Skip to navigation | Skip to main content | Skip to footer

This is an archived syllabus from 2021-2022

COMP34812 Natural Language Understanding syllabus 2021-2022

COMP34812 Natural Language Understanding

Level 3
Credits: 10
Enrolled students: 106

Course leader: Riza Batista-Navarro

Additional staff: view all staff


  • Pre-Requisite (Compulsory): COMP34711

Assessment methods

  • 50% Written exam
  • 50% Practical skills assessment
Sem 2 w20-27,31-34 ASYNCHRONOUS Williamson G.47 Thu 09:00 - 10:00 -
Sem 2 w20-27,31,33-34 Lecture IT407 Mon 09:00 - 10:00 -
Sem 2 w23,25,27,32,34 Workshop IT407 Fri 10:00 - 11:00 -


Drawing from concepts covered in the prerequisite COMP34711: Natural Language Processing unit, this unit will enable students to look more deeply into how machines analyse and recognise meaning expressed in natural language. In this unit, students will gain hands-on experience in investigating solutions to a number of natural language understanding tasks. This will provide students with the know-how required to develop technologies for real-world applications enabling communication between humans and machines, which have become increasingly ubiquitous and indispensable.


The unit aims to:

- introduce students to the concepts and computational methods that enable machines to understand and interpret natural language

-  explain the various tasks that underpin natural language understanding, and provide an overview of the state-of-the-art solutions to these tasks as well as their real-world applications


  • Introduction to NLU; Task formulations and applications
  • Meaning representations: symbolic parsing and logical representations of sentences
  • Vector-based representations (contextualised embeddings)
  • Neural networks and neural language models
  • Evaluation of models
  • Sequence classification and textual entailment (and applications)
  • Sequence labelling (and applications)
  • Machine reading comprehension (and applications)
  • Sequence-to-sequence translation (and applications)
  • Limits and weaknesses of state-of-the-art approaches to NLU

Teaching methods

Asynchronous lectures (weekly)

Synchronous workshops (weekly)

Labs (fortnightly)

Feedback methods

Discussions and live coding during workshops (weekly)

Labs to support coursework (fortnightly)

Cohort-level feedback on exam

Study hours

  • Lectures (20 hours)
  • Practical classes & workshops (10 hours)

Employability skills

  • Analytical skills
  • Problem solving
  • Written communication

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, a student will be able to:

  • To discuss the formulation of different natural language understanding tasks as sequence processing tasks e.g., sequence classification, sequence-to-sequence translation and sequence labelling.
  • To differentiate between different types of parsing algorithms and apply them to natural language data to produce meaning representations.
  • To compare different approaches to tasks such as named entity recognition and sentiment analysis.
  • To relate natural language understanding tasks to applications such as question answering and conversational agents, among others.
  • To develop a solution to a natural language understanding task with application to a real-world problem

Reading list

No reading list found for COMP34812.