What is Happening with Natural Language Processing?

May 29, 2013

Why Are We Still Waiting for Natural Language Processing, an article on The Chronicle of Higher Education, explores the failure of the 21st century to produce Natural Language Processing, or NLP. This would mean the ability of computers to process natural human language. The steps required are explained in the article,

“ In the 1980s I was convinced that computers would soon be able to simulate the basics of what (I hope) you are doing right now: processing sentences and determining their meanings.

To do this, computers would have to master three things. First, enough syntax to uniquely identify the sentence; second, enough semantics to extract its literal meaning; and third, enough pragmatics to infer the intent behind the utterance, and thus discerning what should be done or assumed given that it was uttered.”

Currently, typing a question into Google can result in exactly the opposite information from what you are seeking. This is because it is unable to infer, since natural conversation is full of gaps and assumptions that we are all trained to leap through without failure. According to the article, the one company that seemed to be coming close to this technology was Powerset in 2008. After making a deal with Microsoft, however, their site now only redirects to Bing, a Google clone. Maybe NLP like Big Data, business intelligence, and predictive analytics is just a buzzword with marketing value.

Chelsea Kerwin, May 29, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext


2 Responses to “What is Happening with Natural Language Processing?”

  1. joshua bowles on May 29th, 2013 8:02 am

    “Maybe NLP like Big Data, business intelligence, and predictive analytics is just a buzzword with marketing value”

    Not quite. Pullum glosses over many of the real progresses. NLP is not an easy problem and we are in its infancy. To expect a Ferrari right out of the gates is a bit optimistic

  2. Uli on July 17th, 2013 4:07 am

    I like this article. Thank you for publishing it.


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