A Master’s in Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing provides expertise in the intersection of languages and computer applications. These programs require knowledge in multiple disciplines. The degree required for admission into a graduate-level computational linguistics program varies, but many require coursework in linguistics, computer science, and advanced mathematics. Many of the programs provide remedial training in linguistics, computer science, and mathematics since it is likely students will lack the necessary knowledge in at least one of these fields. Computational linguistics degrees are often required to work on natural language processing projects because of the complex nature of skills required.
What is a Master’s in Computational Linguistics Degree?
Computational linguistics is using machine learning, mathematical analysis, and language theory to process speech and text. Machine learning is the rule-based modeling of language using a programming language like Python or Java. The mathematical analysis involves algebra, logic, and statistics. Language theory is sound and grammar including syntax, semantics, phonetics, phonology. The intersection of these three disciplines is computational linguistics. It requires unique expertise in language arts and computer science.
The core technology for virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Cortana is computational linguistics. Computational linguistics is used to translate web pages, search websites, and analyze websites. Computational language translation, grammar checking, and electronic test monitoring are done with computational linguistics.
Computational Linguistics vs Natural Language Processing Degrees
Computational linguistics is the automated analysis of speech and text. It is used in many applications, such as information extraction, machine translation, knowledge representation, and speech recognition. Natural language processing focuses on text and speech recognition, including grammar, accents, and colloquialisms. Computational linguistics is applicable in situations where natural language processing would not be needed, such as in model-based or structured text.
Modern computational linguistics, however, focuses primarily on natural language processing. Most human-machine interaction requires natural language processing since humans rarely communicate in a rule-based manner. Although language has rules, there are a lot of variations, exceptions, and colloquialisms in human communication with computers.
How Do Computational Linguistics Graduate Programs Work?
Computational linguistics graduate programs are similar to most other master’s programs. They usually take two years to complete. They require 30 to 36 credits of specialized courses. Generally, about half or more of the credits are required courses. Moreover, the electives must usually be chosen from a set list of courses instead of any elective offered by the college. For example, the courses are required to be related to computational linguistics, natural language processing, artificial intelligence, or statistical analysis of language.
Some programs allow undergraduate students to extend their studies by one year and obtain a Master’s of Computational linguistics. For example, Brandeis offers two options for getting a Master’s of Science in Computational Linguistics. One is a traditional, two-year program that requires a bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite. The other is a five-year program that is a combined Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Computational Linguistics. Indiana offers similar programs.
Some computational linguistics graduate programs are offered by the university’s computer science department. Others are offered by arts and sciences departments. The University of Buffalo offers a Master’s of Science in Computational Linguistics as a joint program in both the Department of Linguistics and the College of Computer Science and Engineering.
Computational linguistics graduate programs focus on teaching automated analysis of speech and text. Automated analysis is often needed to enable human-computer interactions. For example, many websites have automated customer service “bots” that answer customers’ questions. To create a bot, computational linguistics must have skills in programming, statistical analysis, and language syntax and semantics. The most common programming languages used in computational linguistics are Java and Python, but many newer programming languages have been developed specifically for computational linguistics. Being able to quickly learn new programming languages is a useful skill.
Automated analysis of speech and text sometimes involves natural language processing. It requires comprehensive knowledge about the structure and various meanings of language. Natural language processing also uses statistics to apply this knowledge to the specific statement to discern the meaning.
Computational Linguistics Curriculum and Coursework
Curriculums vary for computational linguistic programs. Some require a balance of computer science and linguistics courses. For example, The University of Buffalo requires phonetics, semantics, and syntax for linguistics courses and information retrieval, machine learning, and computational linguistics for computer science. Students without a strong computer science background must also take an introduction to computer science class.
Other universities focus more on linguistics. Fresno State requires phonetics, phonology, syntax, sociolinguistics, and language acquisition and leaves computer science courses as electives. CUNY focuses on similar linguistics courses but requires a computational linguistics class.
Many computational linguistics programs require internships because computational linguistics is heavily skill-based. Syracuse University and Tulane University require relevant internships. In line with the emphasis on skills, many programs also require a project or research thesis.
