Thursday, June 12, 2008

What is NLP

Natural Language Processing (NLP) is both a modern computational technology and a method of investigating and evaluating claims about human language itself. Some prefer the term Computational Linguistics in order to capture this latter function, but NLP is a term that links back into the history of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the general study of cognitive function by computational processes, normally with an emphasis on the role of knowledge representations, that is to say the need for representations of our knowledge of the world in order to understand human language with computers. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is the use of computers to process written and spoken language for some practical, useful, purpose: to translate languages, to get information from the web on text data banks so as to answer questions, to carry on conversations with machines, so as to get advice about, say, pensions and so on. These are only examples of major types of NLP, and there is also a huge range of lesser but interesting applications, e.g. getting a computer to decide if one newspaper story has been rewritten from another or not. NLP is not simply applications but the core technical methods and theories that the major tasks above divide up into, such as Machine Learning techniques, which is automating the construction and adaptation of machine dictionaries, modeling human agents' beliefs and desires etc. This last is closer to Artificial Intelligence, and is an essential component of NLP if computers are to engage in realistic conversations: they must, like us, have an internal model of the humans they converse with

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