Natural language understanding is an area of computer science which aims to give computers the ability to understand the human language, spoken or written. It is a part of Artificial Intelligence, a broad category of studies that attempt to simulate intelligent behavior in computers.
The practical significance of natural language understanding research is great. Two important applications are speech recognition programs and language translators. For people, the results of these studies mean the ability to speak instructions or information to a computer instead of using a keyboard. Speech recognition programs will give computers a more human-like quality allowing people to communicate using a method more natural to them. Language translators will make it possible to communicate with people from all over the world.
The study of natural language has an interesting history which has already resulted in some applications such as the commonly used and greatly adored tool of word processors, spelling checkers.
Discussing the past research will lead us to the current products and research and help form the base of the future trends and challenges which are ahead for this important area of computer research.
Wendy Miller, ’98
Sponsor: Anthony deLaubenfels