Aravind K. JoshiOn October 22, 2012, the Department of Computer and Information Science hosted JoshiFest, a celebration and symposium to honor the work of Dr. Aravind K. Joshi, Henry Salvatori Professor Emeritus of Computer and Cognitive Science.

Fall 2012 marked Dr. Joshi’s fifty-second year on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. His extraordinary service to the University includes being a founding member of the graduate group in Computer and Information Science in the 1960s; co-founder of the Computer and Information Science (CIS) Department with Saul Gorn in 1972; and expanding the cognitive science research group into the Institute of Research in Cognitive Science (IRCS) with faculty from computer science, linguistics, psychology and philosophy in 1991.

Additional honors and awards received by Dr. Joshi include the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science of the Franklin Institute in 2005; Cognitive Science Society David Rumelhart Prize in 2003; the ACL Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002; election to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1999; election to Fellow of the ACM in 1998; Founding Fellow of AAAI in 1990; and election to IEEE Fellow in 1976.

View photos from this event.

Program and Videos:

9:15 – 9:30: Susan Davidson

Session 1
9:30 – 10:45: Bonnie Webber, Chair

9:30 – 9:55
Rajeev Sangal, IIIT Hyderabad

9:55 – 10:20
“Aravind Joshi as Advisor”
Kathleen McKeown, Columbia University
Video | Lecture Materials

10:20 – 10:45
“John seems to be intelligent” OR “How I met Aravind Joshi”
Tony Kroch, University of Pennsylvania
Video | Lecture Materials

10:45- 11:15 am Coffee Break

Session 2
11:15 – 12:30: Mitch Marcus, Chair

11:15 – 11:40
“Complex Lexical Descriptions and Curriculum Learning: Some new opportunities”
Srinivas Bangalore, ATT Research

11:40 – 12:05
“As simple as possible, but not simpler”
Robert Frank, Yale University
Video | Lecture Materials

12:05 – 12:30
“Mild Context-Sensitivity and Near Context-Freedom”
Mark Steedman, University of Edinburgh

12:30 – 1:45 pm Lunch

Session 3
1:45 – 3:00: Mark Liberman, Chair

1:45 – 2:10
“Did you feed the animals?”
Julia Hirshberg, Columbia University
Video | Lecture Materials

2:10 – 2:35
“Girl Meets Boy: Generating Language with Adjoining”
Kevin Knight, ISI
Video | Lecture Materials

2:35 – 3:00
“Distributional methods in language and language learning”
Charles Yang, University of Pennsylvania

3 – 3:30 pm Coffee Break

Session 4
3:30 – 4:45: Ani Nenkova, Chair

3:30 – 3:55 “Centering in Naturally Occurring Discourse”
Marilyn Walker, UC Santa Cruz

3:55-4:20 “Locality”
Scott Weinstein, University of Pennsylvania

4:30-4:45 “Centering recollections”
Barbara Grosz, Harvard University

4:45 – 5:15
Peter Buneman, Bonnie Dorr, Lauri Karttunen, Rao Kosaraju, Kathleen McCoy, Fernando Pereira, Dan Roth, Yves Schabes, Candy Sidner, Fei Xia

6:00 – 10:00 pm: Dinner at the Penn Museum, Lower Gallery
Featured Speakers: Jerry Kaplan, Eduardo Glandt, Susan Davidson

Symposium Planning Committee:

Susan Davidson
Mark Liberman
Mitch Marcus
Ani Nenkova
Bonnie Webber
Charles Yang

Event Committee:

Laura Fox
Rita Powell

Messages for Dr. Joshi:

Shaymala Joshi drawaing

By Shyamala Joshi

Dear Aravind,

I spent time at IRCS in 1998-9 – a mere moment ago as you look back over your 52 years presiding at Penn!

I want to thank you for your help in arranging my visits when I was just finding my feet as an academic, and for discussions about discourse with Bonnie Webber and Matthew Stone which were always inspiring to me. I was struck by your gentle way of communicating, and by the way you paid equal heed to discourse structure and sentence syntax, and invariably displayed comprehensive knowledge about both.

