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LUCDH Lunchtime Speaker Series: Meaning or what? The semantics of ChatGPT

Tuesday 6 June 2023
Tuesday, 6 June 2023 at 12:00 – 13:00 (CET)
Digital Lab in P.J. Veth 1.07 and Online via Kaltura
Please register via lucdh@hum.leidenuniv.nl

Meaning or what? The semantics of ChatGPT

Please join us for our next LUCDH lunchtime talk presented by Dr. Crit Cremers on Tuesday, 6 June 2023 at 12:00 – 13:00 (Leiden time). 

By all standards, ChatGPT is a linguistic miracle. The bot responds to queries with astonishing accuracy, flexibility, and fluency. Its potential raises the question what the bot knows about languages. In this talk, I will try and show that the answer to this question is paradoxical: the language machine is so convincingly good because its language model does not exhaust meaning, to put it mildly. Ironically, academic linguistics - a pillar of humanities - also tends to neglect propositional semantics. From a semantic point of view, then, ChatGPT and its likes meet the noble art of grammar in dark space: neither the bot (in the past decade) nor academic linguistics (in the past millennia) has been operating a solid model of sentence meaning. For academic linguistics, this is just another horizon to explore. For linguistic engineering, neglecting propositional meaning is both a blessing in disguise and an in-built weakness. ChatGPT cannot know - or account for, or represent, or verify, or ...  - what it asserts, since grammar cannot tell you (yet?) what a sentence means, and the bot cannot compute it (yet?). But it seems that we taxpayers do not need a high degree of semantic scrutiny to be satisfied with, and even impressed by, the achievements of language engineering. Could it be, then, that ChapGPT's data-driven text manipulation approaches a semantic asymptote? Or alternatively: what would be the perspective for linguistic engineering if propositional meaning could be computed? Is the absence of a deep semantic component in ChatGPT artificial, or intelligent?

Dr. Cremers is a retired University Lecturer for semantics and computational linguistics at LUCL. He is still working on a meaning-driven automaton for the parsing and generation of Dutch.

Location: The Digital Lab in P.J. Veth building and Online via Kaltura Live Rooms.

To Register: Please email: lucdh@hum.leidenuniv.nl 

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