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Department of Computer Science and Technology



Course pages 2023–24

Discourse and Pragmatics

Principal lecturers: Prof Simone Teufel, Dr Weiwei Sun
Taken by: MPhil ACS, Part III
Code: L99
Term: Lent
Hours: 16
Format: In-person (half lectures and half reading group)
Class limit: max. 16 students
Moodle, timetable


Teach theoretical background in linguistics that enables systems to interpret sentences in the context of a task or in the context of a large text, and introduce systems that provide such analyses, when such systems exist. Discourse linguistics concerns tasks such as summarization, language generation, reasoning and text understanding. Pragmatics concerns problems of interpretation of a linguistic signal in the utterance context. Pragmatics concerns tasks such as dialogue systems. Pragmatics and Discourse also affect evaluation of NLP systems. Upon completing the course, students should be aware of the theoretical phenomena in Discourse Linguistics and Pragmatics. Students are prepared for research in building discourse linguistics and pragmatics informed systems. Awareness of the phenomena described the module also enable them to perform better evaluation of NLP systems, for instance by identifying semantic problems in NLP system output  which are not based on the sentence semantics itself, but on the larger context.


The house is half lecture, half reading class. There are 8 sessions. Each session consists of a one-hour lecture followed by a student presentation of a paper and discussion of that paper and related papers.


Session 1: Reference and Pronoun Resolution
Session 2: Speech Acts
Session 3: Coherence
Session 4: Grice's Maximes
Session 5: Entailment and Presupposition
Session 6: Information Status
Session 7: Inferential Relations
Session 8: Discourse Representation Theory (DRT)


  • 20% Presentation
  • 80% Coursework, to be delivered in 3 assessed homeworks (week 3, 5 and 7):
    • Homework 1: 20% 
    • Homework 2: 20% 
    • Homework 3: 40% 

Full details to follow by early Michalemas term.