Natural language at a crossroads

formal and probabilistic approaches in philosophy and computer science



Philosophy of language


Philosophy of language and computer science, despite being very distinct fields, share a great interest in natural language. However, while philosophy has traditionally opted for a formalist approach, computer science has been increasingly favoring probabilistic models. After presenting these two approaches in more detail, we discuss some of their main virtues and limitations. On the one hand, formalist models have trouble in acquiring semantic information from corpora and learning from large amounts of data. Probabilistic approaches, on the other hand, have difficulty in operating with compositionality, in dealing with contrast sets and hierarchical relations, and in distinguishing normative and descriptive views of meaning. We argue that a more fruitful dialogue between philosophers and computer scientists may help to produce a better approach to natural language and stimulate the integration of logical and probabilistic methods.


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Biografia do Autor

Paulo Pirozelli, University of São Paulo

Postdoctorate in artificial intelligence by University of São Paulo, Institute of Advanced Studies, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.

Igor Câmara, University of São Paulo

Doctorate in progress in computer science from the University of São Paulo, Institute of Mathematics and Statistics, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.


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Como Citar

PIROZELLI, P.; CÂMARA, I. Natural language at a crossroads: formal and probabilistic approaches in philosophy and computer science. Manuscrito: Revista Internacional de Filosofia, Campinas, SP, v. 45, n. 2, p. 50–81, 2022. Disponível em: Acesso em: 31 jan. 2023.