Tristan Miller

Austrian Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence · Freyung 6/6 · 1010 Vienna · Austria
+43 1 5336112 12 ()

I'm a computational linguist with research interests in lexical semantics, historical online corpora, and computational detection and interpretation of humour. I currently head the Computational Pun-derstanding: Computer-Assisted Translation of Humorous Wordplay project at the Austrian Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence (OFAI).


Liana Ermakova, Tristan Miller, Fabio Regattin, Anne-Gwenn Bosser, Claudine Borg, Élise Mathurin, Gaëlle Le Corre, Sílvia Araújo, Radia Hannachi, Julien Boccou, Albin Digue, Aurianne Damoy, and Benoît Jeanjean.
Overview of JOKER@CLEF 2022: Automatic wordplay and humour translation workshop.
In Alberto Barrón-Cedeño, Giovanni Da San Martino, Mirko Degli Esposti, Fabrizio Sebastiani, Craig Macdonald, Gabriella Pasi, Allan Hanbury, Martin Potthast, Guglielmo Faggioli, and Nicola Ferro, editors, Experimental IR Meets Multilinguality, Multimodality, and Interaction: Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Conference of the CLEF Association (CLEF 2022), volume 13390 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science (ISSN 0302-9743), pages 447–469, Cham, 2022. Springer. ISBN 978-3-031-13642-9. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-031-13643-6_27.
While humour and wordplay are among the most intensively studied problems in the field of translation studies, they have been almost completely ignored in machine translation. This is partly because most AI-based translation tools require a quality and quantity of training data (e.g., parallel corpora) that has historically been lacking for humour and wordplay. The goal of the JOKER@CLEF 2022 workshop was to bring together translators and computer scientists to work on an evaluation framework for wordplay, including data and metric development, and to foster work on automatic methods for wordplay translation. To this end, we defined three pilot tasks: (1) classify and explain instances of wordplay, (2) translate single terms containing wordplay, and (3) translate entire phrases containing wordplay (punning jokes). This paper describes and discusses each of these pilot tasks, as well as the participating systems and their results.
author       = {Liana Ermakova and Tristan Miller and Fabio Regattin and Anne-Gwenn Bosser and Claudine Borg and Élise Mathurin and Gaëlle Le Corre and Sílvia Araújo and Radia Hannachi and Julien Boccou and Albin Digue and Aurianne Damoy and Benoît Jeanjean},
editor       = {Alberto Barrón-Cedeño and Giovanni Da San Martino and Mirko Degli Esposti and Fabrizio Sebastiani and Craig Macdonald and Gabriella Pasi and Allan Hanbury and Martin Potthast and Guglielmo Faggioli and Nicola Ferro},
title        = {Overview of {JOKER@CLEF} 2022: Automatic Wordplay and Humour Translation Workshop},
booktitle    = {Experimental {IR} Meets Multilinguality, Multimodality, and Interaction: Proceedings of the {Thirteenth} {International} {Conference} of the {CLEF} {Association} ({CLEF} 2022)},
volume       = {13390},
pages        = {447--469},
series       = {Lecture Notes in Computer Science},
year         = {2022},
publisher    = {Springer},
address      = {Cham},
isbn         = {978-3-031-13642-9},
issn         = {0302-9743},
doi          = {10.1007/978-3-031-13643-6_27},
Waltraud Kolb and Tristan Miller.
Human–computer interaction in pun translation.
In James Luke Hadley, Kristiina Taivalkoski-Shilov, Carlos S. C. Teixeira, and Antonio Toral, editors, Using Technologies for Creative-Text Translation, pages 66–88. Routledge, 2022. ISBN 9781003094159. DOI: 10.4324/9781003094159-4.
We present and evaluate PunCAT, an interactive electronic tool for the translation of puns. Following the strategies known to be applied in pun translation, PunCAT automatically translates each sense of the pun separately; it then allows the user to explore the semantic fields of these translations in order to help construct a plausible target-language solution that maximizes the semantic correspondence to the original. Our evaluation is based on an empirical pilot study in which the participants translated puns from a variety of published sources from English into German, with and without PunCAT. We aimed to answer the following questions: Does the tool support, improve, or constrain the translation process, and if so, in what ways? And what are the tool's main benefits and drawbacks as perceived and described by the participants? Our analysis of the translators' cognitive processes gives us insight into their decision-making strategies and how they interacted with the tool. We find clear evidence that PunCAT effectively supports the translation process in terms of stimulating brainstorming and broadening the translator's pool of solution candidates. We have also identified a number of directions in which the tool could be adapted to better suit translators' work processes.
