obtain fluency in communication of scientific results and discussion of scientific topicsClassroom presentation; leading class discussion; final projectPresentation rubric; forum participation on Blackboard/UBLearns
Obtain competency in the design and completion of a research projectFinal projectCompletion rubrics

Weekly class/lecture structure

The course is primarily conducted using a mix of instructor-guided discussion and student-led discussion. Each week on Wednesdays, we will discuss a broad linguistic domain relevant to doing NLP with deep learning, why interpretability is critical for that domain, and the technological tools that have been developed to probe different structures in that linguistic domain. Particular attention will be paid to the nature of the datasets leveraged or generated during lecture. On Mondays, two students will each present one paper from the current theme. Then, by the following Wednesday, every non-presenter will submit a review for papers from the preceding week.

1WednesdayTopic 1: Instructor-guided discussion
2MondayTopic 1: Student-led discussion
2WednesdayTopic 2: Instructor-guided discussion
3MondayTopic 2: Student-led discussion
3WednesdayTopic 3: Instructor-guided discussion (Topic 3)
Topic 1: Paper reviews
4MondayTopic 3: Student-led discussion
4WednesdayTopic 4: Instructor-guided discussion
Paper reviews (Topic 2)

Grade composition

Weight (percent of overall grade)Assignment
40%Weekly reviews posted to UBLearns
20%Student-led presentation & discussion
20%Final project paper
10%Final project presentation
10%Participation in class and monthly self-assessments

Weekly paper reviews

As part of this course, you will be asked to provide an ACL Rolling Review-style paper review for one of two selected papers from each week. The goal of these assignments is to encourage you to analyze research work from a scientific perspective. Do not be afraid if the task is challenging — it is expected that the quality of your reviews will improve over the course of the semester as you gain familiarity with the literature and obtain feedback on your reviews. More details are available here: https://aclrollingreview.org/reviewform

Reading Schedule

Paper presentation and discussion guidelines

Final project guidelines

A final project will help determine your mastery of the course material and refine your ability to initiate, design, analyze, and summarize unique research questions. The general topic of your project should be broadly related to the interpretability and probing literatures discussed in class. The work you do for your final project should be your own and not plagiarized or purely replicating work completed elsewhere (e.g., data science blogs) and must come with an associated thoughtful literature review detailing prior work and scientific motivation. You may attempt to replicate the results or reconstruct the models from published ACL proceedings paper on the basis of that paper alone.

Students who wish to complete a capstone project via 667 should note that the thoroughness of the literature review and a fair, in-depth analysis of the results is critical for the project completion and it is imperative that you meet with the instructor or update them regularly, beginning early in the course. If you intend to complete a capstone project, all relevant paperwork must be completed on time following the CSE or LIN department guidelines and you must tell the instructor the first week of class if it is your intention to complete a capstone project.

Accessibility Services and Student Resources:

If you have a disability and may require some type of instructional and/or examination accommodation, please inform me early in the semester so that we can coordinate the accommodations you may need.  If you have not already done so, please contact the Office of Accessibility Services (formerly the Office of Disability Services) University at Buffalo, 60 Capen Hall, Buffalo, NY 14260-1632; email: stu-accessibility@buffalo.edu Phone: 716-645-2608 (voice); 716-645-2616 (TTY); Fax: 716-645-3116; and on the web at http://www.buffalo.edu/studentlife/who-we-are/departments/accessibility.html. All information and documentation is confidential.

The University at Buffalo and the Graduate School of Education are committed to ensuring equal opportunity for persons with special needs to participate in and benefit from all of its programs, services and activities.

Academic Integrity:

Academic integrity is critical to the learning process. It is your responsibility as a student to complete your work in an honest fashion, upholding the expectations your individual instructors have for you in this regard. The ultimate goal is to ensure that you learn the content in your courses in accordance with UB’s academic integrity principles, regardless of whether instruction is in-person or remote. Thank you for upholding your own personal integrity and ensuring UB’s tradition of academic excellence.