I also want to thank you for the ample supply of free doughnuts at breakfast time at the IRCS reception desk. These may have been a somewhat less direct result of your leadership, but they made up a healthy portion of my nutritional requirements during my stay at Penn, and were certainly responsible for several scientific breakthroughs.

With all my best wishes and thanks,

Alistair Knott
Department of Computer Science
University of Otago, New Zealand

Dear Aravind,

I am truly sorry that I can’t be in Philadelphia for JoshiFest.    It’s no overstatement to say that my life was changed by my years as a graduate student in CIS at Penn–and that my years at Penn were heavily shaped by the advice and guidance you provided both directly and indirectly.  Directly:    I learned  about AI and natural-language processing and cognitive science–and about how to do research–from your lectures and our meetings and the feedback you provided on papers and presentations.  Indirectly:  I also learned an enormous amount about  academic life and about how to be a professor from watching you function as one so successfully.   It’s a real privilege to be able to say that your were one of my professors.    It’s always also been so much fun to catch up with you at conferences and professional meetings over the years.   I wish you the very, very best, and thank you for all that you’ve done for me and for so many other former Penn students.

Martha Pollack

Dear Aravind,

My time with you, when you were my dissertation advisor –  error correcting codes – goes back to the late 1960’s. Writing my dissertation was a period of uncertainty and insecurity for me, as I am sure for many others. You gave me the encouragement that I needed in a warm and personable manner, and provided the right advice at all the right places.

I believe that I saw you again when I came through Philadelphia in the 1970’s, but not since. Nor have I been acquainted with your later work. I can see from your CV, by what others write about you and by awards and accomplishments that you have had a brilliant career. Wonderful. Congratulations.

I can also see that it hasn’t included error-correction codes. I taught and researched in that field and in information theory, mostly in Denmark, where I have now lived for many years. I dropped the academic life a long time ago and have gone in other directions, a satisfying part being work in international cooperation and standardization in telecommunications. Since retiring I have gone back to studying, this time at Copenhagen University in the Humanities.

I have thought often how much your encouragement at the right time was formative for me, especially for my self-confidence. When I was putting the last touches on my dissertation, several articles unknown to you and me were published, completely covering what I had done. You helped me through that difficult period, getting my dissertation approved; and again in helping my self-confidence, pointing out that the articles were by some of the best people in the field.

I regret that I didn’t study something closer to your main interests, which might have given me a different kind of inspiration. I remember you though personally more than academically, as I was not acquainted with your body of work. And my memories are absolutely the very fondest.

All the best in the future to you and your family,
Mark Ballan

Dear Aravind,

I am truly sorry I will miss this special occasion.

You and Joe Bordogna are my oldest friends at UPENN and I have fondest memories of our lives together.

You supported me when life was difficult when we just begun our journey. You gave me wisdom, not to rush when inappropriate which I had some tendencies to do so.

We both can be proud of what has been accomplished at Penn. Your leadership made the difference.

With much Love and affection,
Ruzena Bajcsy

Dear Aravind,

I am sorry that I can not join everyone in celebrating your professional accomplishments to date.  (I know that you are still accomplishing — you should think of this as your mid-semester feedback!).  I enjoyed my years at Penn and learned a lot from you. Your devotion to your students, work, department and university were inspirational as was your skill in serving as the CIS chair for most of the time I was there.  I count you as one of my important role models.

Tim Finin

Dear Aravind,

I was very, very lucky to be present as you (and Bonnie, of course) brought first DLTAG, and then the PDTB, into existence. You were a wonder, Aravind. A thought machine. Like much young linguistic theory, these were heady ideas, hard to pin down, yet you worked diligently at it. You brought in funding, and good people, and kept our nose to the grindstone. Thank you for welcoming me as part of that early team. I wish you the very best for the years to come.

Kate Forbes-Riley

Dear Aravind,

I wish I could be with you for this celebration. But it’s my day to be in class with my graduate students and I mustn’t leave them in the lurch.

However, though I can’t be there, I want you to know how much you mean to me. I still remember, in vivid detail while other memories fade with age, the first time I met you, sitting so peacefully by a flagrantly fake log fire in southern California, before some conference or other. To bracket that, years later, we had a very happy Spanish dinner in New York after the CUNY Conference just a few weeks ago.