author       = {Waltraud Kolb and Tristan Miller},
editor       = {James Luke Hadley and Kristiina Taivalkoski-Shilov and Carlos S. C. Teixeira and Antonio Toral},
title        = {Human--Computer Interaction in Pun Translation},
booktitle    = {Using Technologies for Creative-Text Translation},
pages        = {66--88},
year         = {2022},
publisher    = {Routledge},
isbn         = {9781003094159},
doi          = {10.4324/9781003094159-4},
Tristan Miller, Anthony Cohn, Tiansi Dong, Christian Hempelmann, Siba Mohsen, and Julia Rayz.
Can we diagram the understanding of humour?.
Dagstuhl Reports, 11(8):33, 2022. ISSN 2192-5283.
Cartoons can be understood without language. That is, a suitably arranged scene of simple objects, with no accompanying text, is often enough to make us laugh – evidence that thinking (mental activity) happens before language. This raises the question of non-linguistic diagrammatic representation of spatial humour, along with the mechanism of neural computation. In particular, we raise following questions: (1) How can we diagrammatically formalise spatial humour? (2) How can these diagrammatic formalisms be processed by neural networks? (3) How can this neural computation deliver high-level schema that are similar to the script-opposition semantic theory of humour? The spatial knowledge encoded in the scene can activate the necessary spatial and non- spatial knowledge. By what neural associative mechanism or process of reasoning do we put this all together to “get” the joke? During the seminar, we aimed to make some headway towards establishing (1) exactly what sort of scene-specific and common-sense knowledge is required to understand any given cartoon, (2) what part of this knowledge could in principle be acquired by existing machine learning (ML) techniques, and which could be acquired or encoded through symbolic structures, (3) what activation process acquires the rest of the knowledge required to interpret the humour, and (4) whether there is a unified representation that could represent this knowledge in a computer’s working memory.
author       = {Tristan Miller and Anthony Cohn and Tiansi Dong and Christian Hempelmann and Siba Mohsen and Julia Rayz},
title        = {Can We Diagram the Understanding of Humour?},
journal      = {Dagstuhl Reports},
volume       = {11},
number       = {8},
pages        = {33},
year         = {2022},
issn         = {2192-5283},
Netizens, Michael and Ronda Hauben's foundational treatise on Usenet and the Internet, was first published in print 25 years ago. In this piece, we trace the history and impact of the book and of Usenet itself, contextualising them within the contemporary and modern-day scholarship on virtual communities, online culture, and Internet history. We discuss the Net as a tool of empowerment, and touch on the social, technical, and economic issues related to the maintenance of shared network infrastructures and to the preservation and commodification of Usenet archives. Our interview with Ronda Hauben offers a retrospective look at the development of online communities, their impact, and how they are studied. She recounts her own introduction to the online world, as well as the impetus and writing process for Netizens. She presents Michael Hauben's conception of “netizens” as contributory citizens of the Net (rather than mere users of it) and the “electronic commons” they built up, and argues that this collaborative and collectivist model has been overwhelmed and endangered by the privatisation and commercialisation of the Internet and its communities.
author       = {Tristan Miller and Camille Paloque-Bergès and Avery Dame-Griff},
title        = {Remembering {Netizens}: {An} Interview with {Ronda} {Hauben}, Co-Author of {Netizens}: {On} the History and Impact of {Usenet} and the {Internet} (1997)},
journal      = {Internet Histories: Digital Technology, Culture and Society},
volume       = {7},
number       = {1},
pages        = {76--98},
year         = {2022},
issn         = {2470-1483},
doi          = {10.1080/24701475.2022.2123120},


Funded research projects

Events & organizations


Publishing & documentation


My interests in language, math, and computers were sparked and strengthened by exposure to the works of Willard R. Espy, Louis Phillips, Mike Keith, Dmitri Borgmann, Jim Butterfield, and others. These writers share a great talent for making technical or linguistic topics fun and accessible to a general audience. You can check out my own contributions to popular and recreational mathematics and linguistics, plus a few other odds and ends.

I also maintain an index of miscellaneous documents and websites I've produced which don't really fit into any other section.