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Q: Finding a research topic. ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Finding a research topic.
Category: Reference, Education and News > Teaching and Research
Asked by: ptolmney-ga
List Price: $150.00
Posted: 31 Aug 2006 06:09 PDT
Expires: 30 Sep 2006 06:09 PDT
Question ID: 761111
This is going to be a difficult question, both to ask and perhaps to
answer. I'm going to try and make it as easy as I possibly can by
providing as much relevant information as I can think of, but I
anticipate requests for clarification. I will number relevant
information so that it may be easily referenced and also try to list
items by order of its relevant weight.

1. I'm currently a research student at the University of Kyoto on a
scholarship seeking a master's degree.

2. I will change my research focus and need some assistance in doing
so. I would like to pursue something in computational linguistics.

3. Abilities and interests. I am proficient in Japanese and am
technically proficient in computers (I have about 4 years work
experience dealing with computers, both software and hardware).
Naturally I am interested in language, linguistics, and computers, and
I am also interested in music and math. I enjoy linguistics and math
because I enjoy solving puzzles. I consider myself a bit of an artist
with music -- I'm a devout piano enthusiast and love music from the
baroque, classical, romantic, and impressionist periods.

My problem is somewhat situational (1) as in I tend to feel a bit
socially isolated and at a loss with what to do or who best to ask.
This makes trying to figure out a specific research topic (2) a
difficult task. I will approach professors here, but they want me to
have a good idea of what it is I wish to study and I very much want a
clear idea of what it is I want to study and why before I approach

I don't expect to be able to tie in all my interests I listed in 3 --
my interest in music, for example, I listed to give you a better idea
of the type of person I am, if that were to help. In short, the
biggest obstacles to choosing a specific reserach topic in the field
of computational linguistics are: A) I need to have a better idea as
to where this field is going in the future, its possible future for
development, and B) using my ability in Japanese (both language and
culture OR language and/or culture) to fit into a research topic.

In answering A, I would like to know how current research within the
field of computational linguistics is being used in industries, that
is, sectors outside of academia. Also, I would like to read some
editorials from professors/researchers in the field of computational
linguistics to understand what they think the future is for this field
and why.

For B, I would like to know if there is work currently being done in
this field in relation to Japanese. Keep in mind I am American: I know
Japanese from the perspective of a foreigner who has studied it
academically. Ideally, I would like to turn the fact that I am not a
native speaker of Japanese into an advantage, namely, that I possess
perspectives into the Japanese language that many Japanese natives do
not have.

I apologize if my answer seems a bit difficult to answer. Please
request clarification if you have any specific questions and I will
respond directly. If possible, I would like this question answered
rather hastily, but not if it means sacrificing its quality.

Thank you.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 31 Aug 2006 07:06 PDT
A bit of follow-up:

1.  What type of program are you in?

2.  You said you are changing your research focus -- changing from what?

3.  How much of a background do you have in the rather esoteric field
of computational linguistics?

4.  Who are the people in this field whose work has impressed you?

5.  Please tell us a bit more about your level of training -- what are
your computer skills?  How much research have done in the past?  On

Some additional information on these topics will assist us in
answering your question.


Clarification of Question by ptolmney-ga on 31 Aug 2006 11:46 PDT
1. I was awarded a scholarship from the Japanese Ministry of Education
of (Monbukagakusho) offered through Japanese embassy. The scholarship
duration is for two years as a research student with the possibility
of continuing to receive the scholarship provided I am admitted as a
graduate student here at the university. I am nearing the start of my
last term in my two year stay as a research student.

2. I entered in the school of education. My interest was in learning
in what way education in Japan would change. I approached this topic a
few different angles - first by studying the transitional change in
education that occurred during the Meiji period with particular
emphasis on the life of Natsume Soseki, then from an anthropological
point of view comparing different schools both in Japan and America.

3. I have no previous formal academic study in the field of
computational linguistics at all.

4. What information I found on the web and also through a previous
google question,,
for example Eduard Hovy, but by far the biggest impression I had in
regards to computational linguistics was my personal meeting with
Damir ?avar when I visited the University of Indiana's linguistics
department several years ago. There he showed me some of the work with
which he was currently engaged, such as the semantic web.

