EACL Newsletter

Issue 9

September 2007

Table of Contents
  1. Editorial
  2. View from the Chair
  3. Current EACL Board
  4. Report on ACL 2007
  5. Report on ESSLLI 2007
  6. Report of EUROLAN 2007
  7. Obituary for Karen Sparck Jones
  8. Calendar


Welcome to the EACL newsletter for year 2007. In the time that has passed since the last issue, several exciting events related to our community have taken place in Europe. We are reporting on this below. But first of all, let us start with some announcements of interest.

The 12th conference of the EACL will take place in year 2009 in Athens, Greece. The structure and dates of the programme are already available: tutorials and workshops will take place on March 30 and 31, followed by the main conference on April 1, 2, and 3. Please make sure you put these dates on your diaries. More information on this event are found below in the note by Alex Lascarides, EACL Chair.

Some new people have joined the advisory board and the student board of EACL. Anette Frank, EACL Secretary, has written a welcome section introducing the new members. As every year, the student board has carefully edited a dense calendar of events of interest that will soon take place, not limited to Europe. The document is now available in the EACL home page, and we provide here a link. The calendar will be continuously updated in the months to come.

To start with our list of events, this year we have had a very exciting edition of the ACL 2007 conference, which was jointly hosted by ACL and EACL. The conference was held in Prague and was a massive success, with an unprecedented number of participants. This newsletter contains a very detailed report about the conference, its program, and the satellite events, written by Eva Hajicova, chair of the local organising committee, and by the sponsorship chair Jan Hajic and the publicity chair Pavel Stranak.

Furthermore, we have a report on ESSLLI 2007, which took place in Dublin, Ireland, written by Tomaz Erjavec, the chair of the program committee. We also have a report on EUROLAN 2007, which took place in Iasi, Romania, written by Dan Cristea, Corina Forascu, Rada Mihalcea and Dan Tufis, on behalf of the program and organisation committees.

This time, unfortunately, we have to close with what has come to be very sad news for all of us. Professor Karen Sparck Jones passed away on 4 April 2007. We are reporting below an obituary, written by John I. Tait, reprinted from the Computational Linguistics journal with the kind permission of the editor.

Giorgio Satta

View From The Chair

Since the last newsletter, EACL's main activity has been to choose a site to host EACL 2009. This will take place in Athens, from March 30th to April 3rd. Vangelis Karkaletsis (Demokritos, Athens University of Economics and Business) is the chair of the local organising committee. The local team has lots of experience in hosting events of a similar size, and I am sure that they will do a fantastic job in welcoming us to Athens in 2009. I am very grateful to them for taking on this responsibility.

We have also chosen our programme committee chairs for EACL 2009: I'm pleased to say that both Claire Gardent (Nancy) and Joakim Nivre (Vaxjo) have agreed to take on this role. You will be receiving a call for papers towards the end of the Summer 2008. I would urge everyone to submit a paper, and to attend the conference!

There have been a number of changes among EACL's board members. I would especially like to thank Gertjan van Noord for his fantastic work as Chair of EACL 2005--2006. I know now from experience how much work is involved in being a member of the ACL executive committee! I would also like to thank Galia Angelova, Ido Dagan and Felisa Verdejo for all their suggestions and proposals, as advisory members of the EACL board over the last few years. Their tenure on the board also ceased at the beginning of the year. Luckily, we haven't lost Gertjan and Felisa completely, as they have become members of the nominating committee, replacing Donia Scott and Philippe Blanche. Donia and Philippe have done so much for EACL over the last 10 years, and we will miss them. I would also like to thank Jonathan Read and Violeta Seretan, for running the student sessions in the last EACL. They have now stepped down as members of the student board, and I wish them well in their future careers.

I would also like to welcome our new members of the board: Giorgio Satta is the Chair Elect for EACL (2007--2008), and Eric Gaussier, Kiril Simov and Josef van Genabith have joined the board as advisory members. Our new members of the EACL student board are Vera Demberg (Edinburgh) and Yanjun Ma (Dublin). They will be helping to organise the student session for EACL 2009.

