Maggie Samuels (Maggie Samuels) wrote in compling,
Maggie Samuels
Maggie Samuels

Computational Linguistics/Natural Language Processing - What do They Really Mean?


I have a horribly basic question that I can't seem to find a straightforward answer to anywhere. I love languages, and therefore I happen to enjoy linguistics and I also enjoy CS. I'm currently dual majoring in Computer Science and Middle Eastern Studies with a focus on Translation. I keep hearing about this field, Computational Linguistics or Natural Language Processing, and to me it sounds like exactly what I want to do. Create programs that use language to solve problems. But the problem is, there is so much distinction between something like data mining and NLP and CL and everything is all jumbled up to such an extent that as a novice to the subject I have no idea how to proceed.

My question is, can anyone either describe or link me to information that does describe, what someone in each of those three specialized fields would do for a job? Even just examples would be great. I get that CL means you're more of a linguistics person, and NLP means you're doing more programming, but what does that literally mean? What do people end up doing with those focuses?

For me, with my limited knowledge of the subject, what I really want to be involved in is something like getting computers to translate, or understanding how computers process Japanese characters, or making a program for auto-correct in a foreign language, etc. Are those impossible tasks for someone with an average CS background? I don't imagine I'll be the top of my class in any sense of the word, but I'm doing alright so far with my CS courses and I do really well with my foreign language and linguistics courses. Should I take a look at CL/NLP or leave it to the pro's?

Thank you. :)
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