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CL-FDS 2015 : Special Issue of Computational Linguistics: Formal Distributional Semantics


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Submission Deadline Apr 1, 2015
Categories    NLP

Call For Papers

Special Issue of Computational Linguistics: Formal Distributional Semantics
1st Call for Papers

* Submission deadline: April 1st 2015 *

Call for Papers

The semantics of natural language consists of complex phenomena encompassing functional aspects such as quantification (e.g. "the cat" vs. "a cat") and conceptual aspects related to word meaning (e.g. "cat" vs. "animal"; "visit Boston" vs. "visit a friend"). No existing theory of meaning accounts for both aspects, and existing approaches are typically biased towards one or the other. For instance, formal semantics focuses on functional aspects, providing a systematic treatment of compositionality through a clear syntax-semantics interface -- at the expense of lexical semantics. Distributional, or vector-space, semantics (Turney & Pantel, 2010), on the other hand, excels at lexical semantics phenomena ranging from word similarity to categorization, and it has recently made progress towards the formalisation of certain aspects of composition (Baroni 2013); however, functional aspects remain mostly unaccounted for.

Because of the complementary strengths of the two approaches, the computational linguistics community has started investigating proposals for an overarching architecture, combining formal and distributional semantics (e.g. Coecke et al., 2011; Erk, 2013; Lewis and Steedman 2013; Baroni et al., 2014). This effort holds the promise of significantly advancing the state of the art, as it is developing a model of semantics that accounts for both functional and conceptual aspects of meaning. However, given the fundamentally different nature of formal and distributional semantics, the enterprise poses great challenges from both a theoretical and an engineering point of view. The aim of this special issue is to explore the boundaries of a formal distributional semantics, by proposing relevant computational accounts of meaning and applying the corresponding frameworks to specific linguistic phenomena.


For this special issue, we solicit full-length article submissions describing original research on any aspect of formal distributional semantics integrating a computational perspective. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

- Theoretical questions: What is meaning in formal distributional semantics, and how well do computational models simulate the relevant theories? How can distributional representations be related to the traditional components of a semantics for natural languages, especially reference and truth? Is similarity (the chief notion in distributional semantics) at odds with inference (one of the testbeds of formal semantics), or can it support it?

- Framework issues: Should a framework be developed that encompasses both formal and distributional semantics in a single formalism (Baroni et al., 2014), or should the two approaches be kept separated and linked via systematic interactions (Lewis and Steedman 2013; Garrette et al., 2014)? How do different frameworks fare in standard computational semantics benchmarks (RTE, STS, etc.)? What further tasks and datasets can guide the development of comprehensive computational semantic frameworks?

- Linguistic phenomena: Can formal distributional semantics account for known phenomena? Can it shed new light on old puzzles? Can it handle newly observed phenomena? How does that impact Computational Linguistics / Natural Language Processing as a field?

Submission Date

Submission of full articles: April 1st 2015

Submission Instructions

Articles submitted to this special issue must adhere to the Computational Linguistics Style Guidelines. The submission guidelines can be found on the CL web site ( As in regular submissions to the journal, paper submissions should be made through the CL electronic submission system.

Guest Editors

Gemma Boleda

Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain
gemma.boleda AT

Aurelie Herbelot

University of Cambridge, UK
aurelie.herbelot AT


Baroni, M. (2013). Composition in distributional semantics. Language and Linguistics Compass, 7:511–522.

Baroni, M., Bernardi, R., and Zamparelli, R. (2014). Frege in space: A program for compositional distributional semantics. Linguistic Issues in Language Technology, 9.

Coecke, B., Sadrzadeh, M., and Clark, S. (2011). Mathematical foundations for a compositional distributional model of meaning. Linguistic Analysis: A Festschrift for Joachim Lambek, 36(1–4):345–384.

Erk, K. (2013). Towards a semantics for distributional representations. In Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Computational Semantics (IWCS2013).

Garrette, D., Erk, K., and Mooney, R. (2014). A formal approach to linking logical form and vector-space lexical semantics. In Bunt, H., Bos, J., and Pulman, S., editors. Text, Speech and Language Technology: Computing Meaning, 47:27-48. Springer.

Lewis, M. and Steedman, M. (2013). Combined Distributional and Logical Semantics. Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics 1:179–192.

Turney, P. D. and Pantel, P. (2010). From frequency to meaning: Vector space models of semantics. Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, 37:141–188.

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