Coffee Chat: Chris Potts

Chris Potts, Professor of Linguistics and Computer Science, spoke with us on Tuesday morning about his research at the intersection of semantics and pragmatics, and machine learning. We chatted about a variety of topics from the departments and faculty outside of Stanford who take a computational approach to solving problems in semantics and pragmatics to the ongoing open question of which problems to solve next.  

Professor Potts's current research investigates what insights from formal semantics and pragmatics can do to advance the state of natural language processing (NLP), and what insights from computing can do to advance the state of formal semantics and pragmatics. 

He also teaches at the undergraduate level about formal semantics and pragmatics, and at the graduate level about natural language understanding, and most recently, programming for linguists. He shared his enthusiasm for the latter class and his strong belief that anyone can be a programmer in our chat. 

Before joining the Departments of Linguistics and Computer Science and becoming the director of the Stanford Center for the Study of Language and Information, he was a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz, where his thesis focused on the logic of conventional implicatures. When asked how he decides what to delve into next, he said while it is a hard problem, he most enjoys advising his students through the completion of projects that are interesting to them.

To learn more about Chris Potts, visit his website at

Written by Pratyusha Javangula