Language represents a unique means of communication among human beings. It was always frustrating that machines that excel in complex computational problems were unable to extract information transmitted by language; a task done easily even by small children.
Thus, the vision of JHU in establishing the Center for Language and Speech Processing several decades ago has been well timed. In order to provide for interactions towards the common goal of advancing knowledge and technologies for language processing, the CLSP welcomed faculty from several relevant JHU departments, who joined in the efforts of discovering the secrets of human communication by language and the techniques for its emulation by machines.
From its beginning, the Center has been supported by government research bodies as well as by industries. Over the years, the CLSP has grown into one of the most visible language research groups in the world and our results are well documented not only in a number of publications but also by applications worldwide. Our graduates are found throughout most of major information processing companies and in government-related research organizations.
For more than two decades our Center has been running very successful summer workshops, recently named after the first CLSP director, the Frederick Jelinek Summer Workshops. Past participants from the workshops read like a Who’s Who in language research and break-through techniques from the workshops have made their way into many state-of-the-art language processing systems.
More recently, advances in language technologies have finally started to allow for practical deployments of language processing systems in our daily lives. However, that does not at all mean that research in language processing is done. Just as the early successes of the Wright brothers in flight by machines heavier than air immediately spurred a frenzy of research in relevant aeronautic technologies that gave rise to the current air travel industry, the early successful deployments of language technologies only suggest enormous possibilities of truly human-like language interactions with machines.
Subsequently, every major information processing company today maintains significant language processing teams. New applications emerge at a fast pace, spanning from spoken inquiries through mobile phones to on-line language translations. Users demand language interfaces that will accept real-life users from different language and social backgrounds, interacting with machines in natural, effortless ways.
Most would agree that there is still plenty of work ahead before this becomes a reality. I am proud and happy that the CLSP is on the frontline of these efforts. The CLSP’s excellence is well recognized by students who come to the CLSP from all over the world, by CLSP research partners, as well as by funding agencies, all of which are reflected in the CLSP’s growing size and growing research support.