ghastlydream (ghastlydream) wrote in compling,
ghastlydream
ghastlydream
compling

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Double Major?

Hello everyone.

I am interested in getting into the field of computational linguistics, but I'm not sure about the requirements for that. I'm currently majoring in Linguistics in a university and I was wondering if I should ALSO have a major in Computer Science in order to delve into this field? Or is it possible to be able to get into a Masters program in Computational Linguistics with just my Linguistics Bachelor's Degree? (And vice versa, with just my Computer Science degree?)

Also, between Computer Science and Linguistics, I'd like to know if any one of these have a bigger importance in the field of Computational Linguistics, or are they equally as important?

Thank you in advance for anyone who decides to reply to this!
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  • 3 comments
It depends ;-)
on how computational you want to be. There is some purely theoretical work in compling - some of it requires mathematics/logic, some not even that. On the other hand you can do work in compling, or I would say NLP without a degree in linguistics , especially all the modern statistical stuff - of course, some half a dozen courses in NLP would add a lot - but you can usually get them at CS department, AFAIK.
So, no simple answer.
I found that when I got my Masters in Computational Linguistics after having double majored in Computer Science and Linguistics it was MUCH easier for me than many of the other students who struggled with concepts they were unfamiliar with at too quick a pace. So yes, it would be good to double major. Also, Computer Science tends to give better career opportunities if you cannot find linguistics work. Within the field of computational linguistics, it really depends what problems you are trying to solve.
I'd encourage you to read some of the survey articles on "linguistics and computational linguistics" compared here.

In particular, the Abney article makes a strong case for modern CL being a branch of computer science, with limited interaction with linguistics. It's of course useful to know the linguistics, but much (not all) of CL does not use much of the more recent linguistic theory. Whether this is a virtue of CL or a flaw is a matter of perspective and opinion, but I found that the linguistics required for CL was much easier to pick up than the CS. Accordingly, my advice would be to study linguistics for a few classes but get what CS you can while you're in school.

But a caveat: *I* didn't do it that way. I entered the field from the other direction -- I got a BA in Linguistics with a handful of CS classes, then spent five years in industry learning how software "really" works, then went back to school for an MA and PhD. Although the MA & PhD were officially in linguistics, my advisor was a professor of electrical engineering and I learned an awful lot of computer skills because I needed them for industry and academic work.