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Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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What is English? And Why Should We Care?

By: Tim William Machan

To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.


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Medical Writing in Early Modern English

Edited by Irma Taavitsainen and Paivi Pahta

This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.


Academic Paper


Title: Detecting Errors in English Article Usage by Non-native Speakers
Author: Na-Rae Han
Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Author: Martin Chodorow
Institution: Hunter College
Claudia Leacock
Institution: ETS Technologies
Linguistic Field: Computational Linguistics; Language Acquisition; Syntax
Subject Language: Chinese, Mandarin
Japanese
Russian
Abstract: One of the most difficult challenges faced by non-native speakers of English is mastering the system of English articles. We trained a maximum entropy classifier to select among a/an, the, or zero article for noun phrases (NPs), based on a set of features extracted from the local context of each. When the classifier was trained on 6 million NPs, its performance on published text was about 83% correct. We then used the classifier to detect article errors in the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) essays of native speakers of Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. These writers made such errors in about one out of every eight NPs, or almost once in every three sentences. The classifier's agreement with human annotators was 85% (kappa = 0.48) when it selected among a/an, the, or zero article. Agreement was 89% (kappa = 0.56) when it made a binary (yes/no) decision about whether the NP should have an article. Even with these levels of overall agreement, precision and recall in error detection were only 0.52 and 0.80, respectively. However, when the classifier was allowed to skip cases where its confidence was low, precision rose to 0.90, with 0.40 recall. Additional improvements in performance may require features that reflect general knowledge to handle phenomena such as indirect prior reference. In August 2005, the classifier was deployed as a component of Educational Testing Service's Criterion Online Writing Evaluation Service.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in Natural Language Engineering Vol. 12, Issue 2, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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