Computational Linguistics - Origins


Computational linguistics as a field predates artificial intelligence, a field under which it is often grouped. Computational linguistics originated with efforts in the United States in the 1950s to use computers to automatically translate texts from foreign languages, particularly Russian scientific journals, into English. Since computers can make arithmetic calculations much faster and more accurately than humans, it was thought to be only a short matter of time before the technical details could be taken care of that would allow them the same remarkable capacity to process language.

When machine translation (also known as mechanical translation) failed to yield accurate translations right away, automated processing of human languages was recognized as far more complex than had originally been assumed. Computational linguistics was born as the name of the new field of study devoted to developing algorithms and software for intelligently processing language data. When artificial intelligence came into existence in the 1960s, the field of computational linguistics became that sub-division of artificial intelligence dealing with human-level comprehension and production of natural languages.

In order to translate one language into another, it was observed that one had to understand the grammar of both languages, including both morphology (the grammar of word forms) and syntax (the grammar of sentence structure). In order to understand syntax, one had to also understand the semantics and the lexicon (or 'vocabulary'), and even to understand something of the pragmatics of language use. Thus, what started as an effort to translate between languages evolved into an entire discipline devoted to understanding how to represent and process natural languages using computers.

Nowadays research within the scope of computational linguistics is done at computational linguistics departments, computational linguistics laboratories, computer science departments, and linguistics departments.

Read more about this topic:  Computational Linguistics

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