University of Southern California
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Computational Linguistics

Grace Ford Salvatori 301
(213) 740-2986
FAX: (213) 740-9306

Director: Eduard Hovy, Ph.D.

Coordinator: Bonnie Glover Stalls, Ph.D.

Participating Faculty: Michael Arbib, Ph.D.; Robert S. Belvin, Ph.D.; Hagit Borer, Ph.D.; Dani Byrd, Ph.D.; Bonnie Glover Stalls, Ph.D.; Andrew Gordon, Ph.D.; Elena Guerzoni, Ph.D.; Jerry Hobbs, Ph.D.; Eduard Hovy, Ph.D.; Kevin Knight, Ph.D.; Ania Lubowicz, Ph.D.; Daniel Marcu, Ph.D.; Shri Narayanan, Ph.D.; Roumyana Pancheva, Ph.D.; Patrick Pantel, Ph.D.; Barry Schein, Ph.D.; David Traum, Ph.D.; Jean-Roger Vergnaud, Ph.D.; Rachel Walker, Ph.D.; Maria Luisa Zubizarreta, Ph.D.

Participating Researchers: Ulf Hermjakob, Ph.D.; Chin-Yew Lin, Ph.D.

This program will be dropped in fall 2007.

Master of Science in Computational Linguistics

The computational linguistics master's program trains individuals in computational techniques and linguistic theory as they pertain to Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Human Language Technology (HLT). Drawing on courses and faculty resources from the Computer Science, Linguistics and Electrical Engineering departments, this joint program emphasizes the development of a detailed understanding of the theory and computational practice of NLP and the roles of linguistical theory, machine learning and statistics. Special emphasis is placed on topical research issues as well as on important issues that have shaped this field over the last several decades. The degree emphasizes the development of multilingual capabilities in a variety of areas, with hands-on experience in technologies such as machine translation, information retrieval, information extraction, speech recognition, question answering and document summarization.

Admission Requirements

Applicants for admission must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a GPA of least 3.0, satisfactory GRE and (for international students) TOEFL test scores. Also required is the ability to program with expertise in a computer language, such as JAVA, C++, PERL, LISP or PROLOG, and proficiency in basic linguistics (phonetics, phonology, syntax and semantics) with experience in data analysis. Strongly recommended is familiarity with machine learning, statistics and advanced knowledge or at least two years of study at the college level of a human language other than the student's native language. Applicants must also submit three letters of recommendation and a one- to two-page statement of purpose.

Degree Requirements

The master of science degree requires 27 units (equivalent to nine graduate courses), with at least 12 units (4 courses) each in computer science and linguistics, and a final original research project. Although highly motivated students may be able to complete the course work in three semesters, the program is intended to span four semesters, and most students require more time to complete the final project. According to university regulations, a student has up to five years to finish the master's degree.

Core Requirementsunits
Of the 27 course units required, 18 units must be from the core courses consisting of three courses each in computer science and linguistics:
CSCI 544Natural Language Processing3
CSCI 561Artificial Intelligence3
CSCI 562Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing3
LING 530Generative Syntax, or
LING 531aPhonology3
LING 534Logic and the Theory of Meaning, or
LING 548Lexical Semantics3
LING 585Computational Linguistics3

Up to six core units may be waived with special permission based on previous course work. In consultation with an advisor, students will need to take other courses to fulfill these unit requirements.

Students are expected to enter the program with a background strong enough to enable them to complete the program course work in two years. However, for those students with insufficient experience in a specific area, the following courses are prerequisites for the core courses:

CSCI 201LPrinciples of Software Development4
CSCI 455xIntroduction to Programming Systems Design4
LING 401Advanced Phonology4
LING 402Advanced Syntax4

Breadth Requirements and Electiveunits
Six units must be from a short list of breadth requirements -- one course each in computer science and linguistics -- and 3 units (one course) is an elective.

The breadth requirement for computer science must be fulfilled by one of the following:
CSCI 564Brain Theory and Artificial Intelligence3
CSCI 567Machine Learning3
CSCI 573Advanced Artificial Intelligence3
CSCI 599Special Topics (courses vary; only certain courses qualify, for example, Computational Approaches to Natural Language Dialogue Modeling)2-4, max 9
EE 619Advanced Topics in Automatic Speech Recognition3

The breadth requirement for linguistics must be fulfilled by one course from:
LING 512Language Variation and Language Changes3
LING 527Second Language Acquisition3
LING 530*Generative Syntax3
LING 531a*Phonology3
LING 533Language Universals and Typology3
LING 576Psycholinguistics3
LING 580General Phonetics3

* If not taken as a core course

The elective course may be any other relevant course (except directed studies or directed readings) from computer science, linguistics, electrical engineering, statistics, philosophy or neuroscience, selected with an advisor. Please see the course listings for descriptions, prerequisites and additional information.


Internships with one of the research groups at USC or at a company are available to students and are encouraged but not required.

Research Project

In addition to the course work detailed above, an in-depth research project equivalent to a conference or workshop paper is required. By the beginning of the second year, each student will have a faculty advisor from either Computer Science or Linguistics who will oversee the project. The project must be submitted to and approved by a committee consisting of three faculty members, the advisor and two other faculty members. At least one committee member must be from Computer Science and at least one must be from Linguistics. Students must submit a project draft by April 1 for a spring degree, by July 1 for a summer degree or by November 1 for a fall degree. Students are also required to present their papers before an academic audience. The research project may be based on independent research or on work done in conjunction with an internship.