This year, in connection with its annual conference (CLiC-it), for the first time AILC introduced a prize for the best master thesis in computational linguistics defended at an Italian University.

The committee was composed by a member of the AILC board (Felice Dell’Orletta), a chair of CLiC-it 2016 (Anna Corazza), and a chair of CLiC-it 2017 (Malvina Nissim). Theses defended between January 1st 2016 and July 31st 2017 were eligible for the 2017 edition.

Ten theses were submitted, with the following geographical distribution: Pisa (4),Turin (3), Parma (1),  Siena (1), Trento (1). Gender was balanced, with five theses written by female students and five by male students.

The evaluation was performed by the three committee members individually in a first stage, after having agreed on a set of specific criteria which had to do both with content (including originality and timeliness of the topic), as well as writing (including clarity, style, and the structure of the thesis). At a second stage, the committee jointly discussed each thesis in details during several Skype meetings, and came up with a short list of three theses, which all deserved the prize. The choice of a final winner was not at all easy, and the reason why eventually we selected the one we selected is its being the closest to the core of our discipline. The first AILC prize for the best master thesis in computational linguistics was thus awarded to:

Alessio Miaschi, Università di Pisa: “Definizione di modelli computazionali per lo studio dell’evoluzione delle abilità di scrittura a partire da un corpus di produzioni scritte di apprendenti della scuola secondaria di primo grado

This is a work that involves both the development of a working system that models a specific language phenomenon, as well as a thorough linguistic analysis based on the features used and on detailed error analysis. All this on top of an excellent background overview, and a view to concrete, future applications, directly useful to society.

The other two theses which made it to the final selection were the following:

Chiara Alzetta, Università di Pisa: “Studio linguistico-computazionale per l’analisi dei tipi linguistici. Similarità e differenze nel confronto fra Universal Dependencies Treebanks”

Enrico Mensa, Università di Torino: “Design and implementation of a methodology for the alignment of semantic resources and the automatic population of Conceptual Spaces”

As part of the prize, Alessio received a monetary sum from AILC, free membership to the association for one year, and free attendance to CLiC-it 2017. At the conference the whole community got the chance to listen to Alessio’s presentation of his thesis, right at the end of a panel specifically dedicated to the teaching of computational linguistics and Natural Language Processing in Italy. This was a nice fit, since the high quality of the submitted works really goes to show how much talent, both among students and among teachers there is at Italian institutions in the field of computational linguistics.

We are already looking forward to next edition!

Anna Corazza, Felice Dell’Orletta, and Malvina Nissim