In the years in between, my students and I have been blown away by your brilliance, the cleverness of your solutions to unsolvable linguistic problems.

I am happy – and privileged  – to have known you.

With love, and congratulations,
Janet Fodor

Dear Aravind,

I will not be able to attend JoshiFest and to celebrate your outstanding achievements. I’ll be traveling. But I’ll be there in spirit.

It’s been wonderful knowing you these many years. I look forward to many more.

I wish you the very best.

(Gerald Prince)

Dear Professor Joshi,

Twenty-two years ago you kindly gave me the opportunity to discover, as a Post Doctorate, both Natural Language Processing and the research environment you had created at LINC Lab.

Since, I made the field mine and I keep very fond memories of the people I met there. I particularly appreciated the open and friendly  environment of 3401 facilities, which conjugated with the high-level research that is the trademark of the place, made working there, a very enriching experience.

For all this I am grateful to you and will always be in your debt. Up to the last minute I entertained the thought that I could make it and be able to attend the JoshiFest event, but reality caught up and all I can do is contribute this few lines.

With all my best wishes and thanks.
Patrick Paroubek
LIMSI-CNRS, Orsay, France

Dear Prof. Aravind Joshi,

I am very much sorry that I can’t be with you on this special occasion JoshiFest.

It goes back to 1982 when you kindly invited me and offered an opportunity to spend one-year postdoc at  UPenn.  Without meeting you, it was impossible for me to lead such a fulfilling life I have currently been enjoying …  you are the great mentor for my life who initiated my research career.

The best of health to you.
–Takashi Yokomori

Dear Aravind,

Wishing you all the very best for the JoshiFest and sorry that I am unable to attend to celebrate in person.  I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet with you. I thoroughly enjoyed our various discussions on multiwords and compositionality and our subsequent collaboration with Sriram Venkatapathy. I hope that our paths cross again sometime in the future.

With best wishes
Diana McCarthy

Dear Aravind,

Thank you very much for your strong and continued support for matters foundational over the many years. My very best wishes on this exceptional occasion!

Kind regards,
Andre Scedrov

Dear Aravind,

Congratulations on the symposium and celebration in your honor on October 22, 2012. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend, as I have commitments on that date.

I have admired your brilliant career for many years. Your work in computational linguistics and natural language processing has placed you among the world leading researchers in this field. I am pleased that your work has been recognized by the 1997 IJCAI Research Excellence Award, the 2003 Rumelhart Prize, and the 2005 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science. These three awards are impressive and well-deserved.

On a personal level, you are a warm human being with whom I always enjoyed meeting and speaking. I recall the support that you gave for scientific freedom and human rights by suggesting that refusenik computer scientists from the then Soviet Union be invited to an IJCAI conference. I quote from an e-mail message in my files of June 22, 1985 to Alan Mackworth, who was the IJCAI 1985 Conference Chair, with a cc: to you, who was the Program Chair, in which I wrote:

“Aravind Joshi has suggested that IJCAI would be
willing to invite several Soviet computer scientists
to be their guests at the forthcoming conference.
He has suggested that I send you the names and
addresses of several computer scientists in the area
of artificial intelligence so that you may send them
official invitations.

I believe that this is a most generous act on the
part of IJCAI.  It will only serve to help the
scientists as it will demonstrate that they are known
to others.  Of course, there is no hope that they will
be permitted to attend.  If they are permitted to
attend, and IJCAI believes that the free entry is
too expensive, I will assure that their fees are paid.”

You may recall that the individuals I recommended and supplied their addresses were, Eugene Grechanovsky, Haim Kilov, Grigory Minc, Victor Kipnis, Alexander Lerner, Grigory and Isai Goldshtein, and Anatoly Shcharansky. Alan followed through and invited them. Lerner immigrated to Israel after being a refusenik for 17 years and is now deceased.  The others are either in Israel or in the U.S. Without your initiative, they would never have been invited to IJCAI. Although they were unable to attend, they were comforted that their colleagues did not forget them.

Best wishes for a wonderful symposium to an outstanding computer scientist and a humanitarian. It has been an honor to have had you as a valued friend.

