LT Policy

Current situation in 2006

There have been independent research programs in the Nordic countries dealing directly or partly with LT. They have mostly been modest in size and national in scope, and an approximation of their magnitudes is presented in the Background of this report. The most significant expression of a Nordic LT policy has been the Nordic Language Technology 2000-2004 program of the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Nordic Graduate School of Language Technology (NGSLT). The most valuable result of these initiatives has been the creation of networks and contacts. Only a minor part of the funding of the Nordic activities was directed towards improving LT resources or promoting LT research. One can safely claim that there hardly exists a common Nordic LT policy at present and even rather modest ones at the national level. The reason might be the belief that LT will function on commercial terms alone after an initial public funding in each country. The following claims pertain to the lack of LT policies:

  • Lack of LT threatens the survival of smaller language communities, because culture is transmitted via language. Some of the small communities, such as the Sámi people, have realized this and acquired LT funding but many others, including the Nordic main languages are more passive in this respect.
  • Lack of large language resources is an obstacle for preserving our cultural diversity.
  • Even when useful resources are collected or created, they remain inaccessible for the developers and researchers.
  • Diversity in standards and incompatible technical methods scatter our efforts to create resources in a Nordic context.

There must be clear reasons for the decision makers to make commitments and take the necessary measures, i.e. understanding why and what has to be done and that the actions are worth the investment as was discussed earlier. Some possible motivations are:

  • Survival of our languages and cultural identity. Cultural identity depends on language, and will be lost to a great extent if English conquers most of our daily life. In addition, local languages loose their prestige if they are useless in many situations. A language with no perceived prestige for its speakers erodes within a few generations. Governments may decide upon policies where local cultures and languages fade away, but they must do so openly and explicitly.
  • Being the first to master and adopt multilingual LT technologies may open the path to success, not only within LT-related companies in the Nordic area, but also for a wider spectrum of local software industry which has a competitive advantage with multilingual LT technology readily available. Localization and internationalization are still difficult when more than canned translations are needed. With appropriate actions, Nordic Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) will have equal opportunities and a clear advantage world-wide.

In the past, especially before the Nordic research program for LT 2000-2004, the coordination of the LT research, training and business community was extremely informal materializing mostly every second year at the NODALIDA conference for two days. The participants of the NODALIDA 2005 decided to establish an association for speech and language technology which will be called NEALT (Northern European Association for Language Technology). Such an association would be ideal for coordinating various initiatives and networking. Among other things, it intends to publish an electronic scientific journal.

To assess the situation for language-specific and language-independent resources for the languages in the area, a Basic Language Resource Kit (BLARK) report for the Nordic languages should be prepared and the most urgent gaps in availability of corpora should be filled in using national funding with cooperation on the Nordic level for exchanging best practices, whereas gaps in tools and methods could be filled in using funding on a Nordic level (see LT Resources). There are plenty of gaps and they must be filled with public funding in most cases. Some languages exist in several countries and it is especially important that the allocated resources be coordinated on a Nordic level for these languages.

The Nordic region needs to stay abreast with the development in the EU in order not to duplicate efforts and focus on the aspects that are specifically Nordic. For this purpose it is important to keep contact with organizations like CLARIN, whose aim is to establish an integrated and interoperable research infrastructure of language resources and its technology by lifting the current fragmentation, offering a stable, persistent, accessible and extendable digital language infrastructure.

Comment:

  • "Språkteknologin har betydelse för att ta fram digital infrastruktur för hela det humanvetenskapliga (och till viss del också det socialvetenskapliga) forskningsområdet. Språkteknologin kan bidra med metoder och verktyg för att samla in, strukturera, märka upp, lagra, hantera och tillgängliggöra stora digitala text- och taldatabaser med betydelse för många discipliner som språkvetenskap, litteraturvetenskap, filosofi, filologi m.m. Språkteknologin kan dessutom bidra med kunskaper om hur man hittar och söker i dessa. CLARINs vision är att språkteknologin ska få en sådan nyckelroll för den humanvetenskapliga forskningens infrastruktur inom EU. Det skulle förändra synen på språkteknologi som ett udda och marginellt område till ett angeläget område med konsekvenser för den humanvetenskapliga forskningens framåtskridande. Det här är något som innebär stora möjligheter också för nordisk språkteknologi." -- Rickard Domeij

Key Area Magnitude of funding needed Parties involved Mode of cooperation
NEALT start-up 50 kEUR NMR for funding association
BLARK Report 10-25 kEUR per language NorDokNet, NEALT national projects coordinated at the Nordic level

-- KristerLinden - 12 Jun 2006

Topic revision: r10 - 2006-06-18 - KristerLinden
 
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