Finally, the call for bids to host ACL 2010 in Europe was released at ACL in Prague. I very much hope you will consider putting in a bid to host it. Please contact Steven Bird if you have any questions about it.

Alex Lascarides

Current EACL Board

The EACL welcomes the new officers on the EACL Executive Board that were elected this spring.

We welcome Giorgio Satta as the new chair elect, and Eric Gaussier, Kiril Simov and Josef van Genabith on the advisory board.

Gertjan van Noord and Felisa Verdejo have become members of the nominating committee.

In June, we had changes on the EACL Student Board, with two new members joining in: Vera Demberg and Yanjun MA.

We would like to thank everyone who has come to the end of their tenure for all the work and effort they have put into ensuring that EACL runs smoothly: Gertjan van Noord (Chair, 2005--2006), Galia Angelova, Ido Dagan and Felisa Verdejo (advisory board), Philippe Blache and Donia Scott (nominating committee), as well as Jonathon Read and Violeta Seretan (student board).

The current EACL board is as follows:


Chair elect:



Advisory Board:

Nominating committee:

Below, the new EACL officers introduce themselves with a short bio.

Giorgio Satta, Chair Elect:

Giorgio Satta received a Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1990 from University of Padua, Italy. He is currently joining the Department of Information Engineering at University of Padua, where he is a full professor. He has joined the editorial boards of the journals "Computational Linguistics", "Grammars" and "Research in Language and Computation". He has served as PC chair for the ACL 2001 conference and for the IWPT 2001 workshop. He is currently in the standing committee of the Formal Grammar conference. His main research interests are in natural language parsing and formal models for natural language.

Eric Gaussier, Advisory Board:

Eric Gaussier is Professor at the University Joseph Fourier and member of the LIG (Laboratoire d'Informatique de Grenoble). He joined these two institutions in September 2006. Prior to that, he was Area Manager at the Xerox Research Centre Europe, leading a research team on Machine Learning and Content Analysis. He is a former member of the PASCAL network of excellence in machine learning, and serves on the editorial board of Computational Linguistics and Traitement Automatique des Langues, as well as on the program committees of several conferences in information retrieval, machine learning and computational linguistics. His current research focuses on machine learning for computational linguistics and information retrieval.

Josef van Genabith, Advisory Board:

Josef van Genabith received his first degree in Electronic Engineering and English (1988) at RWTH Aachen (Germany), and an MA (1990) and a PhD (1993) at the University of Essex (UK). He held positions as a researcher at the Universities of Essex (UK - Prof. L. Sadler) and Stuttgart (Germany - Prof. H. Kamp). He joined the School of Computing at Dublin City University (Ireland) in 1996 and became Associate Professor in 2003. Since 2002, he is the Director of the National Centre for Language Technology (NCLT). His research interests include treebank-based deep grammar acquisition (LFG), parsing, generation, computational semantics and MT.

Núria Bertomeu, Student Board (Núria joined the Board in 2006, before we edited the last newsletter issue):

Núria Bertomeu is a PhD student at Saarland University, Saarbruecken, Germany. She received a MSc in Cognitive Science and Language from Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona. Her main interests are deep semantics and discourse processing. Her PhD research focuses on modeling discourse structure and resolving discourse phenomena in Question Answering interactions. Núria will assist the EACL webmaster in general web management.

Vera Demberg, Student Board:

Vera Demberg is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. Her research is focused on building a cognitively plausible model of human sentence processing using statistical methods from computational linguistics. She received an MSc in Artificial Intelligence from Edinburgh University for a thesis on information presentation in spoken dialogue systems, and a Diploma in Computational Linguistics from Stuttgart University, where she worked on grapheme-to-phoneme conversion.

Yanjun Ma, Student Board:

Yanjun Ma is a PhD student in Dublin City University under the supervision of Prof. Andy Way. His research focuses on machine translation using statistical approaches, with a particularly interest in word and phrasal alignment in bilingual context. Before joining DCU machine translation group in August 2006, he received a MA on Computational Linguistics in Tsinghua University (Beijing, China). His first degree was on Linguistics, received in Shandong University (Jinan, China) in 1999.

