Science on Tap talk to feature expert on concept of language processing

August 27, 2014  

Victor Raskin

Victor Raskin 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University English professor Victor Raskin will headline this week’s Science on Tap with a talk on how meaning functions in language.

The presentation, titled "Natural Language Meaning," is at 6 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 28) in the upstairs of Lafayette Brewing Company, 622 Main St., Lafayette.

The informal lecture, which is free and open to those 21 and older, is sponsored by Purdue's Department of English, School of Interdisciplinary Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Discovery Park.

"We use language all the time," said Raskin, a distinguished professor of English and linguistics who also has courtesy appointments in computer science and in computer and information security. "We produce it. We understand it. We correct it. But do we know what it is?"

Raskin said these questions dominated 20th century science and philosophical studies. Though many still remain unanswered, these questions are of increasing importance as we try to computerize many human activities that involve language.

His talk will touch on natural language processing applications and on the basics of a process that - though everyone may use it - many know very little or nothing about.

"I will discuss this endeavor in a largely non-technical way, with an emphasis on linguistics, especially linguistic semantics," he said.

Recently, Raskin received a lifetime achievement award from the International Society of Humor Studies, sharing that while the study of humor is a small part of what he does, it's not his primary area of interest.

"I'm interested in meaning, how we express meaning and how meaning functions in language, and that includes how it functions in humor," he said.

Raskin, who has been at Purdue since 1978, studied at Moscow State University, where he received bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in structural, computational and mathematical linguistics.

In 1988 he became the founding editor of the International Society of Humor Research's Journal, HUMOR, and served until 1999. He has been its editor-at-large since.

Raskin is a charter member and associate director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS) at Purdue. In 2000, he served as the president of the International Society of Humor Research.

He has authored two books, "Semantic Mechanisms of Humor" and "Ontological Semantics," and co-authored six others.

Apart from Purdue, Raskin has taught at Tel Aviv University in Israel as well as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Michigan.

Science on Tap, now led by graduate students David Welkie, Anju Karki and Nelda Vazquez, provides Purdue faculty and collaborating researchers the opportunity to share research activities in an informal setting with presentations that are designed to appeal to a more general audience. Attendance at the monthly event has averaged 80 during the program's first four years. 

Writers: Anna Schultz, 812-447-5229, 

Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,       

Sources: Victor Raskin, 765-494-3782,

David Welkie, 765-494-0455,

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