Jack Minker, Professor Emeritus
University of Maryland
October 15, 2012

Dear Aravind,

Thanks for teaching me so much over the years – when we were colleagues at Penn, when we were at conferences together, or when we were just exchanging email. I really wish I could be there for the celebration (You know I hate to miss a party :-)), but you’ll have to party on without me, I’m afraid.

Your friend,
(Ivan Sag)

Dear Aravind,

I spent two wonderful years at IRCS from 1996 to 1998 as a visiting scientist. Those were very exciting years at Penn and in computational linguistics and IRCS was a fantastic place to be: the XTAG project, the statistical NLP reading group, the psycholinguistics research. We were starting to make sense of statistical and probabilistic approaches, and of their relation to richly lexicalised formalisms like TAGs and to cognitive science.

You were my host at IRCS and became my role-model: I have learnt from you the value intellectual inclusiveness. For all these years, I have admired your creativity and the profound elegance of your scientific results.

I feel privileged to be part of the scientific and intellectual world that you have been so fundamental in creating.

My best wishes,
Paola Merlo
University of Geneva

Dear Aravind,

I have fond memories of the academic year ’77-’78, when I was introduced to the delights of Philadelphia (and particularly the Moore School), the delights of computer science and linguistics (particularly centered logic and topic/focus), and the delights of Indian cuisine (particularly puri).  I greatly regret having had so little chance to indulge these delights with you in the years since then, but I am still hopeful that I may get the chance to do so on Monday and in the future.

Congratulations on a wonderful career and all best wishes.

Steve Kuhn
Department of Philosophy
Georgetown University

Appa and The Infamous Green Board by Meera Joshi

Appa and The Infamous Green Board by Meera Joshi

Dear Dr. Joshi,

I wish I could attend what I know will be a beautiful event in your honor, so that I could shake your hand in person, see your smile, and hear all the wonderful things that people will say about what you’ve meant to them and the impact you’ve had on their lives. I would also love to say thank you to you in person: thank you for being a role model of intellectual integrity, creative and independent thinking; thank you for creating intellectual environments which feel welcoming and inclusive, where everyone is valued and appreciated; thank you for your calm, humble and dignified demeanor, which inspires peace of mind and enables clear thinking. More generally, thank you for being a kind, sweet person and a truly inspiring scholar!

My very best wishes,
Raffaella Zanuttini

Dearest Aravind,

I am so sorry that I could not be in Philly today for this event, because I have very heavy teaching assignments this semester.  Anyway, I want to send you this note of appreciation for your work.

I have always admired your scientific achievements and your career, and I share  the love you have for mathematics of language.  With your own results, you have started several new areas of investigation in this field.  Furthermore, you have succeeded in giving broad visibility to mathematics of language into the fields of theoretical computer science and cognitive science as well.  Without your work, most of the problems that people in mathematics of language work on nowadays would not be so well-known and appreciated in neighbour fields, and things for our community would be much more difficult.

I really want to add to the above a more personal note.  I love so much computational linguistics and I really enjoy doing scientific research in mathematics of language.  But if it weren’t for you, today I would not be a computational linguist, an most probably my life would not be so enjoyable to me.   This is because the years I have spent at University of Pennsylvania, under your guidance and working with your collaborators, have been a real turning point in my career.  Your invitation to come to University of Pennsylvania came at a time in which I was missing inspiration in my work, I was no longer confident I was the right person to do scientific research in mathematics of language, and I was almost on the verge of giving up.  During the years at University of Pennsylvania and under your guidance, I learned a lot and gained self-confidence on my own ideas, and afterward everything worked out just perfectly in my scientific career.   So I really have to say that you have changed my life !!

With real appreciation and with my best wishes,

Giorgio Satta
Department of Information Engineering
University of Padua

Dear Aravind,

I’m so sorry I can’t be there in person to celebrate with you.  This day comes right in between a talk in Germany and an invited talk at a Swedish conference that have both been scheduled for more than a year, so it just isn’t possible.

