Portrait of Bill Dolan

Bill Dolan

Research Manager, Principal Researcher


I am a Principal Researcher in Microsoft Research, where I manage the Natural Language Processing group. My undergraduate degree is from UC Berkeley, and my Ph.D. is from UCLA Linguistics . I joined MSR in 1992, and most of my work since then has focused on semantic processing.

A fundamental research interest has been “the paraphrase problem”: when do superficially dissimilar strings of words convey essentially the same meaning?

On its way to an extended mission at Saturn, the Cassini probe on Friday makes its closest rendezvous with Saturn’s dark moon Phoebe.
The Cassini spacecraft, which is en route to Saturn, is about to make a close pass of the ringed planet’s mysterious moon Phoebe.

Learning to identify and generate such alternations is key to developing applications that appear to understand human language, and we’ve done some interesting work in this area . I have also been active in helping establishing the Recognizing Textual Entailment challenges , which address a closely related problem. In addition, I’ve worked extensively on Machine Translation, managing the Microsoft Translator team from its inception until 2011.

Most recently, my work has focused on modeling language “grounded” or “situated” in the real world:

Learning dialog models that tie linguistic utterances to specific changes in machine state
Linking crowdsourced natural language descriptions to visual objects and actions

I’m particularly interested in imbuing machines with the linguistic means to react to environmental changes, and in allowing humans to alter the state of the world (real or virtual) with language.


Data-Driven Conversation

Established: June 1, 2014

This project aims to enable people to converse with their devices. We are trying to teach devices to engage with humans using human language in ways that appear seamless and natural to humans. Our research focuses on statistical methods by which devices can learn from human-human conversational interactions and can situate responses in the verbal context and in physical or virtual environments. Natural and Engaging Agents that process human language will play a growing role…

Microsoft Research ESL Assistant

Established: May 9, 2008

The Microsoft Research ESL Assistant is a web service that provides correction suggestions for typical ESL (English as a Second Language) errors. Such errors include, for example, the choice of determiners (the/a) and the choice of prepositions. The web service also provides word choice suggestions from a thesaurus. In order to help the user make decisions on whether to accept a suggestion, the service displays "before and after" web search…


Established: December 19, 2001

Overview MindNet is a knowledge representation project that uses our broad-coverage parser to build semantic networks from dictionaries, encyclopedias, and free text. MindNets are produced by a fully automatic process that takes the input text, sentence-breaks it, parses each sentence to build a semantic dependency graph (Logical Form), aggregates these individual graphs into a single large graph, and then assigns probabilistic weights to subgraphs based on their frequency in the corpus as a whole. The…





















Link description

UW/MS symposium


June 6, 2008


Danyel Fisher, Douglas Downey, Chris Quirk, Scott Drellishak, Kelly O'Hara, Emily M. Bender, Sumit Basu, Matthew Hurst, Arnd Christian König, Michael Gamon, Chris Brockett, Dmitriy Belenko, Bill Dolan, Jianfeng Gao, and Lucy Vanderwende