The SemDial Workshop Series, which has been taking place annually since its first edition in 1997, brings together researchers interested in human interaction and dialogue systems in a variety of disciplines. While in the initial years of the series the focus was on what could be called classic natural language semantics and pragmatics, over the last decade and a half the scope of SemDial has broadened significantly. It now covers a wide range of topics concerned with aspects of dialogue, ranging from the acquisition of conversational competence by children, experimental semantics and psycholinguistic studies, to work on the design of artificial conversational agents, human interaction with robots, and the computational modelling of disfluencies, gesture, gaze, and turn taking. The workshop thus attracts a good mix of linguists, computer scientists, and psychologists.
The 17th SemDial workshop (nicknamed “DialDam”) took place in Amsterdam on 16-18 December 2013, hosted by the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) at the University of Amsterdam. The event was sponsored by the NWO, the ILLC, and the BNVKI, and it was endorsed by SIGdial and SIGSEM (the special interest groups on discourse and dialogue and on computational semantics, respectively, of the Association for Computational Linguistics). The workshop attracted 70 participants from 18 different countries.
The technical programme featured 17 contributed talks (selected out of 40 peer-reviewed submissions) and 26 poster presentations including 2 system demonstrations (selected on the basis of topical relevance out of 30 abstract submissions). In addition, the workshop included three keynote talks given by Danielle Matthews (Sheffield), Matthew Stone (Rutgers), and Marc Swerts (Tilburg).
The workshop kicked off with Marc Swerts’ talk, who discussed possible factors explaining the distribution of pitch accents in naturally produced spoken Dutch and English. He presented experimental results showing that variation in accent distribution can affect the way spoken texts are assessed in terms of their perceived quality, which is of immediate relevance for the design of speech synthesis systems.
The second workshop day started with the invited talk by Danielle Matthews, who presented recent work by her research group on children’s early communicative skills, in particular on the development of the ability to refer to objects and to comprehend reference in early childhood. The poster session took place later on that day over a 3-hour period (including lunch), which provided ample opportunity for discussion amongst the workshop participants.
The third and final day of the workshop included the invited talk by Matthew Stone, who addressed not only the SemDial audience but also the participants of the Amsterdam Colloquium, a conference on formal semantics that takes place in Amsterdam bi-annually and that opened on 18 December. Stone discussed the controversial topic of discourse coherence, arguing for the need to capture the relationship between speech, gesture and action in situated dialogue.
All contributed papers and poster abstracts are included in the SemDial 2013 Proceedings, which are available online at http://www.illc.uva.nl/semdial/. SemDial 2014 will be held in Edinburgh on 1-3 September, collocated with the 23rd IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN 2014).
By Raquel Fernández