Forrest Davis

Assistant Professor of Computer Science | Colgate University.


309 McGregory

Colgate University

Hamilton, NY 13346

I am an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Colgate University. Before joining Colgate, I was a Postdoctoral Associate in the Linguistics and Philosophy Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Linguistics at Cornell University, where I was primarily advised by Marten van Schijndel, and my B.A. in Computer Science and Mathematics from Columbia University.

I am broadly interested in mismatches between our experiences with language and our knowledge of language. That is, I try to find in linguistic data systematic deviations from what we might expect given our knowledge of grammar. Findings like this excite me because they suggest cases where our minds extend beyond mere correspondence with experience. My primary tool at the moment is neural language models (e.g., GPT-3) trained on text data. Drawing on insights from psycholinguistics, linguistic theory, and cross-linguistic variation, I expose limitations in current AI models and tie these limitations to properties of training data. My dissertation titled “On the Limitations of Data: Mismatches between Neural Models of Language and Humans” sketches out my perspective with case studies.

Besides research and teaching, I love coffee, watching movies, swimming, hiking, and skiing. I cohabitate with a cat named Figaro, who spends his time sleeping throughout our home, sitting on my keyboard, and meowing for food.


Apr 5, 2024 Invited talk “Neural Language Models are not Models of Human Linguistic Knowledge” to CSoL at University of Toronto Department of Linguistics!
Nov 29, 2023 Guest lecture on neural language models and data to Corpus Linguistics at Pomona College!
Nov 15, 2023 Gave an invited talk “Neural Language Models are not Modeling Human Linguistic Behavior” to the wonderful FALCoN Lab at University of Georgia!
Oct 6, 2023 “Can Language Models Be Tricked by Language Illusions? Easier with Syntax, Harder with Semantics” accepted as a talk at CoNLL 2023 in Singapore (with Yuhan Zhang and Ted Gibson).
Sep 21, 2023 “What Language Models Can Tell Us About Learning Adjectives,” talk to be presented at the 2024 LSA Annual Meeting in NYC (with Megan Gotowski). January 4-7, 2024.

selected publications