Friday, April 26, 2013 - 10:00

Putting Linguistics back into Computational Linguistics

Abstract: The belief has recently become widespread that the properties of language needed to process it for useful purposes will emerge if sufficiently large quantities of raw text and speech are analyzed automatically using sufficiently sophisticated techniques. The kind of understanding that a linguist attempts to achieve by examining individual specimens at close range has little value, at least for practical purposes. But, if information can be caused to emerge from the raw data only if it is in there in the first place, and it has long been known that this is not the case. A language is a code, that is, a system of arbitrary relations between symbols and things in worlds, real and imaginary. No time or effort invested in examining the symbols will
reveal these relations to one who does not know the code. If this is true, then we must ask why statistically based machine translation, for example, has come as far as it has, and how much further it can expect to go.

Prof. Martin Kay is Professor of Computational Linguistics at Stanford U. and Honorary Professor at Saarland U. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge. Kay then worked at Rand Corporation, the U. of Califormia at Irvine and XEROX PARC. Kay is one of the pioneers of computational linguistics and machine translation. He was responsible for introducing the notion of chart parsing in computational linguistics, and the notion of unification in linguistics generally. With Ron Kaplan, he pioneered research and application development in finite-state morphology. He has been a longtime contributor to, and critic of, work on machine translation. In his seminal paper "The Proper Place of Men and Machines in Language Translation," Kay argued for MT systems that were tightly integrated in the human translation process. He was reviewer and critic of EUROTRA, Verbmobil, and many other MT projects. Kay is former Chair of the Association of Computational Linguistics and ungoing Chair of the International Committee on Computational Linguistics. He was a Research Fellow at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center until 2002. He holds an honorary doctorate of Gothenburg U. In 2005, Kay received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Association for Computational Linguistics for his sustained role as an intellectual leader of NLP research.