You have been my guiding light and my lodestone for most of my career, certainly since 1981.  First, thank you for shepherding me safely through the final PhD days at Edinburgh and for the Sloan Fellowship at Penn.  I will always treasure the time I was able to spend with you and the Tree Adjoining Grammar group at IRCS. There were so many interesting questions and issues being discussed, with never any shying away from the hard ones. So much to learn and to think about it – it was truly a mind-expanding experience, and in superb company.  You have always surrounded yourself with the best and the brightest, and created a warm, collegial atmosphere for everyone around you.  Those dinners at your house, with Susan’s wonderful Indian dishes and all of the friendly folks, are some of my best memories of Philadelphia.

You taught me how to do science, how to study language, and how to run a research group, or rather, how to let a research group run itself, :-).  You are my model for what it means to be a scientist, a professor and a decent human being.

In lieu of my presence, please accept this poem along with my regrets:

There once was a young man from Pune
With all of the grit of a puma
With courage and grace
he started his race
And cruised past the rest like a schooner!

To Penn Engineering he came,
Lured by news of ENIAC fame.
He conquered with ease
All theories made of trees,
So massive the size of his brain.

His skill with automata grew,
Mildly context sensitive, too.
Yet no theorem or proof,
Could keep him aloof,
From a lass with eyes of deep blue

From Princeton to Penn he sojourned,
With theories of computation adorned.
His scientist Susan beside him,
Saul Gorn’s wit to guide him,
And lo, CIS was borned!

He proved a superb gardener to be,
Adjoining branches to most every tree.
His babies were thriving,
His many students surviving,
And sprouting like weeds, new faculty.

Now the awards and the accolades abound.
From IJCAI, ACL, & CogSci they mound.
For advances very big,
In not just syntax, you twig,
But also discourse and meaning, are found.

To Joshi-fest day we have bade him,
For Yoda himself we’d not trade him.
Our teacher so wise,
Our friend in any guise,
A mentor beloved we’ve made him.

Martha Palmer


Nothing can match those first mentoring moments when you and I first met.  Sometime early 80-something-ish, in the cobwebs of the past, when I was a mere undergrad, you met me in Philadelphia and encouraged me to go to graduate school in computational linguistics.  The discussions we had that day had a major impact on me, and paved the way toward a much broader understanding of the field than I had experienced in the narrow confines of my “Bostonian upbringing”. 🙂

And soon I learned just what a tremendous impact you had on so many people in the field.  Everyone knows you are an academic parent, grand-parent, great-grandparent, and so on…your academic family is massive.  But it extends far beyond that!  Your mentoring is a treasured gift, bestowed upon a grand number of researchers who were lucky enough to learn from you, as I was, early in their careers. I have never seen a net cast so widely in any field of our size. Many of these people wouldn’t have been where they are, without your guidance.

Thank you, Aravind, for the incredibly positive impact you’ve had on me and many of my colleagues over these many years.  You are a true inspiration, and I’m honored to attend this very special, and well-deserved event in honor of the king of our field!

Bonnie J. Dorr
Department of Computer Science, UMIACS
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742

Dear Aravind,

I am not going to be able to be in Philadelphia for the Joshi Fest, but I do want to join all the others in spirit in celebrating your varied accomplishments over the years. On a personal note, I am much appreciative for your help and mentorship while I was a graduate student at Penn and for your looking out for me even after I decided to work in a different area from yours and with another advisor.

Gopalan Nadathur

Dear Aravind,

I welcome the chance to thank you again for your support and inspiration while I was at Penn, and I regret being unable to attend JoshiFest.  I’d love to share in the celebration of your research and of all your profound impacts on the natural language research culture at Penn.

Best Wishes,

Sharon Cote

Dear Aravind,

Let me take the occasion to express both my great admiration for all that you’ve done and my deepest fondness and warmth towards you as a person. Your gentle wisdom shines through everything you do, and has been a great part of what has built Penn into such a wonderful place. I wish you all the best!

I enclose a couple of nice photos from the conference in Batumi, Georgia in 2005.

Excursion from Batumi, Georgia, September 2005

Excursion from Batumi, Georgia, September 2005

Volodja and Barbara and Susan and Aravind, excursion from Batumi, September 2005

Volodja and Barbara and Susan and Aravind, excursion from Batumi, September 2005

With the greatest affection and regard,
Barbara Partee

Dear Dr. Joshi,

I am deeply sorry that I can’t be there in Philadelphia for this very special occasion.