Anette Frank

Report on ACL 2007

The 45th ACL Annual Meeting has been held in Prague on June 23-30, 2007 organized by the Institute of Formal and Applied Linguistics at Charles University in Prague. It was the largest ACL meeting ever held by the ACL during the time of its existence. There were more than 1000 participants from abroad, coming from 48 countries, and about 70 researchers and students from the Czech Republic, mostly from Charles University in Prague. The meeting was held under the auspices of the former Rector of Charles University prof. ing. Ivan Wilhelm, the present-day Rector of the University prof. RNDr. Vaclav Hampl (who welcomed the participants on behalf of the University at the opening session) and the Mayor of the City of Prague MUDr. Pavel Bem. The General Chair of the Conference was John Carroll; the programme chairs were Annie Zeanen and Antal van den Bosch, the tutorial chair Joakim Nivre and the workshop chair Simone Teufel. The Local Organizing Committee was headed by Eva Hajicova with Jan Hajic as Local Coordinator and Anna Kotesovcova as Local Arrangements Chair.

The three-day main conference consisted of four parallel sessions and one student session. There were 588 submissions for the main conference out of which 131 have been accepted (acceptance rate 22,30%). The invited speakers were Tom Mitchell (on the relations between language, meaning, and brain), and Barney Pell (from Powerset) on intelligent text retrieval.

15 workshops were organized before and after the conference and there were also two adjoined conferences, the International Workshop on Parsing Technologies (IWPT) and the joint conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and on Computational Natural Language Learning (EMNLP-CoNLL). The EMNLP-CoNLL joint conference this year was also exceptionally large, there were more than 340 participants and 398 submissions from which 66 were accepted as papers and 43 as posters, making the acceptance rate 27%. This conference also included some short reports on the results of a point task concerning dependency based analysis applied to annotated corpora of several languages.

There were five tutorials before the main conference with a range of topics: special statistical methods for NLP, data mining from Internet, dialogue systems, methods of logical inferencing from texts and methods of evaluation and advancing the quality of corpus annotation.

The Best Paper Award went to Yuk Wah Wong a Raymond J. Money who delivered the paper "Learning Synchronous Grammars for Semantic Parsing with Lambda Calculus".

The recipient of the 2007 Life Achievement Award was a very influential theoretical and computational linguist, Lauri Karttunen >from Stanford University, USA.

Among the sponsors of the 2007 ACL meeting there were Google, Microsoft, IBM, Xerox, TextKernel, BBN, Morphologic, NewsTin, Powerset, the Czech Association for Information Science and some others.

This was the third time when Prague hosted an international meeting on computational linguistics: after a rather small but for that time rather influential Colloquium on Algebraic Linguistics in 1964 there was a COLING Conference in Prague in 1982, with almost 400 participants, at the occasion of which the foundation of the European Chapter of ACL was announced by Donald Walker, the then ACL Secretary, accompanied by the establishment of the ACL International Fund which made it possible for considerably economically handicapped researchers >from Central and Eastern European countries to be ACL members, receiving the journal and being supported in their participation at the ACL meetings. This was one of the greatest support we have got and by organizing the 2007 ACL meeting we also wanted to express our gratefulness.

Eva Hajicova
Local Organisation Chair

Jan Hajic
Sponsorship Chair

Pavel Stranak
Publicity Chair

Report on ESSLLI 2007

The 19th European Summer School in Logic, Language and Information took place at Trinity College, Dublin, 6-17 August, 2007. The summer school offered 40 courses, as usual divided into three levels (foundational, introductory and advanced) and three tracks (language and logic, logic and computation, and language and computation). The courses were accompanied by 6 workshops and 4 evening lectures.

The Language and Computation track gave courses on, for example, ontologies and semantics (also the topics of two evening lectures), machine learning, multimedia, machine translation, evaluation, parsing, etc.

This years summer was attended by over 300 students and lecturers, and the teaching and learning was complemented by cricket and other joys of Dublin. A number of students were sponsored by EACL.

