Thursday, February 23, 2006

Search interlinear data from 600 languages!

University of Arizona alumnus and current University of Washington faculty member Will Lewis and his collaborator Scott Farrar, also a grad of UAZ, have put together a website that allows you to search for example sentences from over 600 languages, made available online in interlinearly glossed form. The website is called ODIN, for Online Database of INterlinear (linguistic data), and is part of the GOLD project.

The example sentences are culled from the web by a spider program that uses various heuristics to recognize the tell-tale signs of interlinerally glossed example sentences in on-line text. The spider then automatically identifies the language in the example by a combination of searching surrounding text for language names and statistically analyzing the letter sequences and comparing transitional probability profiles to those of language samples that have been hand-identified. It then enters the example into the database, which is searchable by language and gloss terms. (The 'Advanced Search' function, which allows access to the search-by-gloss terms, isn't linked to its button yet but will be soon.)

Will and Scott are currently working on upgrading the search function to identify several easily-picked-out syntactic configurations, based mostly on the translation line. For example, looking at the translation line of sluice example, it's easy to pick them out: interlinerally glossed sentences whose English translations end in wh-words are mostly sluices; this afternoon a quick simple query to the database for sentences like that turned up examples of sluices in Passamaquoddy and Hausa. Besides sluicing, future search functionality may include ways to find sentences exhibiting obligatory control, gapping, ellipsis, ACD, scopal ambiguity, and whatever else they can think of straightforward ways to automatically identify. Suggestions from interested linguists very welcome!

In other news, the Newfoundland rink has made it into the gold medal game in men's curling! They play Finland for the gold today (Friday Feb. 24). (The Canadian women won a bronze yesterday. )

I checked out the team at the Canadian curling website and it turns out that of the guys on the ice, actually only Brad Gushue, the skip, is from St. John's. Mark Nichols and Mike Adam are from Labrador City, and Jamie Korab is from Harbor Grace. Their second rock, Russ Howard, is a longtime Canadian curling champ from the mainland. The coach, Toby McDonald, is a St. John's man.


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