Electric Words: Dictionaries, Computers, and Meanings

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Electric Words delves first into the philosophical background of the study of meaning, specifically word meaning, then into the early work on treating dictionaries as texts, the first serious efforts at extracting information from machine-readable dictionaries (MRDs), and the conversion of MRDs into usable lexical knowledge bases.

The use of computers to understand words continues to be an area of burgeoning research. Electric Words is the first general survey of and introduction to the entire range of work in lexical linguistics and corpora--the study of such on-line resources as dictionaries and other texts--in the broader fields of natural-language processing and artificial intelligence. The authors integrate and synthesize the goals and methods of computational lexicons in relation to AI's sister disciplines of philosophy, linguistics, and psychology. One of the underlying messages of the book is that current research should be guided by both computational and theoretical tools and not only by statistical techniques--that matters have gone far beyond counting to encompass the difficult province of meaning itself and how it can be formally expressed.

Electric Words delves first into the philosophical background of the study of meaning, specifically word meaning, then into the early work on treating dictionaries as texts, the first serious efforts at extracting information from machine-readable dictionaries (MRDs), and the conversion of MRDs into usable lexical knowledge bases. The authors provide a comparative survey of worldwide work on extracting usable structures from dictionaries for computational-linguistic purposes and a discussion of how those structures differ from or interact with structures derived from standard texts (or corpora). Also covered are automatic techniques for analyzing MRDs, genus hierarchies and networks, numerical methods of language processing related to dictionaries, automatic processing of bilingual dictionaries, and consumer projects using MRDs.

 

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Page 26 - One might say that the concept 'game' is a concept with blurred edges.— "But is a blurred concept a concept at all?"— Is an indistinct photograph a picture of a person at all? Is it even always an advantage to replace an indistinct picture by a sharp one? Isn't the indistinct one often exactly what we need?
Page 12 - However, many of the most Learned and Wise adhere to the new Scheme of expressing themselves by Things; which hath only this Inconvenience attending it; that if a Man's Business be very great, and of various Kinds, he must be obliged in Proportion to carry a greater Bundle of Things upon his Back, unless he can afford one or two strong Servants to attend him.
Page 12 - However, many of the most learned and wise adhere to the new scheme of expressing themselves by things, which hath only this inconvenience attending it, that if a man's business be very great, and of various kinds, he must be obliged in proportion to carry a greater bundle of things upon his back, unless he can afford one or two strong servants to attend him.
Page 53 - This then leads to the extremely far-reaching, though plausible, hypothesis that all semantic structures might finally be reduced to components representing the basic dispositions of the cognitive and perceptual structure of the human organism.
Page 27 - SI second; it is defined as the duration of 9 192 631 770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom.
Page 42 - pretentious and obscure verbosity" and specifically instances its definition of "so simple an object as a door." The definition reads: a movable piece of firm material or a structure supported usu. along one side and swinging on pivots or hinges, sliding along a groove, rollIng up and down, revolving as one of four leaves, or folding like an accordion by means of which an opening may be closed or kept open for passage into or out of a building, room, or other covered enclosure or a car, airplane,...
Page 49 - Semantic interpretation by means of them amounts merely to a translation algorithm from the object language to the auxiliary language Markerese. But we can know the Markerese translation of an English sentence without knowing the first thing about the meaning of the English sentence: namely, the conditions under which it would be true.
Page 53 - lexical entry" presupposes some sort of fixed, universal vocabulary in terms of which these objects are characterized, just as the notion "phonetic representation" presupposes some sort of universal phonetic theory.
Page 69 - For them, it is a peripheral phenomenon, one that can be dealt with by subscripting symbols as playl, play2, etc., (as Wittgenstein first did in his Tractatus) and claiming that there is, in any case, no real ambiguity in the world itself: symbols designate disjoint classes of things and that fact can best be captured by disjoint (subscripted) symbols. The answer to this position would be that when people translated 'ambiguous words...
Page 260 - Brown, P., J. Cocke, S. Della Pietra, V. Della Pietra, F. Jelinek, R. Mercer and P. Roossin. 1988. A Statistical Approach to French/English Translation.

About the author (1996)

Yorick Wilks is Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Institute of Language, Speech, and Hearing at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Brian Slator is Professor of Computer Science and Operations Research and Director of The NDSU Computer Systems Institute at North Dakota State University.

Louise Guthrie is Professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso.

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