Further information about ESSLLI 2007, along with complete course materials and pictures of the event, is available via https://www.cs.tcd.ie/esslli2007/

Tomaz Erjavec
PC Chair

Report on EUROLAN 2007

EUROLAN 2007 Summer School: Semantics, Opinions and Sentiments in Texts http://eurolan.info.uaic.ro/

In the middle of this hot summer, the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi, Romania hosted the 8th edition of the EUROLAN Summer Schools. Continuing a tradition already established since 1993, the theme selected for the school was on one of the forefront research subjects in Computational Linguistics. Sentiment and opinion analysis were discussed in conjunction with semantic analysis in a tentative to evidence the connection between them in text and speech.

During the two intensive weeks of the summer school, the program included tutorials, practical sessions, as well as two satellite events organized as evening activities. The topics addressed by the school -- which included the discovery of subjectivity indicators, subjectivity and sentiment analysis in blogs, frontiers between subjectivity and objectivity, discourse and dialogue structure and modeling, annotation for deep semantics, emotions, intentions and meanings from text and speech, applications of opinion and sentiment analysis, multilingual and multicultural aspects of opinions and sentiments, attribution of opinion and sentiment, the future of Semantic Web -- have been successfully covered by our guest lecturers: Mathieu d'Aquin, Dan Cristea, Nancy Ide, Rada Mihalcea, Paola Monachesi, Enrico Motta, Nicolas Nicolov, Livia Polanyi, Carlo Strapparava, Horia-Nicolai Teodorescu, Dan Tufis, Janyce Wiebe, Yorick Wilks, and Michael Zock.

The two satellite events (a Doctoral Consortium dedicated to young researchers and a workshop on Applications of Semantics, Opinions and Sentiments in e-Learning) raised the interest of a significant part of the attendees of EUROLAN 2007.

As in previous editions the school attracted about 100 participants coming from 15 countries. About 30 participants have been supported by Microsoft Research through their MR Inspire program. This generous support was complemented by the traditional sponsor of EUROLAN -- the Romanian Ministry of Education and Research -- and local sponsors, mainly Romanian IT enterprises.

The traditional social events (a trip, this year to discover the famous monasteries of Bucovina, and a city tour) were delightfully diversified with a much appreciated contest, "Taste it!... and rank your opinions," in which the participants could enjoy national meals, wine, music, dances, and virtual cultural trip.

Dan Cristea, Corina Forascu, Rada Mihalcea and Dan Tufis
on behalf of the Program and Organisational Committees

Obituary for Karen Sparck Jones

Karen Sparck Jones died peacefully on 4 April 2007 after a number of months battling cancer. Karen was President of the Association for Computational Linguistics in 1994 during a difficult period, and saw through a transitional phase in which a solid basis for the long-term health of the association was established.

Karen was an exceptional individual who made very substantial contributions in two separate fields, computational linguistics (CL) and information retrieval (IR), as well as in computing and artificial intelligence more broadly. In IR, her greatest contribution was probably her invention (1972) of the concept of inverse document frequency (IDF), in which the importance of terms is weighted according to the proportion of documents in the corpus in which they occur; the intuition being that terms which occur in many documents are poor index terms. This is the partial basis of all weighting schemes adopted by widely used Internet search engines, and will undoubtedly be a lasting contribution to the field.

Her primary inspiration and interest was always language, especially language in practical use. Her long involvement with IR arose (as someone who subsisted for a inordinately long time on soft money) by the need to find a new line of research in the aftermath of the ALPAC Report and the subsequent difficulties in getting machine translation work funded. However, she was always well qualified to work in IR, a topic addressed in her very early publications (Masterman, Needham, and Sparck Jones 1958), although in a rather different context to her later work.

Given this focus on language it is therefore perhaps odd that her main contributions to CL or natural language processing are harder to pin down. They include contributions to summarization, natural language interfaces to structured databases, dialogue, semantics, and more. In the long term perhaps her greatest contribution will come to be seen to be her Ph.D. thesis (1964), which was far ahead of its time. It brought together statistical or machine learning approaches with the use of an existing resource (Roget's Thesaurus -- punched onto cards!) and still can be read with profit today (see Wilks and Tait 2005). It can be viewed as the forerunner of a whole range of more recent attempts to derive semantic information on an empirical basis.

