Master of Arts in Islamic Religious Studies (MAIRS)

Teaching Arabic in the Global Era

School of Science and Engineering

Violetta Cavalli-Sforza

  • Associate Professor of Computer Science
  • School of Science and Engineering

  • Computer Science Coordinator

  • Status: Full-time
  • Office number : 110
  • Building : 7
  • Office phone : (+212)-535-862-106
  • Email :
  • Website :

  • I began my academic career as a Civil Engineer at Stanford, interested in architecture, transportation planning and urban development. A few months’ experience in a government office raised my interest in decision support systems, leading me to return to Stanford for post-master studies and eventually switch to Computer Science. I began my CS career at DEC’s System Research Center in Palo Alto, helping develop compilers and related tools, including a visual debugging interface for the Modula-2+ language. A few years’ later I returned to school for a doctorate in Intelligent Systems at the University of Pittsburgh, focusing on computer-supported learning and reasoning through visualization for my doctoral thesis. While working on my dissertation, I had an opportunity to learn about machine translation by participating in a joint academic-industrial project at Carnegie Mellon University. Having always enjoyed studying languages, I then spent some years working in machine translation and other aspects of natural language processing, including computational Arabic morphology. As one of the few Arabic natural language processing researchers in the United States in the late ’90s, I obtained research fellowships to work in Morocco and ended up staying in the country. My current teaching and research interests at AUI are multi-faceted, reflecting the different stages of my academic training and working experience as well as my personal interest in language and language learning. In addition, I enjoy learning about and experimenting with different teaching styles and approaches.
  • Degree : Ph.D. Intelligent Systems Studies Program, University of Pittsburgh, 1998 M.S. Intelligent Systems Program, University of Pittsburgh, 1991 M.S. Computer Science: Computer Engineering, Stanford University, 1985 M.S. Civil Engineering: Infrastructure Planning and Management, Stanford University, 1980 B.S. Civil Engineering, Stanford University, 1980 ?
  • Research areas and expertise : (Intelligent) Computer-Assisted Language Learning, Natural Language Processing, (Intelligent) Tutoring Systems and Visualization

