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Department of Linguistics

Speech and Language Processing: Students Career

This program is offered only to continuing students. No new admissions will be accepted.

Student Backgrounds

The computing power of today's desktop computers enables applications which could not even be conceived of only fifteen years ago; this power is being effectively utilised in new applications and user interfaces based on human speech and language. Desktop speech recognition is now commonplace and telephone based systems are now in place which allow simple transactions to be carried out without a human operator. Internet services are available to translate documents between English and several other languages. These and other applications are developed by teams including Computer Scientists, Linguists and Electronic Engineers. Each team member brings different skills to the projects but all must have a core knowledge of the structure of language or speech and the techniques used to implement advanced software systems featuring these technologies. This Masters program at Macquarie University , Sydney, has been designed to take advantage of a strong research and development base to provide a grounding in speech and language technology for graduates who want to be part of this exciting field.

The Speech Hearing and Language Research Centre (SHLRC) has been a leader in Australian speech and language research for many years attracting millions of dollars in government and industry funding for its research program. The centre is home to researchers in speech and natural language processing as well as more traditional linguists interested in grammar and the structure of language. Current research projects include studies of the physiology of speech production, recognition of children's speech and the development of an Australian text-to-speech system and the generation of English and multilingual texts and of multimodal presentations. The Centre for Language Technology in Macquarie's Division of Information and Communication Sciences is the largest natural language technology research group in Australia, and has received substantial funding from Microsoft for its leading-edge research in natural language processing technologies. The group works in Web based automatic language generation, and focuses its research on information extraction techniques and dialog systems. Together these groups provide an unrivalled centre of excellence in language and speech technologies.

Career Opportunities

Many of the major applications of speech technology are delivered via telephone networks: for example, automated reservation systems, credit card transaction approvals, and information lines are all candidates for automation via speech recognition and synthesis systems. Many leading technology companies have groups working on the development of telephone-based speech recognition systems; and many telecommunications carriers are exploring speech technology for voice dialing and other voice response applications. Mobile phone companies are interested in voice dialing as the keypads on phones shrink beyond the usable.

Desktop Computing

A number of vendors now market speech recognition systems for desktop computers. These packages allow a voice command interface to the desktop, and the automatic dictation of word processing documents. The industry is now highly competitive as the major players seek to provide more flexibility and accuracy for these systems; a next major step here is the development of sophisticated natural language dialogue capabilities, where the software not only recognises sequences of words but can analyse these inputs to extract some kind of meaning.

Web Search Engines

Existing search engine technology treats web pages as bags of words. A key market advantage being sought by all the major players in the Web search engine industry is the incorporation of more sophisticated techniques that can make sense of the words and sentences that make up the documents to be found on the web. Language Technology provides the essential tools and techniques to make this sophistication possible.

Intelligent Document Processing

In our society, we are surrounded by documents as the primary carriers of information. Techniques developed in Language Technology provide a means to processing documents intelligently: using research based in natural language processing, text summarisation techniques can automatically produce shortened versions of documents; machine translation technologies can automatically translate documents from one language into another; and natural language report generation systems can dynamically create documents online and on paper from underlying data sources.

Some Careers Links

The following are links to some company web sites:-