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Natural Language Understanding

"Hierarchies" of Understanding

Humans can understand languages on multiple “levels”.

  • These levels are not mutually exclusive!
  • Many NLP tasks require understanding at multiple levels (e.g., translation).
  • These levels are here for organizing the tasks.


  • Syntax
  • Semantics
  • Discourse
  • Commonsense
  • Pragmatics

Syntax: sequence tagging

Semantics: vector embedding


Understanding the commonse

GPT-3 davinci-001 shows some evidence of understanding on commonsense.

Understand the Pragmatics

  • Same sentence, different effects to different audience
    • High-context culture vs low-context culture

Building AIs for NLU