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Academic Paper

Title: Computational Linguistics: A Dissenter's Voice
Paper URL:
Author: Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Indian Statistical Institute
Linguistic Field: Computational Linguistics; Linguistic Theories
Abstract: The status of Computational Linguistics is questioned here from four perspectives: from the standpoints of (a) Philosophy of science, (b) Natural Science (mismatch between human Cognitive domain and machine algorithms), (c) Social Science Problem (Plurilingual condition and the advent of the simulated hyper-real), (d) Algocentricism (the discourse, which is only controlled or appropriated by the algorithm) in contrast with post-formal subjective and substantive task of Linguistics. These problems are summarized as follows:

A. Philosophy of Science Problem: There is nothing called "Pen-Paper-Card Linguistics" when these tools are used to taxonomize corpus. If computer manipulates linguistic data through the "Pen-Paper-Card" method, is it justified to label it as a separate discipline?

B. Natural Science Problem: This problem deals with the matching condition between "Human Cognitive Domain" and "Machine Algorithm", that is, identity and difference between computer and human being, on the basis of [a] Russuell"s Paradox and Goedel"s Theorem, [b] Problem raised by Penrose (1990, 1994) and Searl"s Chinese Room Puzzle, [c] Computer's Halting Problem, [d] Fuzziness of Natural Language.

(The paper deals with some Bangla usages of numerals , where the status of number one is not always equal to one. The value of this 'fuzzy one' is determined by the context and speakers socio-economic status etc.), [e] Post-Formal Approach that denies analytical procedures proposed by structuralists (speakers perceive language as a whole. Fragmenting language-object by deploying grammatical rules implied understanding symbolic order by means of another (meta-) symbolic order. A binary machine appropriates language-object according its own algorithmic program. It leads to a metonymic transformation of speaking subject as subjects' non-algorithmic capability is ignored.

C. Social Science Problem: Hyper-real communication through binary machines is a capital-intensive area, but the pluriligual communication system needs no such investment as such communication falls within the shadow area of economics. Furthermore, the non-bio-degradability of machines would create a future problem as semi-conductors used in electronic industry contains carcinogenic substances.

D. Problem of Algocentricism: The equation "man=machine" leads to a discursive formation that totally depends on the use of technical metaphors (e.g., terms like "computation", "array", "interface", "parser", etc and operations like "COMMAND", "SATISFY", "SPELL OUT"). All these reflect the metonymic transformation of creative speaking subject as all these functions in uppercase letters make us remember Schank's (1975) language-free representation (PROPEL, MOVE, INGEST or CONTROL, PART etc.) which combines primitive conceptual roles and conceptual categories employed to process so-called natural language. All these are not at all metaphors (a case of displacement of algorithmic/non- algorithmic human mind with an algorithmic machine), but these are metonyms, by which the potentialities of the human mind are condensed and telescoped.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Venue: Kolkata
Publication Info: Indian Journal of Linguistics 2003, 21(1); pp. 1-18.

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