It is perhaps as an empiricist that Karen will be best remembered. Her long associations with the US TREC initiatives and the more recent DUC summary evaluations are well known, as is her earlier association with DARPA TIDES, but her desire to work on well-founded experimental bases runs through from her earliest days, initially through involvement with Cyril Cleverdon and the Cranfield project, and then later in the work reported, for example, in Sparck Jones and van Rijsbergen (1976) and Sparck Jones and Galliers (1996). Perhaps this derived from her being a long associate of Wittgenstein's student Margaret Masterman (a connection Karen acknowledged in her acceptance speech for the ACL Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005) and consequently from the focus of Wittgenstein's philosophy on language use.

Karen was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England in 1935 of English and Norwegian parents and was very much a child of Second World War Britain. She initially read History at Cambridge, but graduated in Philosophy (Moral Sciences). Following a brief spell as a schoolteacher she joined the Cambridge Language Research Unit in 1957 under Masterman and so began a very lengthy period on soft money. The University of Cambridge finally recognized her standing by awarding her a Readership in 1994 and a personal chair in 1999.

Karen received very many awards during her career. These include Fellowships of the American and European Artificial Intelligence societies, Fellowship of the British Academy, the ACL Lifetime Achievement Award, the Lovelace Medal of the British Computer Society, the ACM SIGIR Salton Award, the American Society for Information Science and Technology's Award of Merit, and the ACM-AAAI Allen Newell Award. Finally she was awarded the ACM Women's Group Athena Award, which sadly she did not live to receive formally, although she bravely recorded an acceptance lecture a few weeks prior to her death.

Although Karen felt she was never overtly discriminated against as a woman, it must have taken considerable courage and tenacity to develop a leading academic career at a time when society's expectations of women went little beyond their roles as wives and mothers. She acknowledged the support of her parents and then her late husband (and long-time academic collaborator) Roger Needham in her obtaining a good education and developing a career. She noted that in professional circles she was very frequently the only woman, and made very active efforts, especially in recent years, to interest young women and girls in careers in computing, believing that "computing was too important to be left to men." Karen remained as active as ever after her formal and undesired retirement (see the Guardian Letters Page, 5 October 2002).

These academic achievements should not be allowed to eclipse Karen's wellroundedness as person. She and her late husband Roger were keen sailors, owning, and maintaining themselves for many years, an 1872 Itchen Ferry Cutter. They also built their first house with their own hands. Karen could sketch well, made works of art from everyday objects, and had an enormous knowledge of natural history and church architecture. She was candid and passionate and could be enormously generous in her support. She will be greatly missed.

John I. Tait

Copyright 2007 Association for Computational Linguistics.
Reprinted from Computational Linguistics Volume 33, Number 3, 2007, with the kind permission of the Editor


Masterman, Margaret, Roger M. Needham, and Karen Sparck Jones. 1958. The analogy between mechanical translation and library retrieval. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information (1958), volume 2, pages 917-935, Washington, D.C.

Sparck Jones, Karen. 1964. Synonymy and Semantic Classification. Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge.

Sparck Jones, Karen. 1972. A statistical interpretation of term specificity and its application in retrieval. Journal of Documentation, 28:11-21. Reprinted in Journal of Documentation, 60:493-502, 2004.

Sparck Jones, Karen. 2005. "Some points in a time." Acceptance speech for ACL Lifetime Achievement Award. Computational Linguistics, 31(1):1-14.

Sparck Jones, Karen and Julia R. Galliers. 1996. Evaluating Natural Language Processing Systems. Number 1083 in Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Sparck Jones, Karen and Keith van Rijsbergen. 1976. Information retrieval test collections. Journal of Documentation, 32:59-75.

Wilks, Yorick and John Tait. 2005. A retrospective view of synonymy and semantic classification. In John Tait, editor, Charting a New Course: Natural Language Processing and Information Retrieval, Essays in Honour of Karen Sparck Jones, 1-11. Springer, Berlin.


The calendar can be found here.