Announcing the 13th Annual Sinclair Open Lecture:

“The Hermeneutic Cyborg”
Professor Stefan Evert, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, 

Date: Monday 25th June 2018
Time: 5.00pm - 6.00pm
Venue: Main Lecture Theatre (room 120), Arts Building, University of Birmingham

The event is free but registration is essential; to register, please contact 

Even today, a large part of the most insightful work in corpus linguistics 
relies on techniques whose use in computer-based corpus studies was pioneered 
50 years ago by John Sinclair: collocation and keyword analysis combined with a 
careful interpretation of the corresponding kwic concordances. Enormous 
technological advances seem to have had little impact except for allowing 
corpus linguists to analyze ever larger corpora (even on their own laptop 
computers) and to make use of automatic linguistic annotation (such as 
part-of-speech tagging, or the automatic detection of direct speech in novels).

At the same time, research in other fields has been transformed fundamentally. 
Digital humanities applies a wide range of state-of-the-art techniques for data 
analysis and visualization, providing exciting new perspectives on language 
that are, however, often far removed from the actual object of study (a divorce 
often embraced as “distant reading”). In computer science, the age of deep 
learning has brought advances in artificial intelligence that may have a 
lasting impact on commerce and industry as well as society: algorithms are 
claimed to achieve superhuman performance; end-to-end learning translates 
between dozens of languages without any linguistic knowledge. As a result, the 
need for human understanding is increasingly questioned.

In my talk, I will discuss perspectives for the future of corpus-linguistic 
research in such an environment. Rather than uncritically embracing new data 
analysis techniques or applying deep learning models devoid of any linguistic 
understanding, I will argue that our field needs to develop approaches that 
combine human interpretation with quantitative analysis and visualization — 
merging man and machine into what I like to call, with a little bit of 
hyperbole, the Hermeneutic Cyborg.

About the speaker:
Stefan Evert holds the Chair of Computational Corpus Linguistics at the 
University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. After studying mathematics, physics 
and English linguistics, he received a PhD degree in computational linguistics 
from the University of Stuttgart, Germany. His research interests include the 
statistical analysis of corpus frequency data (significance tests in corpus 
linguistics, statistical association measures, Zipf’s law and word frequency 
distributions), quantitative approaches to lexical semantics (collocations, 
multiword expressions and distributional semantics), multidimensional analysis 
(linguistic variation, language comparison, translation studies), as well as 
processing large text corpora (IMS Open Corpus Workbench, data model and query 
language of the Nite XML Toolkit, tools for the Web as corpus).

Looking forward to seeing you in June!

Michaela Mahlberg, Director
Paul Thompson & Florent Perek, Deputy Directors
The Centre for Corpus Research, University of Birmingham

To register:

Sinclair lecture website:

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