Eugene Charniak, professor of computer science and one of the founders of the department in the late 1970s, has been recognized by his peers for his contributions to computational linguistics. Charniak received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Computational Linguistics at its annual meeting in June. The award, presented annually since 2002, is given for scientific achievement of both theoretical and applied nature. Charniak is the ninth recipient of the award and only the second American-born scientist to be honored, according to the ACL. Charniak said he was pleased to be recognized by his peers, but he noted he and many others took a “false track” in believing that the mathematics underpinning computational linguistics was based on logic and therefore symbolic. In 1992, Charniak adopted the current prevailing view that statistics and probabilities underlie math in the field. “That proved to be the right choice,” he said. After receiving the award, Charniak delivered a talk to about 1,100 attendees titled “The Brain as a Statistical Inference Engine,” in which he made the case that computational linguistics has become cognitive psychology of higher level functioning.

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