अनिल एकलव्य ⇔ Anil Eklavya

February 29, 2008

English is Language Independent

It’s the Global Language, right? So how can it be language dependent? You propose a theory based on English. It has to apply to all languages. You propose a Natural Language Processing (NLP) or Computational Linguistics (CL) technique for a particular problem. For English. It applies to all languages. You build a software for some purpose. For English. It has to be useful for all languages. You build a dictionary…

Never mind.

But the vice versa is not true. You propose a theory based on Hindi. It is language specific. It doesn’t count for much. You propose an NLP technique for a particular problem. For Hindi. It is language specific. It doesn’t count for much. You build a software for some purpose. For Hindi. It is language specific. It doesn’t count for much.

That’s how it works in practice, if not theory. Or may be even in theory, with some help from the (very valid) idea of Universal Grammar (except that the UG may be the UG of English).

Even today I have got a review of a paper on a problem which is like one of the holy grails of NLP or CL. One of the comments is that the approach has been evaluated on Hindi so it can’t be compared to other techniques that already exist. True. But what is the number of papers published in the ‘first class’ NLP/CL conferences and journals in which the approach has been tried only on English? Doesn’t matter, because English is language independent. If you only evaluate your technique on English, that’s OK. But if you evaluate on only Hindi, that’s not acceptable. Because Hindi is language specific.

We know this very well in India. The Elite talks about (Indian) literature. And sometimes the Elite magnanimously (or dismissively) talks about (Indian) literature in languages. The first, of course, refers to literature in English. The second refers to literature in other languages. Indian languages.

The Elite talks of media. And the Elite (rarely and mostly negatively) talks of language media.

Hindi is a language. English is not a language.

Pardon me.

Hindi is a language. English is the language.

English is above being merely a language.

That’s why all the work done in English is language independent. Not just research. Not just in NLP/CL. Anything. Movies, literature, music.

I am guilty of the sin of indulging too much in mere languages. I should be working mostly on English. Not just writing blog posts in English. Sometimes, of course, I can bestow a bit of my attention on languages. Like Hindi.

But I won’t do that. I will do the opposite. I am incurable.



  1. […] und diesen Einträgen nach zu urteilen ist sie auch in der wissenschaftlichen Szene aktiv. In ihrem neusten Eintrag geht es darum, daß in der Computerlinguistik viel zu stark versucht wird, […]

    Pingback by Martin Pyka » Blog Archive » Computerlinguistik in der Blogosphäre — March 1, 2008 @ 11:07 pm | Reply

  2. Your lament that english is the language may be valid ( I personally beleive it is) but that is of not much help.
    “You propose a theory based on Hindi.” Well don’t just propose a theory make the theory work for you and better than the one’s based on the global language. If you can do it I don’t see the prejudice sticking around for too long.

    Comment by gr — March 2, 2008 @ 12:21 pm | Reply

  3. I hope so, and I am trying to do just that.

    Still, the issue about which this ‘lament’ is (I would rather call it a ‘rant’) has a bigger scope than just academic research. For example, there are truly great (‘world class’) literary works in many Indian languages, but no one bothers to read them (even if English translations are available and those works have won Indian literary awards). There are socio-political and other factors involved in this. So, merit alone is not enough in all such cases.

    One question: why do you need anonymity to make this comment?

    And the extra “e’s” and the extra “a’s” in your mail id: are they supposed to convey something?

    Comment by anileklavya — March 3, 2008 @ 12:34 pm | Reply

  4. […] Wissenschaftlers Anil Kumar Singh gestoßen, der sich in seinem Beitrag vom 29.02. Gedanken zur Rolle des Englischen in der internationalen Computerlinguistik macht. Es klingt mehr als ein wenig bitter, wenn er schreibt: You propose a theory based on Hindi. […]

    Pingback by » Reflektionen über Englisch in der CL Semanticker: Die Leere von der Bedeutung — March 6, 2008 @ 12:31 am | Reply

  5. English is a language, no doubt, but not originall
    it has been derived from many languages as a means of commonication, and that is the only purpose of language, to effectively communicate.!!!!!!! Is’nt it t it?
    We want to propogate HINDI, on our own terms (I MEAN THOSE WHO PoRTRAY themselves as the guardians of HINDI) Have they realised, that the cure

    Comment by jlk — March 26, 2008 @ 9:50 pm | Reply

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