Allyson Ettinger



I am a computational linguist, addressing research problems on language in humans and machines. I have training in linguistics, cognitive neuroscience of language, and applied natural language processing (NLP), which I use to bridge research in these domains.

In my research I do a combination of computational psycholinguistic modeling and NLP. My cross-disciplinary training allows me to bring computational tools and methods from NLP to the modeling of human language processing, and to bring theoretical and analytical insights from linguistics and cognitive neuroscience to the development of NLP systems.

I am committed to building closer connections between linguistics, NLP, and cognitive neuroscience of language so that advances in each can benefit the others. To this end, I collaborate broadly across these domains, teach interdisciplinary courses for students in these fields, have had an active role in interdisciplinary community building with the Maryland Language Science Center, and have helped to organize initiatives like the Workshop on Building Linguistically Generalizable NLP Systems, that bring together linguists and computer scientists.


I am an Assistant Professor in the University of Chicago Department of Linguistics. Previously, I spent a year as a Research Assistant Professor at the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago, and I have a courtesy affiliation with TTIC at present.

I did my PhD work at the University of Maryland with Colin Phillips and Philip Resnik, in addition to collaborations with numerous faculty and students across the linguistics and computer science departments. I was an active member of the Maryland Language Science Center.

Starting with a background in linguistics and cognitive neuroscience, I undertook a rapid computational conversion when I became fascinated by the problem of language processing in machines, and how this enterprise can connect with research on language in humans.

Before joining the community at the University of Maryland, I spent two years conducting neurolinguistic MEG research with Alec Marantz in the Neuroscience of Language Lab at NYU.

I have lived in China twice, and am fluent in Mandarin. My second time in China consisted of a year of graduate-level study in Mandarin.

I graduated from Brandeis University in 2010 with bachelor's degrees in linguistics and psychology.


November 2019: Gave a talk at the Johns Hopkins CLSP seminar series. Slides for the talk available here.

September 2019: Kevin Gimpel and I have been awarded an NSF EAGER grant, titled World Modeling for Natural Language Understanding.

July 2019: I have officially begun my position as Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago Department of Linguistics!

June 2019: Spoke on an interdsiciplinary panel to talk about the state of NLP at RepEval 2019.

May 2019: We hosted Midwest Speech and Language Days at TTIC, to spotlight NLP, speech and linguistics research in the Midwest area.

January 2019: Gave a talk on SCiL 2019 invited panel "What should linguists know about NLP", as well as a tutorial on vector space models.

October 2018: I have accepted a position as Assistant Professor in the UChicago Linguistics Department!

August 2018: Talk at COLING - Assessing Composition in Sentence Vector Representations.

June 2018: Successful dissertation defense!

May 2018: Accepted position of Research Assistant Professor at TTIC.

Dec 2017: Gave an interview with the NLP Highlights podcast about our Workshop on Building Linguistically Generalizable NLP Systems.

Nov 2017: Gave a talk at the JHU Computational Psycholinguistics Lab.

Sept 2017: Gave a talk in the Language Science Lunch Talk series at UMD.

Sept 2017: Co-organized the first Workshop on Building Linguistically Generalizable NLP Systems and associated Build It, Break It: The Language Edition shared task, hosted at EMNLP 2017.

July 2017: Co-chaired the ACL Student Research Workshop 2017, which took place in Vancouver.

Feb 2017: Traveled to Sendai, Japan to give two invited talks at Tohoku University.