Ever wonder how Google Translate converts English to Spanish, what enables your car’s GPS to tell you where to turn, or how Siri can explain the meaning of life? If you’re intrigued by this type of communication, guess what? There’s a career for that!
Computational linguistics is a growing and dynamic field that combines both linguistics and computer science in developing natural language processing systems that support the interface of communication and computers. This interdisciplinary profession draws from a variety of disciplines teaming computer and cognitive scientists, mathematicians, and logicians with anthropologists, psychologists, philosophers, and linguists.
Beginning in September, Montclair State University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences will begin offering New Jersey’s first graduate certificate program in computational linguistics. The yearlong program is open to those with undergraduate or work backgrounds in either computer science or linguistics, as well as to those with an unrelated degree (additional coursework may be required).
“The world has two communication systems—numbers and words. Computational linguistics converts words into the numbers used by digital systems,” explains Eileen Fitzpatrick, professor and chair of the Department of Linguistics at Montclair State University.
It is a field that appeals to individuals with a desire to develop cutting-edge tools that have practical applications and benefits in areas such as automated text analysis, speech-recognition, information retrieval, cryptography, among others. Those with related skills are in demand at companies like Google, IBM, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Amazon, the Educational Testing Service, and governmental and civilian organizations.
“Computational linguistics is developing rapidly with new applications emerging at an amazing pace,” says Anna Feldman, associate professor of linguistics and computer science. These include futuristic-sounding specialties such as “sentiment analysis” (a method of distilling opinions about products from the mountains of information found in online reviews) and “deception detection” (determining if someone is telling the truth or not by analyzing the way language is used).
Additional information can be found online by visiting Computational Linguistics.