How to use the book.

Natural Language Computing
for Self-Study or In-Class

ISBN: 0-8058-1525-2 cloth $69.95 || ISBN: 0-8058-1526-0 paper $36
Ordering Information: Contact Lawrence Erlbaum (order) (information)(blurb)

Prof. Ray C. Dougherty
New York University | Linguistics Department

The Main Focus of This Book

The book's main goal is to show readers (who know little about modern Linguistics or languages like Prolog and Lisp) how to use the linguistic theory of Noam Chomsky, called Universal Grammar, to represent English, French, and German on a computer using the Prolog computer Language. In so doing, it presents a follow-the-dots approach to natural language processing, linguistic theory, artificial intelligence, and expert systems. The basic idea is to introduce meaningful answers to significant problems involved in representing human language on a computer.

The book offers a hands-on approach to anyone who wishes to gain a perspective on natural language processing -- the computational analysis of human language data using a parser. All of the examples are illustrated using computer programs. The optimal way for a person to get started is to run these existing programs to gain an understanding of how they work. After gaining familiarity, readers can begin to modify the programs, and eventually write their own.

Summary of Chapters

The first six chapters take a reader who has never heard of non-procedural, backtracking, declarative languages like Prolog and, using 29 full page diagrams and 75 programs, detail how to present a lexicon of English on a computer, either a mainframe or a personal computer. A bibliography is programmed into a Prolog database to show how linguists can manipulate the symbols used in formal representations, including braces and brackets.

The next two chapters use 74 full page diagrams and 38 programs to show how data structures (subcategorization, selection, phrase marker, ambiguity, perception, left versus right branching) and processes (top-down, bottom-up, parsing, recursion) crucial in Chomsky's theory can be explicitly formulated into a constraint-based grammar and implemented in Prolog. Some examples of parallel processing are presented. The programs in this book will assign structures like these and like these.

All Software and Programs are Free and Downloadable

The Prolog interpreters provided with the book are basically identical to the high priced Prologs, but they lack the speed and memory capacities. They all require the learner to master the edit-Prolog-edit loop. They are ideal since anything learned about these Prologs carries over unmodified to C-Prolog and Quintus on the mainframes. Anyone who studies the Prolog implementations of the lexicons and syntactic principles of combination should be able to represent their own linguistic data on the most complex Prolog computer available, whether their data derive from syntactic theory, semantics, sociolinguistics, bilingualism, language acquisition, language learning, or some related area (involving game playing strategies and particularly parallel processors) in which the grammatical patterns of words and phrases are more crucial than concepts of quantity.

The printed examples illustrate C-Prolog on an Ultrix VAX, a standard university configuration. The disk included with the book contains shareware versions of Prolog-2 (IBM PC) and Open-Prolog (Macintosh), plus versions of the programs that run on C-Prolog, Quintus, Prolog-2, and Open-Prolog. Appendix II contains information about how to use the Internet, Gopher, CompuServe, and the free More BBS to download the latest copies of Prolog, programs, lexicons, and parsers. All figures in the book are available scaled to make full size transparencies for class lectures.

Valuable special features of this volume include:

A Quicklist of Downloadable Software and Interpreters: