11.0665 WordNet & funding of research

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 25 Mar 1998 07:34:29 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 665.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Tue, 24 Mar 1998 13:51:28 -0500
From: Ken Litkowski <ken@clres.com>
Subject: Re: Microsoft Word and Wordnet Integration

[The following bit of conversation on the WordNet discussion group may
interest a number of Humanists. For those who do not know about WordNet,
"an on-line lexical reference system whose design is inspired by current
psycholinguistic theories of human lexical memory", see
<http://www.cogsci.princeton.edu/~wn/>. --WM]

Douglas Beeferman wrote on WN-USERS:
> >Note that WordNet is free (free source as well). This is its primary
> >advantage over any Microsoft alternative. Researchers should not
> >switch to a Microsoft alternative, because the lack of source code
> >will hinder the types of research that can be done.
> I think that the sort of data-derived relations computed by MindNet
> are innovative, and that the community can benefit from this approach
> without having to "switch" to any proprietary system. I am unaware of
> MS Research ever having acted to the exclusion of other semantic
> network research, and in fact they have a track record of aggresively
> publishing their results.

Forgive the proselytizing, but the continuing declines in funding for
the publicly available and useful WordNet lexical research, combined
with the Microsoft successes have prompted my plea to all who might
influence such funding.

I share Doug's sentiments and revel in the advances that Microsoft has
made, not simply for the low-level accomplishments of analysis within
the lexicon, but more for the fact that finally, after many years of
research on MRDs, they were able to reach a critical mass to enable the
demonstration that useful material could be generated from MRDs, in
contradistinction to the many naysayers.

At the same time, it is clear that it is impossible for the individual
researcher to reach that same critical mass. The only alternative is
WordNet (and perhaps the Unified Medical Language System being developed
at the National Library of Medicine). George Miller, in a conversation
with me a few years ago, said that practical considerations, not
theoretical, limited the number of semantic relations that could be
included in WordNet. These limitations obviously continue within the
limited and declining resources available to the yeoman efforts of the
WordNet staff.

Given that Microsoft's use of MindNet is clearly ever-expanding and
probably more and more useful now that they have the critical mass,
isn't it time that more resources be devoted to enabling the rest of the
CL world to participate in exploring the ramifications? Can't funders
out there put some more money, rather than less, into a lexical
knowledge base commensurate with the times? Even Steve Richardson of
Microsoft lamented with me in personal communications the dearth of
funding for lexical research. Maybe the SENSEVAL being sponsored by the
ACL SIGLEX will help, but I suspect it will only accentuate the poor
plight of lexical resources for research.

Ken Litkowski                         TEL.: 301-926-5904
CL Research                           EMAIL: ken@clres.com
20239 Lea Pond Place                    
Gaithersburg, MD 20879-1270 USA       Home Page: http://www.clres.com

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