Master’s in Computational Linguistics Admissions and Requirements
Computational linguistics graduate programs require a diverse set of skills. Some universities require applicants to have a background in linguistics or computer science. For example, Fresno State requires an undergraduate degree in linguistics, whereas Columbia University requires an undergraduate degree in computer science or significant computer science coursework. Some universities design computational linguistics graduate programs such that any bachelor’s degree is acceptable, such as Stony Brook.
Many graduate-level computational linguistics programs encourage students to apply even if they do not have enough skills or coursework in linguistics, mathematics, and computer science. Several programs allow students to take remedial courses to supplement the skills they lack. For example, Montclair offers introductory courses in python programming, discrete math in computing, and language and logistics, effectively covering all three disciplines needed for computational linguistics. Other universities made fundamental courses required as part of the degree, like the University of Buffalo.
Most graduate-level computational linguistics programs require a bachelor’s degree, recommendations, and a statement of interest. The bachelor’s degree is usually in linguistics or computer science, but some universities allow for other degrees. Sufficient coursework in linguistics, computer science, and mathematics may demonstrate sufficient knowledge for admission. Many programs require a 3.0 or higher G.P.A. About half of the programs require the G.R.E. Moreover, students who do not hold degrees that were taught primarily in English may have to take a foreign language assessment.
Online Master’s in Computational Linguistics Programs
Online Master’s in Computational Linguistics Programs have similar curriculums to in-person programs. Moreover, they have similar admissions requirements. However, they are more flexible on when courses are taken and how long students have to complete the programs. This accommodates students who work full-time or otherwise have other obligations.
Columbia University offers its Computer Science Master’s degree with a Natural Language Processing track fully online. It is similar to in-person programs, but it allows up to five years to complete the master’s degree rather than the usual two years. A longer time frame allows students to accommodate semesters where work is too busy or they have personal obligations that make school unfeasible.
Unlike Columbia University, Arizona’s Master of Science in Human Language Technology is offered online. It is different from traditional programs because courses are asynchronous. Each class takes 7.5 weeks to complete instead of a full semester.
How is Computational Linguistics Used in Artificial Intelligence?
Computational linguistics is used in artificial intelligence for training, learning, and interactions with humans. To accomplish these tasks, artificially intelligent programs could use natural language processing to behave much like a human. For example, artificial intelligence could be trained by learning from websites and digital texts. Moreover, natural language processing is essential for human-machine interfaces.
However, natural language processing is harder than it sounds. For example, someone might ask a customer service bot for a book about dealing with cut-throat co-workers. We know this means skills to work with a competitive, aggressive co-worker. But the bot might interpret it more literally to mean cutting your coworker’s throat. It takes extensive rules and mathematical application of those rules to reach the correct meaning. This is not as likely to be needed in other forms of computational linguistics, like ontology engineering where there are predefined models for the information.
What Can You Do With a Computational Linguistics Degree?
People with computational linguistics degrees work as computational linguists, natural language processing engineering, software engineers, research scientists, and professors. Many technology giants hire people with computational linguistics degrees, such as Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Computational linguists at these companies work on projects involved with lexicon representations of natural language. These representations are used in products such as autocorrect, virtual assistants, and predictive text in cell phones, social media platforms, e-commerce, and other user interfaces.
Some people with graduate degrees in computational linguistics work in the educational technology field. For example, they work on automated test proctoring. Additionally, they might work on automated grading or plagiarism detection. Educational technology applications use computational linguistics to summarize texts in a way that is more understandable for those with learning disabilities.
Computational linguistics is also used in healthcare for a wide range of applications. One use is in computer-assisted coding. It assists physicians in the research and diagnosis of illnesses. Yet another use for computational linguistics in healthcare is clinical documentation. Medical technology is a massive industry with many companies hiring people with computational linguistics degrees.
Computational linguistics is probably most well-known in targeted advertising. Computational linguistics degrees are useful in targeted advertising because consumers’ data is processed to identify which advertisements to promote to them. This data often includes search histories, social media posts, and other online communications that require natural language processing for computer programs to understand.