It is expected that you will behave in an honorable and respectful way as you learn and share ideas. Therefore, recycled papers, work submitted to other courses, and major assistance in preparation of assignments without identifying and acknowledging such assistance are not acceptable. All work for this class must be original for this class. Please be familiar with the University and the School policies regarding plagiarism. Read the Academic Integrity Policy and Procedure for more information. Visit The Graduate School Policies & Procedures page (http://grad.buffalo.edu/succeed/current-students/policy-library.html) for the latest information.

Course Evaluations:

You will have two opportunities to provide anonymous feedback about the course. In the middle of the semester, I will send you a brief questionnaire asking about what activities are contributing to your learning and what might be done to improve your learning. At the conclusion of the semester you will receive an email reminder requesting your participation in the Course Evaluation process. Please provide your honest feedback; it is important to the improvement and development of this course. Feedback received is anonymous and I do not receive copies of the Evaluations until after grades have been submitted for the semester.

Counseling Services:

As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning or reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. These might include strained relationships, anxiety, high levels of stress, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, health concerns, or unwanted sexual experiences. Counseling, Health Services and Health Promotion are here to help with these or other issues you may experience. You can learn more about these program and services by contacting:

Counseling Services

120 Richmond Quad (North Campus), 716-645-2720

202 Michael Hall (South Campus), 716-829-5900


Health Services

Michael Hall (South Campus), 716-829-3316


Office of Health Promotion

114 Student Union (North Campus), 716-645-2837


Sexual Harassment/Violence:

UB is committed to providing a safe learning environment free of all forms of discrimination and sexual harassment, including sexual assault, domestic and dating violence and stalking. If you have experienced gender-based violence (intimate partner violence, attempted or completed sexual assault, harassment, coercion, stalking, etc.), UB has resources to help. This includes academic accommodations, health and counseling services, housing accommodations, helping with legal protective orders, and assistance with reporting the incident to police or other UB officials if you so choose. Please contact UB’s Title IX Coordinator at 716-645-2266 for more information. For confidential assistance, you may also contact a Crisis Service Campus Advocate at 716-796-4399.

Please be aware UB faculty are mandated to report violence or harassment on the basis of sex or gender. This means that if you tell me about a situation, I will need to report it to the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. You will still have options about how the situation will be handled, including whether or not you wish to pursue a formal complaint. Please know that if you not wish to have UB proceed with an investigation, your request will be honored unless UB’s failure to act does not adequately mitigate the risk of harm to you or other members of the university community. You also have the option of speaking with trained counselors who can maintain confidentiality. UB’s Options for Confidentiality Disclosing Sexual Violence provides a full explanation of the resources available, as well as contact information. You may call UB’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at 716-645-2266 for more information, and you have the option of calling that office anonymously if you would prefer not to disclose your identity.

Technology Recommendations

To effectively participate in this course, regardless of mode of instruction, the university recommends you have access to a Windows or Mac computer with webcam and broadband. Your best opportunity for success in the blended UB course delivery environment (in-person, hybrid and remote) will require these minimum capabilities.

Public health compliance in a classroom setting

UB student Behavioral Requirements in all Campus Public Spaces include:

  1. Students are required to obtain and wear a high-quality, tight-fitting, high-filtration mask when aboard a UB bus or shuttle or in a clinical health care setting in accordance with current health and safety guidelines. Masks indoors and in other public campus settings are optional.
  1. Students who are regularly on campus and not fully vaccinated are required to participate in surveillance testing.
  1. Students are required to abide by New York State, federal and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel restrictions and precautionary quarantines.
  1. Students are required to stay home if they are sick.
  1. Students are required to follow campus and public health directives for isolation or quarantine.
  1. Should a student need to miss class due to illness, isolation or quarantine, they are required to notify their faculty to make arrangements to make up missed work.
  1. Living on campus is a privilege that comes with additional requirements. Residential students are required to follow specific Campus Living rules as outlined in the Campus Living Housing Agreement, the Guide to Campus Living and any posted signage.
  1. Students dining at on-campus facilities are expected to follow posted information on any additional requirements specific to the dining environment.
  1. Students are responsible for following any additional directives in settings such as labs, clinical environments etc.