5. My skills in computers are rudimentary, that is, the kinds of
things one could learn since having his first computer back in 1985. I
am not specialized in any one area, but I have extensive practical
experience in hardware and software which I used in my previous job as
a technical supervisor. There I did work troubleshooting various
problems which included issues relating to PC hardware, Windows 2000,
networking, and a bit of MySQL. I know html and am at a beginner's
level in programming.
   My only experience in doing research has been since I came to Japan
a year and a half ago.

I should mention briefly why I am changing my research focus. I really
wasn't enjoying the work that studying history would have me do,
namely that of reading and writing text all in Japanese. For me to be
truly effective as a researcher, I decided it was important to
consider my other abilities and interests instead of chasing
completely new avenues of study.

That being said, I haven't absolutely decided upon the field of
computational linguistics, but I feel compelled to consider it and my
background in computers and language seem to indicate that as being a
Subject: Re: Finding a research topic.
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 31 Aug 2006 18:06 PDT

Thanks for getting back to me...your additional information was very
helpful in understanding your situation.

I was quite intrigued by your question because computational
linguistics -- some aspects of it, anyway -- is a bit of a hobby of
mine.  I've dabbled in something called corpus analytics, and have
some (as yet unrealized) schemes for creating web-based tools for
these efforts. your questions:

A) I need to have a better idea as to where this field is going in the
future, its possible future for development...

Many technical disciplines create a jargon of their own that is
difficult for anyone not steeped in the field to understand.  This is
doubly the case with computational linguistics, since its
interdisciplinary approach combines not only the difficult-to-grasp
languages of both computer technology and linguistics, but also has a
deeply psychologic and philosophical bent that borrows even more
arcana from other fields.

A good place to get a brief overview of the field is the Wikipedia entry on CL:
Computational linguistics is an interdisciplinary field dealing with
the statistical and logical modeling of natural language from a
computational perspective. This modeling is not limited to any
particular field of linguistics. Computational linguistics was
formerly usually done by computer scientists who had specialized in
the application of computers to the processing of a natural language.
Recent research has shown that language is much more complex than
previously thought, so computational linguistics work teams are now
sometimes interdisciplinary, including linguists (specifically trained
in linguistics). Computational linguistics draws upon the involvement
of linguists, computer scientists, experts in artificial intelligence,
cognitive psychologists and logicians, amongst others.

The full article does a nice job of summarizing CL in plain-English
(or at least, close to it), so it's worth a careful read.

Note at the bottom of the article are links to "See Also" topics
elsewhere in Wikipedia, as well as external links to other
non-Wikipedia sites.  As you begin to zero in on the aspects of CL
that are of the most interest to you, these links are a good starting
point for further exploration of the topics.

Another brief, excellent and accessible overview article on CL is this one:

Several of the sub-topics in CL are of tremendous interest outside of
academia, since the development of so many commercial products
revolves around a facility with understanding and using natural
language.  In particular, the following areas have enormous commercial

NIST 2005 Machine Translation Evaluation Official Results

The list of participants here is a nice who's-who of academic and
businesses interested int his topic, including a Japanese research
Spoken Language Communication Research Laboratories
Applications Technology (AppTek), headquartered in McLean, Virginia,
is a U.S. company specializing in software development for human
language technology
Reflections of a Human Translator on Machine Translation
The history of machine translation in a nutshell
Machine translation

A good overview, once again, from Wikipedia.


An Introduction to Natural Language Processing, Computational
Linguistics, and Speech Recognition
Natural Language Processing
Japanese NLP
Japanese-German Workshop on Natural Language Processing 2006 
[see the list of Japanese researchers working in this area]

Speech recognition
Speech Group
Proceedings of the 2000 Speech Transcription Workshop
Japanese Speech Databases for Robust Speech Recognition
...a next-generation speech translation system is under
development towards natural trans-language communication. To
cope with the various requirements to speech recognition
technology for the new system, further research efforts should
emphasize the robustness for large vocabulary, speaking
variations often found in fast spontaneous speech and speaker

Although artificial intelligence isn't really a seb-set of
computational linguistics, it's closely enough related that you should
be aware of this as a concept as well:

AI Overview
Artificial intelligence

Part of your question hinted at an interest in future commercial
applications of these technologies.  A decent framework for
understanding these fields is simply to think of the type of computer
systems one sees in science fiction shows -- everything from Star Trek
and Star Wars, to 2001--A Space Odyssey.  Machines that can understand
and talk to humans, 'comprehending' the spoken human voice, and
responding in a natural speaking voice.

