Burghard B. Rieger:

From Computational Linguistics to Computing with Words

In: Willée, G. / Schröder, B. / Schmitz, H.C. (Hrsg.): Computerlinguistik - Was geht, was kommt? Festschrift zum 60. Geburtstag von Winfried Lenders. Sankt Augustin (Gardez) 2003, pp. 230-234


For the past decades, the concept of symbolic representation together with the computer metaphor appeared to offer an adequate framework to deal with cognitive processes scientifically. Formally grounded by logical calculi and implemented as algorithms operating on representational structures, cognition is considered a form of information processing in the cognitive sciences. Thus, computational linguistics (CL) as part of cognitive theory identified the complex of language understanding as a modular system of subsystems of information processing which could be modeled accordingly. The alliance of logics and linguistics, mediated mainly by (language) philosophy in the past, and by (discrete) mathematics since the first half of the last century, has long been (and partly still is) dominating in what way and terms natural languages and their functioning should be explicated and how their processing could be modeled. In replicating (and in parts also supplementing) semiotically motivated strata of systematic sign description and analysis, different levels of modular aggregation of information - external and/or internal to a processing system - have been distinguished in cognitive models of language understanding. They partly correspond to and partly cut across the syntactics-semantics-pragmatics distinction in the semiotic relatedness of signs, the utterance-discourse-corpus levels of performative language analysis, and the hierarchy of morpho-phonological, syntax-sentencial and lexico-semantic descriptions in structural models of linguistics. It is ironic, however, that the dramatic increase of computational power and symbol manipulation means has changed the fundamentals of many scientific disciplines, creating even new ones, but has left linguistically oriented disciplines, even new ones, adhere to the lore of seemingly well grounded and traditionally dignified concepts in describing natural language structures and their functions.

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