Category Archives: Natural language understanding

NWO Project granted: CLARIAH

CLARIAH (Common Lab Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities) project granted by NWO in the National Roadmap for Large-Scale Research Facilities programme.

CLARIAH is developing a digital infrastructure that brings together large collections of data and software from different humanities disciplines. This will enable humanities researchers, from historians, literature experts and archaeologists to linguists, speech technologists and media scientists – to investigate cross-disciplinary questions, for example about culture and societal change. CLARIAH has received 12 million euros for the development of research instruments and the training of scientists. This project is vitally important for the development of the humanities in the Netherlands; a digital revolution is taking place that will drastically change how humanities research is done. The potential societal impact of this is also considerable.

CLARIAH (Common Lab Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities)
CLARIAH: BIG DATA, GRAND CHALLENGES background article (pdf).

Organisations involved (applicants): Huygens ING, International Institute for Social History, Meertens Institute, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, DANS, Radboud University Nijmegen, Utrecht University, University of Amsterdam and VU University Amsterdam. Project leader: Prof. A.F. (Lex) Heerma van Voss.

Piek Vossen part of core team CLARIAH Prof. dr. Piek Vossen is part of the CLARIAH core team.

CLARIAH | NWO-programma Nationale Roadmap on YouTube (in Dutch)

CLARIAH kickoff 2015 on YouTube (in Dutch)

Release Open Source Dutch WordNet

Open Source Dutch Wordnet is a Dutch lexical semantic database.
Demo of Open Source Dutch WordNet. Release first version of the Open Dutch Wordnet (ODWN): December 02, 2014. By Marten Postma and Piek Vossen.

ODWN was created by removing the proprietary content from Cornetto (, and by using open source resources to replace this proprietary content.

Open Source Dutch WordNet contains 116,992 synsets, of which 95,356 originate from WordNet 3.0 and 21,636 synsets are new synsets. The number of English synsets without Dutch synonyms is 60,743, which means that 34,613 WordNet 3.0 synsets have been filled with at least one Dutch synonym.

The demo of Open Source Dutch WordNet can be inspected by go through these steps:
(1) Use as browser Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox
(2) Go to
(3) login with: username: gast, password: gast
(4) click in the left box on ‘ODWN’ add click the ‘Add’ button
(5) click the button ‘Open dictionaries’ and inspect the resource

This project has been co-funded by the Nederlandse Taalunie (2013-2014).

Summer School Perspectives on Subjectivity: July 06-17, 2015

Piek Vossen and his team organize a Summer School course “Perspectives on Subjectivity”, VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands from July 06-17, 2015.

Who should join this course?

Advanced Bachelor/ Master students of Linguistics (theoretical, applied or computational), Artificial Intelligence and Journalism, and others interested in cultural perspectives in communication.

Course content

Welcome to Perpectives on Subjectivity: an excellent course in Amsterdam! That is a very subjective opening, as you will agree. Here the subjective perspective of the writer is obvious, but as a rule it is much more subtle. Subjectivity is one of the key elements of natural language. Every communicative act is subjective to some degree. Subjectivity starts with the intentions of the producer of the message and affects its associated functions and syntactic structures, not to mention the choice of vocabulary and associated connotations. All of this can be summarized as perspective.

This course combines theoretical linguistic notions about perspectives with hands-on work on real language data in the lab. Moving between theory, discussions, practical data annotation and data use (machine learning and quantative/ qualitative analysis), you explore a wide range of linguistic phenomena: reference, modality, attribution, registers, sentiment analysis, opinions, temporal processing and so on.

Perspectives on Subjectivity is provided by the Computational Lexicology & Terminology Lab (CLTL), which models computer understanding of natural language with a central role for sources like lexicons, ontologies and terminology. The CLTL is part of the Department of Language and Communication in the Faculty of humanities at VU University Amsterdam.

Learning objectives

  • You are familiar with linguistic theory on major topics in subjectivity and perspective: reference, modality, attribution, registers, sentiment analysis, opinions and temporal processing.
  • You can evaluate the relevant linguistic theory in critical discussions.
  • You can apply the theory tot the description and analysis of real language data.
  • You can annotate that data and analyse it in lab sessions, using machine learning and quantitative techniques (as used in data journalism, for instance).
  • TiNT: Terminologie in het Nederlandse Taalgebied: Nov. 14, 2014

    141117_TiNT_2014Impression of TiNT 2014, November 14, 2014 and link to programme

    Op 14 november 2014 organiseert de vereniging NL-Term in samenwerking met het Steunpunt Nederlandstalige Terminologie voor de zesde maal de TiNT-dag. TiNT staat voor Terminologie in het Nederlandse Taalgebied. Dit jaarlijks terugkerende evenement is bedoeld om actueel onderzoek en de professionele praktijk op het gebied van Nederlandstalige terminologie voor te stellen voor een breed publiek. TiNT 2014 vindt plaats op het Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken in Den Haag, van 9.30 tot 18.00 uur. Het thema is dit jaar Terminologie in de communicatie tussen overheid en burger. We hebben zeer interessante en voor het thema relevante sprekers vast kunnen leggen, waaronder Alex Brenninkmeijer van de Europese Rekenkamer, tot voor kort Nationale Ombudsman, Geert Joris, Algemeen Secretaris van de Nederlandse Taalunie en Jac Brouwer, Landelijk Huisstijlcoördinator van de Belastingdienst.

