Sunday, 2 December 2012

Talk by Prof. Kalyana Krishnan

A day with "Acharya"

 Prof. Kalyana Krishnan, a retired Professor of IIT Madras and a pioneer in Indian Language Computing, delivered a talk on 28th November, 2012. During the session, he demonstrated the complexity of Natural Language Processing (NLP). The talk was a warm invitation to Indian Language Computing(ILC), and its applications.

Need for Standardization

The session started with a thought-provoking question "What computer can do?". He answered this question in the light of  NLP. Mentioning the scope of Computational Linguistics, he told that "NLP in European Languages is developing interestingly, because they have standards, and central co-ordination. India currently lacks this standardization. Different working groups and organizations in India set their own standards and they are not ready to come to an open standard".  He also gave an introduction to Indian Linguistic traditions by taking examples from Sanskrit and Malayalam.

Aksharas.. not simply characters

Because of the well-structure and well defined set of rules, Sanskrit is highly suitable for linguistic processing by computers. Since most Indian languages are rooted in Sanskrit, computing with Indian Languages is not as complex as with English. But the current state of art contradicts this observation because of  insufficient centralized co-ordination. " We are trying to follow the western NLP technology, which is based on characters. But, our tradition is different. The basic unit of all Indian languages is Akshara, which is a combination of consonants and a vowel.  Limiting our languages to character-level is inadequate", he conveyed.  While discussing the technologies for ILC, he presented the Akshara-based 16-bit encoding scheme for Indian languages developed by IIT-M students. (The details of their work can be seen at acharya website).

No programs should crash

The session concluded by mentioning the importance of good programming style. "Writing a program is not simply applying mathematical formulas. Make it as friendly as possible with the user.  No programs should crash". Professor declared. He advised the students to refer the book " Numerical recipes in C: The art of Scientific Computing ", for a better and different perspective on programming.

Enthusiastic, interactive and motivational

The simple but energetic way of presentation by the veteran teacher  inspired all the students. The talk was mixed with key technology, thought provoking questions, examples and fun, which made everybody interactive. M.Tech students and final year students of  CSE attended the class. He also had an interactive session with the B.Tech CSE first year students, which inspired them very much.

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