  • Grants and honors : Invited to Google EMEA Faculty Summit (Sept 2012, London) Linguistic Data Consortium sub-contract, jointly with Ecole Mohammadia d’Ingénieurs, for Iraqi WordNet Prototype Project, $25,156. Al Akhawayn University seed funding grant, June 2010 till present, for project “Interactive Visualization of Pointers and Dynamic Memory Allocation.” Al Akhawayn University seed funding grant, July 2009 till present, for project “Intelligent IT Support for Enhancing Reading and Listening Comprehension of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA): Emphasis on Moroccan Culture and Topics.” Fulbright serial lecturing/research grant (10 months over 2005-2007 at L’École Nationale de L’Industrie Minérale, Rabat Morocco): Arabic- English Machine Translation Using Empirical Methods; teaching, contributing to establishment of joint U.S.-Morocco M.S. in Human Language Technologies. American Association for the Advancement of Science, Women in International Scientific Cooperation program: Travel grant for developing a collaborative proposal for joint work with Algeria, Centre de Recherche Scientifique et Technique pour le Développement de la Langue Arabe, towards computer-assisted language environments for the Arabic language, 2003. Serial National Science Foundation International Fellowship Program grant (9 months over 2001-2005 at L’École Nationale de L’Industrie Minérale and L’Institut Universitaire pour la Recherche Scientifique, Rabat Morocco): Arabic Computational Morphology. Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellowship for 1992-1993 academic year. Member of Tau Beta Pi (Engineering honor society) since 1977.
Bibliography: Cavalli-Sforza, V. (forthcoming). Experiences in Project-Based and Cooperative Learning. Paper to be presented at 5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI2012), Madrid, Spain, November 19-21, 2012. Smith, K. & Cavalli-Sforza, V. (forthcoming). Objective Assessment of Undergraduate Computer Science. Paper to be presented at 5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI2012), Madrid, Spain, November 19-21, 2012. Cavalli-Sforza, V. & Phillips, A. (2012). Using Morphology to Improve Example-Based Machine Translation: The Case of Arabic-to-English Translation. In Soudi, A., Farghaly, A., Neumann G., & Zbib, R.(eds.), Final Challenges for Arabic Empirical MT. John Benjamins Publishers. Smith, K., Cavalli-Sforza, V., Rinehart, D., Sendide, K., (2012). Developing an Undergraduate Research Program at a small public university in Morocco. Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies (EDULEARN 2012), Barcelona, July 02, 2012-July 04, 2012. Maamouri, M., Zaghouani, W., Cavalli-Sforza, V., Graff, D., & Ciul, M. (2012). Developing ARET: An NLP-based Educational Tool Set for Arabic Reading Enhancement. Proceedings of The 7th Workshop on Innovative Use of NLP for Building Educational Applications (NAACL-HLT-2012), Montreal, Canada, June 7, 2012. Cavalli-Sforza, V. & Chekayri, A. (2011). Computer-based Tools for Learning to Read: The Case of Arabic. (Outils numériques dans l’apprentissage de la lecture : le cas de la langue arabe.) Proceedings of Le Colloque International L’Environnement Numérique dans l’Enseignement des Langues (ENDEL 2011). La Faculté des Sciences Dhar El Mahraz Fès, Université Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah, 29-30 novembre, 2011. Cavalli-Sforza, V., Raiss, H., & Hind Saddiki (2011). Tools for Helping Language Learners Read Amazigh. Proceedings of the Festival of Amazigh Culture, Fez, Morocco, July 15-17, 2011. Cavalli-Sforza, V., Rehioui, H. & Bahri, L. (2011). A Tool for Annotating Texts with Morphological and Syntactic Information. 4ème atelier international sur l’Amazighe et les Nouvelles Technologies sous le thème: Les Ressources Langagières: Construction et Exploitation, Institut Royal de la Culture Amazighe, Rabat, Morocco, 24-25 February, 2011. Cavalli-Sforza, V. & Chekayri, A. (2010), Information Technology Support in Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Colloque Internationale. Le curriculum de la langue arabe-Choix théoriques et méthodes d’application. Centre de recherche scientifique et technique pour le développement de la langue arabe, 17-18 May, 2010, Algiers. Smith, K., Darhmaoui, H., Loudiyi, K., Berrada, F., Berrado, A., Cavalli-Sforza, V., El Asli, A., Legrouri, A., Messaoudi, F., Ouardaoui, A., Sendide, K. (2009). Bringing Information Technology to Middle School Instruction in Morocco. International Conference, Interactive Computer Aided Learning (ICL2009), September 23 -25, 2009 Villach, Austria. Cavalli-Sforza, V. & Soudi A. (2007). Arabic Computational Morphology: A Tradeoff between Multiple-Operations and Multiple-Stems. In Soudi, A., van den Bosch, A., and Neumann, G., editors, Arabic Computational Morphology: Knowledge-based and Empirical Methods. Kluwer/Springer's series on Text, Speech and Language Technology. Phillips, A., Cavalli-Sforza, V, & Brown, R.D. (2007). Improving Example Based Machine Translation Through Morphological Generalization and Adaptation. Machine Translation Summit XI, Copenhagen, Denmark, September 10-14, 2007. McCord, M. & Cavalli-Sforza, V. (2007). An Arabic Slot Grammar Parser. In Proceedings of the Workshop on Computational Approaches to Semitic Languages, Conference of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL 2007), Prague, Czech Republic, June 28-29. Phillips, A. & Cavalli-Sforza, V. (2006). Arabic-to-English Example Based Machine Translation Using Context-Insensitive Morphological Analysis. In Proceedings of Journée d'Etudes sur le Traitement Automatique de la Langue Arabe (JETALA). Institut d'Etudes et de Recherches pour l'Arabisation, June 5-6, Rabat Morocco. Cavalli-Sforza, V. & Soudi A. (2006). IMORPH?: An Inheritance and Equivalence Based Morphology Description Compiler. In Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2006), Genova, Italy, May 22-28, pp. 13-18. Cavalli-Sforza, V. & Maamouri, M. (2005). Extensions to a Histogram-Based Student Modeling Approach to Facilitate Reading in Morphologically Complex Languages. In Proceedings of the Workshop on Student Modeling for Language Tutors, Twelfth International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, July 19. Su, S., et al. (extensive list of authors) (2005). Transnational Information Sharing, Event Notification, Rule Enforcement and Process Coordination. International Journal of Electronic Government Research, 1(2), April-June, Idea-Group Publishing, pp. 1-24. Su, S., et al. (extensive list of authors) (2004). A Prototype System for Transnational Information Sharing and Process Coordination. In Proceedings of the 2004 National Conference on Digital Government Research. Seattle, WA, May 24-26. ( Cavalli-Sforza, V., Carbonell, J.G., and Jansen P.J.J. (2004). Developing Language Resources for Transnational Digital Government Systems: A Case Study. In Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2004), Lisbon, Portugal, May 24-30, pp. 945-948 (Vol III). Cavalli-Sforza, V., Brown, R.D., Carbonell, J.G., Jansen, P.J., and Kim, J.D. (2004). Challenges in Using an Example-Based MT System for A Transnational Digital Government Project. In Proceedings of the Ninth Workshop of the European Association for Machine Translation (EAMT-04), University of Malta, April 26-27, pp. 33-42. Cavalli-Sforza, V. et al. (2003). Enabling Transnational Collection, Notification, and Sharing of Information. In Proceedings of the 2003 National Conference on Digital Government Research, Boston, MA, May 18-21. ( Cavalli-Sforza, V. and Soudi A. (2003). Enhancements to a Morphological Generator to Capture Arabic Morphology. In Proceedings of the Eighth International Symposium on Social Communication, Center of Applied Linguistics, Santiago de Cuba, January 20-24, pp. 565-570. Cavalli-Sforza, V. (2002). Towards a Tutoring Environment with Speech Recognition for Learning to Read Modern Standard Arabic. Presented at the InSTIL workshop, Davis, CA, March 26-27. Soudi, A., Cavalli-Sforza, V., & Jamari, A. (2002). A Prototype English-to-Arabic Interlingua-based MT System,” In Proceedings of the Workshop on Arabic Language Resources and Evaluation – Status and Prospects, Third International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2002), Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, Jun 1. Soudi, A., Cavalli-Sforza, V., & Jamari, A. (2002). The Arabic Noun System Generation. In Proceedings of the International Symposium on The Processing of Arabic, University of Manouba, Tunisia, Apr 18-20, pp. 69-87. Soudi, A., Cavalli-Sforza, V., & Jamari, A. (2001). A Computational Lexeme-Based Treatment of Arabic Morphology. In Proceedings of the Arabic Natural Language Processing Workshop, Conference of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL 2001), Toulouse, France, July 6, pp. 155-162. Cavalli-Sforza, V., Czuba, K., Mitamura, T., and Nyberg, E. (2000). Challenges in Adapting an Interlingua for Bidirectional English-Italian Translation. In Proceedings of the 4th Conference of the Association for Machine Translation in the Americas (AMTA 2000), Cuernavaca, Mexico, October 11-14, 2000. Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence 1934, Springer, Berlin, pp. 169-178. Cavalli-Sforza, V., Soudi, A., & Mitamura, T. (2000). Arabic Morphology Generation Using a Concatenative Strategy. In Proceedings of the 1st Meeting of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (NAACL 2000), Seattle, Apr-May, 2000, pp. 86-93. Cavalli-Sforza, V. (2000). The Impact of Representation on Coaching Argument Analysis. In Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS 2000), Montreal, Canada, Jun 2000. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 1839, Berlin:Springer, pp. 413-422. Cavalli-Sforza, V. (1999). Constructed vs. Received Representations for Scientific Argument: Implications for Learning and Coaching. In Proceedings of The Twenty-First Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Vancouver, Canada. Cavalli-Sforza, V. (1998). Constructed vs. Received Graphical Representations For Learning About Scientific Controversy: Implications For Learning And Coaching. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, Intelligent Systems Program, Apr. Cavalli-Sforza, V., & Lesgold, A. M. (1995). Intelligent Learning By Doing Tools for Technical and Dialectical Knowledge. S. Bagnara, C. Zucchermaglio, S. Stucky (Eds.), Organizational Learning and Technological Change, Berlin: Springer-Verlag (NATO ASI Series). Cavalli-Sforza, V., Weiner, A.W., & Lesgold, A.M. (1994). Software Support for Students Engaging in Scientific Activity and Scientific Controversy. Science Education 78(6), Nov, pp. 577-599. Cavalli-Sforza, V., & Suthers, D. D. (1994). Belvedere: An Environment for Practicing Scientific Argumentation. In Notes of the AAAI Workshop on Computational Dialectics, Seattle, WA. Cavalli-Sforza, V., Moore, J. D., Suthers, D. D. (1993). Helping Students Articulate and Criticize Scientific Explanations. In Proceedings of the World Conference on AI and Education (AIED-93), Edinburgh, Scotland, Aug 23-27, 113-120. Suthers, D. D., & Cavalli-Sforza, V. (1993). Issues in graphical media for evaluating and debating scientific theories. In R. Cox, M. Petre, P. Brna, & J. Lee (eds.), Proceed