Please accept my congratulations on all your wonderful achievements that are truly worth celebrating!
I wish the very best for you and your family.

Rashmi Prasad

Dear Aravind

I am sorry not being able to attend.

When I arrived at Penn in 1987, I had a very vague idea about what my future life would be. With you,  I discovered what it meant to be a researcher, and that is what I decided to be. You were always so open minded and eager to learn and discover, always generous in time and ideas, even with young starting students.

You’ve always been a source of inspiration and a model for me, both as a scientist and as a human being, I wish you a happy and successful party, and deeply regret not to be there.

Anne Abeillé
University Paris Diderot

Dear Aravind,

Taking your graduate seminar (ca. 1984) opened my eyes to the ways grammars and parsing could be applied to molecular biology. That’s been the basis of my life’s work, so in a very real sense you’ve been a great influence as well as an inspiration to me. Much later, I was delighted when you and several of your wonderful students turned your efforts in that direction, helping to clarify the grammar formalisms relevant to biological structure and (with Ken Dill) demonstrating the relationships between parsing and the thermodynamics of macromolecular folding.

Thanks for what you’ve contributed to my field (but a small fraction of your oeuvre), and much more than that, thanks for your very significant part in setting me on this path.

All the best,
David Searls

Dear Aravind,

So sorry to be away from campus for your celebration.  When I came to Penn 25 years ago, one attraction was IRCS.  Your leadership of the Institute (together with others, of course) ensured that it was a truly interdisciplinary endeavor, including not only language studies but also perception and action.  My students and I greatly benefited from the IRCS that you were so instrumental in guiding.

With all best wishes,
Gary Hatfield

Dear Aravind,

We are very sorry that we won’t be able to attend the festivities this week. Many congratulations and well-wishes for you and your family!

William and Karin Schuler

Dear Dr. Joshi,

It was really at IRCS that I was first exposed to Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing. I was a graduate student then from the nearby University of Delaware who found the academic environment at IRCS really attractive, and you, of course, initiated and led this excellent academic and research center. Later on after I graduated I became a postdoc and spent a few more years there. I was able to listen to your talks and attend your project meetings. Over the years after I left Penn, I had the good fortune of meeting and interacting with you at workshops and conferences every now and then. If I can only say one thing about those experiences, it is that you always made sense whenever you talked. I hope to meet you at conferences and workshops and benefit even more from your wisdom.

Congratulations to your achievements and have a wonderful party!

Nianwen Xue
Brandeis University

Dear Aravind,

I wish I could be there in person to join your many other admirers and friends in celebrating your accomplishments along with your friendship. It’s hard to believe almost half a century has passed since we met! I’ve savored many fruitful intellectual and social interactions through this period, and I look forward to more in the future.

Warm regards,

Stanley Peters
Stanford University

Dear Aravind,

I am so sorry that I missed JoshiFest. You are the one who made it possible for me to come to Penn, and your guidance and wisdom will always be dear to me. You made IRCS the place it is – a place for enthusiastic people to come together and do cool and interesting things. During my time in Philadelphia, I was always amazed at how even small conversations with you could lead to great insight, and how you made time for meetings with students like me.

Thank you, and all the best for you and yours.
Tatjana Scheffler.


When I started graduate studies at Penn, I was generally interested in artificial intelligence and language, but not so interested that I was committed to a PhD.  It was during my second year that you offered me the opportunity to work with you.  An IJCAI paper appeared the following summer, and I committed to getting a PhD.

Your intellectual accomplishments have been amazing:  a class of grammars that was totally unique and attracted so many researchers over the years, centering, which continues to influence the field, the discourse Treebank which is likely to spur algorithm research in discourse for years to come, and a broad spectrum of other topics.  Of course, your willingness to work with others throughout meant that you touched many, many individuals, both students and mature researchers.

No less significant is the leadership you provided in building first rate academic institutions. Your 14 years serving as department head of computer science at Penn is reflected in the growth in quality (and quantity) of the faculty and program there. From obtaining Sloan Foundation funds for cognitive science and the founding of the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, your contributions in creating a first class research and teaching organization are abundantly clear.

It has been a privilege to know you and work with you.

My highest regards and best wishes go with you,
Ralph Weischedel