    We hopen ook dit jaar weer op een volle zaal, interessante presentaties en levendige discussie.

    Meer informatie, het voorlopige programma en het inschrijfformulier kunt u vinden op onze website:

    Met vriendelijke groet,
    namens het SNT en NL-Term
    Anneleen Schoen

    1st VU-Spinoza workshop: Oct. 17, 2014


    – an escape from the world of language –

    Spinoza Prize projects (2014-2019)
    Prof. dr. Piek Vossen

    Understanding language by machines
    1st VU-Spinoza workshop

    Friday, October 17, 2014 from 12:30 PM to 6:00 PM (CEST)

    Atrium, room D-146, VU Medical Faculty (1st floor, D-wing)
    Van der Boechorststraat 7
    1081 BT Amsterdam

    Please RSVP via Eventbrite before October 03, 2014


    Can machines understand language? According to John Searle, this is fundamentally impossible. He used the Chinese Room thought-experiment to demonstrate that computers follow instructions to manipulate symbols without understanding of these symbols. William van Orman Quine even questioned the understanding of language by humans, since symbols are only grounded through approximation by cultural situational convention. Between these extreme points of views, we are nevertheless communicating every day as part of our social behavior (within Heidegger’s hermeneutic circle), while more and more computers and even robots take part in communication and social interactions.

    The goal of the Spinoza project “Understanding of language by machines” (ULM) is to scratch the surface of this dilemma by developing computer models that can assign deeper meaning to language that approximates human understanding and to use these models to automatically read and understand text. We are building a Reference Machine: a machine that can map natural language to the extra- linguistic world as we perceive it and represent it in our brain.

    This is the first in a series of workshops that we will organize in the Spinoza project to discuss and work on these issues. It marks the kick-off of 4 projects that started in 2014, each studying different aspects of understanding and modeling this through novel computer programs. Every 6-months, we will organize a workshop or event that will bring together different research lines to this central theme and on a shared data sets.

    We investigate ambiguity, variation and vagueness of language; the relation between language, perception and the brain; the role of the world view of the writer of a text and the role of the world view and background knowledge of the reader of a text.

    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ Program ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬

    12:30 – 13:00 Welcome

    13:00 – 13:30 Understanding language by machines: Piek Vossen
    13:30 – 14:30 Borders of ambiguity: Marten Postma and Ruben Izquierdo
    14:30 – 15:00 Word, concept, perception and brain: Emiel van Miltenburg and Alessandro Lopopolo
    15:00 – 15:15 Coffee break
    15:15 – 15:45 Stories and world views as a key to understanding: Tommaso Caselli and Roser Morante
    15:45 – 16:15 A quantum model of text understanding: Minh Lê Ngọc and Filip Ilievski
    16:15 – 17:00 Discussion on building a shared demonstrator: a reference machine
    17:00 – 18:00 Drinks

    For more information on the project see Understanding of Language by Machines.

    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ RSVP ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬

    Admission is free. Please RSVP via Eventbrite before October 03, 2014.

    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ Location ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬

    Atrium, room D-146, VU Medical Faculty (1st floor, D-wing)
    Van der Boechorststraat 7
    1081 BT Amsterdam
    The Netherlands

    Parking info N.B. Campus parking is temporarily unavailable.


    We’re hiring academic assistants!

    We’re hiring academic assistants!

    Are you a Master Student in AI, Computer Science, Linguistics or Communication Science?
    Do you want to get paid for working in an exciting research project that combines research strengths from different disciplines?

    We are currently looking for student assistants for three interdisciplinary projects involving computational linguistics, computer science, communication science and history. Positions are for 1 day per week during the academic year 2014-2015.

    The projects:

    More information on the projects can be found on their individual websites.

    How to Apply

    Information on how to apply for individual projects can be found on the projects’ websites.

    If you want to apply for more than one project, please send an email to the project managers [1] <>, listing:

    – your undergraduate degree,
    – the master courses you have taken and intend to take,
    – a list of your grades,
    – a brief motivation, indicating preference for a particular project (if any)
    – an indication of your availability (starting date).

    [1] Project managers are (in alphabetical order):

    • Antske Fokkens
    • Laura Hollink
    • Annette Ten Teije
    • Serge Ter Braake
    • Wouter Van Atteveldt
    • Marieke Van Erp

    OpeNER Hackathon: June 30, 2014

    OpeNER Travel Hackathon, June 30 2014 8:30 AM at Casa 400, Amsterdam

      At the hackathon you will have access to OpeNER’s comprehensive text analysis tools, which include named entity recognition, sentiment analysis and opinion detection.
      The OpenNER tools allow you to explore questions like who is mentioned in this text? Which opinions regarding the World Cup are given in this piece? What is the sentiment towards Amsterdam in this article?