This week in languages: May 20, 2016

by on May 20, 2016

13/05/2016–20/05/2016

Headlines

Google has open sourced SyntaxNet, its Artificial Intelligence (AI) programming software that helps computers understand the syntax of natural language and which also includes Parsey McParseface, an English-language parser Google believes is more accurate than any currently in the field. The open sourcing means that anyone can now use, modify and distribute its code for free. Parsing is problematic for computers because human language tends to be highly ambiguous. So while a computer might pick up that a sentence like “John kicked the bucket” is grammatical (in terms of its sentence structure), it tends to be unable to choose the accurate meaning in context (i.e. whether it is that John literally kicked the bucket, or that John died).

Recent updates to Google’s translation app have been designed to benefit travelers, include more world languages, and streamline the translation process. They include the additional of an offline mode previously unavailable on iOS and a pop-up translation feature, among other improvements.

Commentaries and Features

The Oxford English Dictionary codifies Singlish (or Singapore Colloquial English) entries such as chill crab, rendang, and blur like sotong in its database, reported The New Paper. The contact language often derided as a lesser English cousin of ‘standard English’ has finally gained ground in terms of acceptance on colloquialisms and unusual uses of words on a widely-recognised, official authority of English(es). “As long as these words have fulfilled a need, something that Singaporeans needed to express, there is nothing wrong with them,” said Dr Danica Salazar, World English editor of the OED.

Babel Magazine is organising a Young Writer’s Competition for young linguists to explore topics related to language and present them in an accessible way. The best 2,500-word articles get to be featured in the magazine. Deadline for submissions is 26 August 2016.

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