This is a feature finding increasing use in computers, cell phones,
GPS systems, automobiles, and a host of specialty applications too
numerous to detail here.

There is also an enormous desire for improve translation tools that CL
scientists have tried to provide, thus far with only limited success. 
Understanding the vagaries of different languages, and making
effective translations of text or speech from one to the other, is a
task that, so far, only humans seem be able to handle...machines are
still very poor at this fundamental task.

The second major part of your question focused using your abilities in
a way to fit them into a manageable research project in CL.

Here, my suggestion would be to follow-up on the very thrust of your
question, and formulate a research project on the Future of Commercial
Uses of Computational Linguistics in the Japanese Marketplace.

I think a research project along these lines would be an excellent
approach for the following reasons:

--Assessing the market requires a familiarity with the Japanese
culture and language

--There may well be a music connection, especially since the music
industry is on the forefront of many technological innovations in
Japan (and elsewhere).  I'd be surprised, for instance, if Sony
doesn't have more than a few CL-types on their staff).

There is also specialty work in this area regarding voice recognition
technolgies as applied to singers (rather than only the spoken voice).
 Here's two examples:
Singing Voice Analysis/Synthesis
...This dissertation proposes an analysis/synthesis framework
specifically for the singing voice that models the time-varying
physical and expressive characteristics unique to an individual voice.
The system operates by jointly estimating source-filter voice model
parameters, representing vocal physiology, and modeling the dynamic
behavior of these features over time to represent aspects of
Graduate School of Engineering, Tohoku University

--Focusing on the commercial aspects of CL is a way to deeply involve
yourself in the topic without having to master the highly complex
computational or lingusitics fields that underlie the science.

The sort of overview provided here should give you a good background
to get started, but of course, it only scratches the surface.

If there's anything more I can do for you, don't hesitate to ask. 
Simply post a Request for Clarification, and I'm at your service.

You have a fascinating opportunity before you...I wish you all the
best in your efforts.


search strategy -- Google searches on various combinations of:

computational linguistics

artificial intelligence

speech recognition

machine translation

natural language processing


voice recognition


Request for Answer Clarification by ptolmney-ga on 19 Sep 2006 21:17 PDT

Thank you very much for all the information you gave me; it was very
helpful in understanding different directions I could go with
computational linguistics. I apologize for the delay in posting this
request for answer clarification, but as you said, there is a lot of
information on this subject and I wanted to get a better feel of where
I might fit within that field.

That being said, I found a professor of computational linguistics here
at the University of Kyoto from one of the links you sent me who is a
professor within the School of Informatics. I've been doing some
reading about informatics, specifically about the university's
department, and currently taking measures to find a place for me

As I'm sure you are already aware, it's a very diverse field that
combines many different sciences. Within the Department of
Intelligence Science and Technology are two fields which captured my
attention: Intelligence Information Processing and Intelligence Media.
(A link to the <a href=""
name="Kyoto University Department of Informatics">department home
page</a> if you'd like.)

To specify, I am interested in the Applied Intelligence Information
Processing field because I am intrigued by AI. However, within
Intelligence Media Processing, there is research being conducted on
sounds, spoken language, and music understanding which really
interests me as well. I feel there is more immediate commercial
potential in studying spoken language and music undertanding (the
Intelligence Media section), but I really don't know the background
needed to analyze the information in such research. And though I am
intrigued by AI, it seems there is a lot of skepticism about its
future and how far it can be developed (ex. Roger Penrose).

You are absolutely right in assessing that I was interested in the
commercial avenues for computational linguistics. I don't know if my
assumptions above are correct. I am reluctant in pursuing research in
the Intelligence Information Processing section if I am not able to
contribute much to this field and if that inhibits its potential for
commercial development.

Again thank you so much for your help ... I only hope this request for
clarification did not come too late. I would have felt hesitant to
post such a request if it didn't seem like the first answer you gave
me didn't seem so easy for you and in that regard, I wanted the
clarification to be appropriately related.


Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 21 Sep 2006 05:29 PDT

Thanks for getting back to me, and I'm glad the information I provided
was useful to you in making some new contacts, and thinking through
your options.

As for your latest request, can you clarify for me what it is you need
at this point?  Even though I make the research look easy ;)  it
really isn't, so I want to make sure I stay on target for what you

I understand you are now looking at AI.  But beyond that, what sort of
information would you like from me that would be useful to you in your

As soon as I hear back from you, I'll get started with any additional
research that's needed.


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