The Impact of Linguistics in Modern Computing


Many believe scientists, especially those who study physics and mathematics are the brains behind the development of computers. Still others believe entrepreneurs who are into business influenced the rapid development of computer software.

As “a scientific study of grammatical system of a language and their role with the rest of human activities” (Olaoye, 2007), linguistics at the level of human endeavour has played a dominant role in the emergence and advancement of the ongoing, fast growing field of computer.

Looking at the computer in its early take-off (1940s) when there were serious efforts by the computer scientists to find the most effective and efficient method of feeding data into computer and a reasonable technique to gain a logical information as output, linguistics science was deployed to help in achieving these vital roles through the use of theoretical grammatical models such as syntax, semantics, phonetics, phonology and morphology.

All which are primarily used by the linguists to describe adequately human language. This effort was achieved by computational linguists who acquire knowledge of computer alongside that of linguistics.

By the 1950s, the syntactic aspect of linguistics was highly cherished and employed by the computer scientists to help in construction of grammatical instructions in computer. Most especially in dictionary, grammatical modeling, grammatical testing through the effort of a German linguist, Noam Chomsky using his propounded “Syntactic Structures”

In the modern world, linguistic impact keeps growing along the advance in computer science. This could be seen in the ongoing roles of computational corpus linguistics (the largely collection of texts or spoken items) which has been employed to build in to computer dictionaries, concordances and grammatical testing.

The programming language used as the language of computer was achieved through the use of syntactic aspect of linguistics science introduced by Chomsky (1957) called Phrase Structure Grammar (PSG) which has been employed in computer to provide mechanism for splitting up a given computational sentential structure in to its constituents. The rewrite rule will then take a symbol or set of symbols as it inputs data into computer and generates sequence of symbols as its output information.

Phrase Structure Grammar (PSG) has been used to perform a number of tasks in computer such as in grammatical modeling and testing, concordances, defining logical instructions and steps for the operation of computer.

Hence, it would not be a surprise when a computational linguist, Prof. Gibbon states in 2007 paper “if formal and computational linguistics methods had not been around, the Internet wouldn’t have been born”. While responding to this comment, a Phonosemantician, Prof. Maduka-Durunze stated the reasons behind Gibbon’s comment that, using the PSG propounded by Chomsky, the scientists began to look at the texts as processing elaborate structure and sought to analyze them in terms of hierarchy called “tree diagrams”. Through this effort, the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) was developed.

The HTML according to Maduka has helped in computer to increase flexibility and portability in modern document, ease document manipulation, check program constituencies and to eliminate ambiguities in computer processing.

From these, therefore, linguistics has played tremendous role in almost all aspects of computer advancement. These include the modern Information Retrieval an Extraction, Office Automation, Artificial Intelligent (e.g. robotic machine), computer programming and Microsoft ware development.

Abubakar Jimoh


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