Computational linguistics in North America

A brief guide provided by the North American Association for 
Computational Linguistics.

Computational Linguistics (CL) is the study of human language from a computational perspective. We call languages spoken by humans 'natural' languages to distinguish them from computer programming languages. Research and development in CL is focused on computer algorithms used in the automatic analysis or production of language. Research in this field varies from developing formal mathematical models of natural language to the engineering of natural language processing software.

Computational linguistics belongs to the cognitive sciences and overlaps with the field of artificial intelligence (AI), a branch of computer science that is aiming at computational models of human cognition. For more information about CL, visit - 
www.aclweb.org/nlpfaq.txt

Good introductory textbooks are:

  • Christopher D. Manning and Hinrich Schutze, 1999, Foundations of Statistical Natural Language Processing, MIT Press
  • Daniel Jurafsky and James H. Martin, 2009, Speech and Language Processing, 2nd Ed. Prentice Hall

The Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) is the major international organisation in the field, and the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (NAACL) provides a regional focus for members of the ACL in North America as well as in Central and South America. It organises annual conferences, promotes cooperation and information exchange among related scientific and professional societies, and encourages and facilitates ACL membership by people and institutions in the Americas. The ACL also has an official journal called Computational Linguistics published by 
MIT Press.

Other journals in this area are: Journal of Natural Language Engineering; Computer Speech and Language; Machine Translation; Speech Technology; Natural Language and Linguistic Theory; and Journal of Logic, Language and Information.

The ACL and North American ACL organise and promote academic conferences, typically called ‘Meetings of the ACL’ and held worldwide. When the ACL conference is not held in North America, there is a North American ACL conference called NAACL held that year. A full list of conferences promoted by the ACL and NAACL, along with the full text of all the publications in those conferences and associated workshops is available online in the ACL anthology.

computer keyboard

“Research in this field varies from developing formal mathematical models of natural language to the engineering of natural language processing software”

The other major international conference on computational linguistics is called COLING, which is held once every two years, and is organised by the International Committee on Computational Linguistics (ICCL).

There are many institutions in North 
America that offer graduate and undergraduate courses in Computational Linguistics or Natural Language Processing. There are a few lists of such courses available online, though they may be outdated. The ACL wiki contains one such list, which can be found here.

For those interested in graduate school or even undergraduate courses in North America in CL or NLP, your best bet is to scan the various papers published in the conferences and check for popular institutions for your particular topics of interest. For instance, if you are interested in machine translation research, find recent papers on the topic that seem interesting 
to you and scan the home institutions of 
the authors of those papers.

Useful links
The Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) - www.aclweb.org
The North American ACL (NAACL) - 
www.naacl.org
International Committee on Computational Linguistics (ICCL) - www.nlp.shef.ac.uk/iccl

Provided by the North American Association for Computational Linguistics (NAACL) (2011)

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