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Media: A Word to the unwise -- program's grammar check isn't so smart

Submitter: John Lawler

Submitter Email: jlawler@umich.edu
Linguistic Field(s): Computational Linguistics
General Linguistics

Media Body: Sandeep Krishnamurthy, a business professor at the University of
Washington, recently discovered to his horror that the Grammar Checker in
MicroSoft Word actually countenances terribly ungrammatical sentences. He
is protesting loudly. People everywhere are shocked, shocked.

The story has been picked up by NPR and others; the URL below is an article
from Monday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer that gets into the issues
thoroughly, with several computational linguists interviewed.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/217802_grammar28.asp

This article is in the Business section, somewhat unusually for LINGUIST
Media sightings. I see three points in it that I think are of interest to
linguists worldwide.

First, we could all use a better grammar-checker program, and the ultimate
intent of the 'crusade' is to stimulate linguistic research and
development, so this seems like good news for linguists and linguistics,
which is fairly unusual here as well.

Second, we can see from the surprise being shown by the American public and
the media that everybody actually *did* expect the MS Grammar Checker to
(ahem) 'Check Grammar'. This endemic ignorance is emphatically *not* good
news for linguists or linguistics. It's downright appalling.

Third, how come it's a business professor instead of a linguist?

-John Lawler U of Michigan Linguistics Dept
http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler/disclaimers.html
#include disclaimers.h
Issue Number: 16.961
Date Posted: March 29, 2005

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