Abstract: The impact of computers on the formalisation and study of language

Fairouz Kamareddine

Computerization is now an essential feature of any field. In this talk, I discuss the influence of computerization on the study of language. Since language is a wide and complex phenomenon (do we study Arabic language, English, French??) and since natural language (whether Arabic, French, German, or whatever) is full of ambiguities, I will concentrate on a text that has been translated to many languages, that was written on the shores of Alexandria in Egypt more than 2000 years ago, and that continues to remain one of the most influential texts of geometry: Euclid's book on geometry. That book illustrates the beauty and depth of research that was taking place in Egypt and the middle east at the time and brings us back to the time when Alexandria hosted the largest and most impressive library in the world. Nowadays, any attempt at creating a large library will involve the computerization of a huge number of texts and books.

In my talk, I will discuss the problems encountered when attempting to computerize a book or a piece of information. Why it is important to computerize and what should be done to retrieve and search computerized texts. I will review various attempts at the computerization of information and discuss what contributions are needed and a number of projects that universities in the middle east might contribute to.