Cover of Natural Language Computing

Natural Language Computing
An English Generative Grammar in Prolog

Ray C. Dougherty

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

349+xlvi pages, plus a 1.44 meg floppy containing all programs in the book and Prolog Interpreters for DOS, Windows, and Macintosh.

If you have any comments concerning the book, please let me know. In response to readers, I have added several pages of backup materials to help those using it in classes or on their own. If you have an interesting program, please send it to me. Perhaps we can place it on this website.




Introductory Materials from the Book

Here is the Preface and Introduction to the book in Adobe PDF format. You should install the Adobe PDF free software so you can read the newspapers of the world: The NY Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and so on.

Use the Book in a Class or on Your Own

Overview of the Book and Disk

From the time he could pick up a crayon, Pablo Picasso had the ability to sketch pictures that accurately depicted the things he saw. He was exceptional. Most of us spent our early years following the dots, painting by number, and drawing on tracing paper held over someone else's picture. If you are a Pablo Picasso of the computer, and if computational linguistics comes easy to you, this book may not be for you. But if you would like a follow-the-dots approach to natural language processing, linguistic theory, artificial intelligence, machine translation, and expert systems, you will like this presentation. The basic idea is to present meaningful answers to significant problems involved in representing human language data on a computing machine. My main focus is on the grammatical devices underlying constructions of English, French, and German. I use the absolute minimum required from any computer hardware or from either of the computer languages discussed: Prolog and Unix.

This book, which perhaps should be subtitled start here, offers a hands-on approach to anyone who wishes to gain a perspective on natural language processing, the computational analysis of human language data. All of the examples in the book are illustrated using computer programs that run in Prolog on Macs and PCs.

Included are Prolog interpreters/compilers for IBM DOS and Windows and Macintosh. All software is free and may be downloaded from New York University. There are Freeware or Shareware Prolog and LISP interpreters and compilers for IBM PC and Macintosh. There is no reason to purchase any software. The included disk automatically loads Prolog and the programs into an IBM PC.

The programs in the book and updated versions of the Prolog and LISP interpreters can be downloaded from the NYU linguistics ftp site or from our resource web pages. We also have some information about installation and running the programs. A graphics demonstration can be downloaded and run on an IBM PC with VGA.

An Introduction to Chomsky's Theories and Models

The grammatical proposals in the book follow very closely Noam Chomsky's ideas about generative grammar as illustrated in the Minimalist Program. The assumption is that the reader knows little, if anything, about Noam Chomsky's linguistic theories and less about Prolog. All relevant linguistic terminology is defined in the text, in figures, and illustrated in Prolog programs. Basic terms like level, phrase, sentence, morpheme, morphology, competence, derivation, computational linguistics, lexical entry, selection, phrase marker, primary data, parser, top-down, bottom-up, list structures, parallel processing, and so on are discussed in detail and illustrated in figures.

The linguistic and computational methodology underlying our presentation follows the basic research strategy discussed by Noam Chomsky and C.S. Peirce. Peirce's ideas about abductive, deductive, and inductive logic provide the framework in which the computational models of human language are proposed. Chomsky has often mentioned that his ideas correlate closely with those of Peirce. Following Peirce's dictum: "Write for people who are intelligent, but who know nothing about your subject," many ideas are presented using game models (chess and puzzles) and suggestive analogies.

Introduction to Prolog for Beginners

All of the examples in the book are illustrated using computer programs that run. 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 such familiarity, you can start to modify the programs and eventually start to write you own. The optimal way to learn to create programs is to operate on live ones by modifying existing code. All programs discussed and a shareware version of Prolog to execute them are free. If you have a computer, you have no excuse for not running these programs as you work through the book. The book assumes that you have never heard of Prolog, which is short for PROgramming in LOGic. The bibliography contains numerous references to Prolog textbooks for further study.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

The materials in the book are graphically presented. That is, any definition or programming concept that is introduced in the examples discussed in the text is also illustrated in one of the numerous full page figures in the book.

This is a sample of the 80 full page pictures in the book.

Classroom Ready Teaching Materials

All of the full page figures in the book, and many more, are on the NYU pages and may be downloaded and printed on a postscript laser to yield an 8.5 x 11 overhead transparency for classroom use. To make a transparency (8.5 x 11) you should

  1. Go to the directory containing the 8.5x11 postscript pages.
  2. Download the file in postscript format or as a zip file
  3. Unzip the file if you downloaded the compresssed version
  4. Copy the postscript file to your HPIIIsi compatible Postscript Laser printer. On an IBM PC, the command is copy file.pos prn:

Figure 7.1. The term grammar is ambiguous.

How to Print Overheads from Downloadable Figures


An Introduction to Natural and Artificial Intelligence

A listing of the basic words in the index. We discuss artifical intelligence, expert systems, sentence processing, computational linguistics, natural language processing, LISP, Prolog, machine translation,...