Discrete mathematics and problem solving skills can lead to a very wide variety of careers. With the upcoming NACLO competition and a lecture on Natural Language Processing, we will profile the emerging field of Computational Linguistics. The following description is offered by Dr. Hans Uszkoreit:
Computational linguistics (CL) is a discipline between linguistics and computer science which is concerned with the computational aspects of the human language faculty. It belongs to the cognitive sciences and overlaps with the field of artificial intelligence (AI), a branch of computer science aiming at computational models of human cognition. Computational linguistics has applied and theoretical components.
Human language is a most exciting and demanding puzzle.
Theoretical CL takes up issues in theoretical linguistics and cognitive science. It deals with formal theories about the linguistic knowledge that a human needs for generating and understanding language. Today these theories have reached a degree of complexity that can only be managed by employing computers. Computational linguists develop formal models simulating aspects of the human language faculty and implement them as computer programmes. These programmes constitute the basis for the evaluation and further development of the theories. In addition to linguistic theories, findings from cognitive psychology play a major role in simulating linguistic competence. Within psychology, it is mainly the area of psycholinguistics that examines the cognitive processes constituting human language use. The relevance of computational modeling for psycholinguistic research is reflected in the emergence of a new subdiscipline: computational psycholinguistics.
We teach computers to communicate with people.
Applied CL focusses on the practical outcome of modelling human language use. The methods, techniques, tools and applications in this area are often subsumed under the term language engineering or (human) language technology. Although existing CL systems are far from achieving human ability, they have numerous possible applications. The goal is to create software products that have some knowledge of human language. Such products are going to change our lives. They are urgently needed for improving human-machine interaction since the main obstacle in the interaction beween human and computer is a communication problem. Today’s computers do not understand our language but computer languages are difficult to learn and do not correspond to the structure of human thought. Even if the language the machine understands and its domain of discourse are very restricted, the use of human language can increase the acceptance of software and the productivity of its users.