New Computational Linguistics Degree Prepares Students for a Growing Industry



A new interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree program preparing students for jobs in computational linguistics will be offered in fall 2022 at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Designed by academic linguists and computer scientists, the program explores processes such as machine translation, speech recognition, text-to-speech synthesis and interactive voice response. The program is unique in that it also incorporates world languages: students in the program will develop their fluency in Spanish or French while earning their degree.

The professors involved in creating the new computational linguistics program are, clockwise from top left, Ian Clayton, Emily Hand, Gerald McMenamin and Casilde Isabelli.

“Computational linguistics is a growing, sought-after and commercially viable field of academic study,” said Spanish professor Gerald McMenamin. “It’s the one that will provide internships for students and jobs for our graduates. We are delighted to introduce this new study option to our language, linguistics and computer science students.

McMenamin pitched the idea for the program in 2019, after noticing a need in the job market for computational linguists.

“That’s when I went to Cassie (Professor Casilde Isabelli, Chair of World Languages ​​and Literatures) and said, ‘we should get into this, because there’s has jobs. “”

The two worked with Ian Clayton, Associate Director of English, as well as Assistant Professor of Computing and Engineering Emily Hand.

Hand, in particular, sees a growing need for computational linguists.

“From a computer science perspective, it’s not super exciting now to know how to program,” she said. “Many computer scientists who take jobs in natural language processing will need to work with a linguist. If they already have this experience, they will be much more attractive to a potential employer. »

Courses a student can take for this degree include CS 302-Data Structures, ENG 412A-Linguistics, and FREN 306 – French Composition II or Spanish 303 – the Study of Language: Myths and Concepts. Students interested in this program should consult the University catalog for the exact class requirements.

Employment prospects

Students with a bachelor’s degree in computational linguistics can find jobs in areas such as speech recognition, machine translation, data mining, predictive text messaging, or enhanced search engines. Careers in computational linguistics can also focus on using the tools of computing to better understand human language, including styling large datasets or better understanding the properties of human language with computational models and statistical analyses.

The University’s Computational Linguistics program can also provide the training needed for graduate studies in linguistics or computer science. McMenamin gives the example of recent university graduate Ashley Keaton, now in her doctorate. program in linguistics at UC Davis. Keaton’s research, which is faculty-led and extramurally funded, focuses on studying the listener’s differential perception of robotic versus naturalistic synthetic speech.

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