Ian D. K. Kelly
Wouldn't it ne nice if computers could understand us when we talk? Wouldn't it make for a better man/machine interface if computers could construct sentences, and talk back to us? Wouldn't it be useful is computers could be used to translate between human languages?
- Can computers talk?
- Can computers listen?
- Can computers translate?
All of these are questions which impinge upon Computational Linguistics.
We often call human languages "Natural Languages". Computational Linguistics is about using Computers to deal with Natural Languages.
To do this we have to:
Using computers to translate (Machine Translation or MT) has been the subject of a great deal of research, and there are numerous systems that perform this task to a better or worse degree.
- Have some means of analysing natural languages. You were probably taught rudimentary syntax analysis in your English classes at school ... the analysis used by computer programs is very like this;
- Have some means of recognising and handling a large vocabulary. Even the most basic human communication will use at least 2,000 different ordinary words, plus many proper names. An educated, adult (human!) native speaker of English will have at least 20,000 root words in his personal vocabulary, plus at least 50,000 idiomatic phrases or expressions. If you are looking at technical use of English, you probably have to consider more than 3,000,000 (three million) terms in the dictionary;
- Have some means of dealing with errror. As we talk and write we are for ever making mistakes. We have learnt to expect these imperfections from other users of our language too, and we silently correct these errors. to determine what the other party "really" meant. You may have already noticed three flaws in this paragraph already ... or they may have slipped silently by you. For computers to deal with Natural Language, they also must handle error gracefully.
I can give you advice on MT. Just contact me ...
Goshawke, W., Kelly, I.D.K., Wigg, J.D., "Computer Translation of Natural Language" Sigma Press 1987, ISBN 1-85058-056-1
Kelly, I.D.K. (Ed.), "Progress in Machine Translation", Sigma Press, 1989, ISBN 1-85058-056-8
Kelly, I.D.K., "Translation by Computer of Open Ended Responses" in Natural Language Translation Specialist Group Newsletter, 1981, British Computer Society.
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