Corpora: language engineering - a summary

From: Tadeusz Piotrowski (
Date: Thu Feb 24 2000 - 12:22:26 MET

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    Thanks to everybody who responded to the question:

    1 - what is language engineering (LE), and,
    2 - whether there is any relation of it to some type of social engineering,
    such as language planning.

    Frankly, I was a bit surprised that there was so much interest in the

    The following people sent their responses (in reverse order of appearance,
    sorry if I missed someone):

    Ruslan Mitkob
    Hamish Cunningham
    Lou Bernard
    Khurshid Ahmad
    Doug Cooper
    Tim Buckwalter
    Ramesh Krishnamurthy (2x)
    Chris Manning
    Gabriel Pereira Lopes
    Eric Atwell
    Frederik Fouvry
    Geoffrey Sampson (2x)
    Patrick Hanks
    Mark Lewellen
    G.A. Gupta
    Mark Stevenson
    Oliver Mason

    Thanks a lot!

    The respondents basically agreed, or I think they did, that LE:

    -- is technical in approach
    -- is an art, a methodology, rather than a science
    -- the result is more important than scientific foundations, theories, etc.
    -- involves -- a stronger version -- modelling of human (natural,
    real-world) language, or various features of language, on computer, or -- a
    weaker version -- any processing of human, etc. language on computer
    (including word processors, electronic dictionaries, etc.)
    -- and, though most people thought that LE does NOT have anything to do with
    social engineering, in fact texts show clearly that IT DOES (did?), and
    precisely in the sense that somehow got attached to it in my mind, i.e. with
    language planning.
    -- a bit of history: it is highly likely that the spread of the term in
    Europe is related to research funding lingo:
    >"Language Engineering" was used officially as a label
    >for a major sector of European Union research funding under the recently
    >oncluded Framework IV research programme, so that Europeans naturally
    >found themselves using this term -- in some contexts they _had_ to use
    it --
    >and it commonly occurred as an acronym, LE. << (Geoffrey Sampson)

    And here is a quotation that I like, a summary as well:
    >... the phrase "language engineering" has had two quite different senses.
    Whether the
    >use most people on this list are familiar with ("those research areas
    >likely to be funded by the EU language engineering programme") is
    >perhaps itself the result of language engineering in the earlier
    >sense ("the process of tweaking language usage to match political or
    >other social agendas") is something only history will tell us.
    (Lou Bernard)

    For further details I have to refer you to the relevant messages.

    Here are some useful references:

    There is a discussion about the meaning of the term in the first issue of
    The Journal of Natural Language Engineering and, specifically, the paper by

    Hamish Cunningham,
    "A Definition and Short History of Language Engineering" (with numerous
    (pages 1--16, vol 5, 1999),
    available from his Web page (
    (he provided relevant definitions from the paper in his message)

    Mitkov R. - Language Engineering: towards a clearer picture.
    Proceedings of the International Conference on Mathematical Linguistics,
    Tarragona, Spain, 2-5 May 1996

    Mitkov R. - Language Engineering: new perspectives for the multilingual
    Proceedings of the Workshop on Language Engineering. Natural Language
    Pacific Rim Symposium, 4-7 December 1995, Seoul, Korea (invited paper)
    available on request from Professor Mitkov

    Again: thank you!
    Best regards

    Tadeusz Piotrowski
                                                      mailing address
    Professor of Linguistics
    Department of English
    Opole University Zielinskiego 47/11
    Oleska 48 PL-53-533 Wroclaw
                                                    phone/fax (+48)71-3382664

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