Computational Approaches to Semitic Languages


Mona Diab has been elected the new SIG Chair, and Reut Tsarfaty has been elected the new Secretary. Their term mof office will be two years, starting October 2011.

The SIG has approved revisions to its Constitution that streamline the election process. See the revised Constitution.

Background and Motivation

Semitic languages are used by a significantly large population of native speakers and belong to a family that includes classical Arabic, a large number of Arabic dialects, Hebrew, Maltese and other languages. These languages are characterized by a system of word formation based on roots and patterns, a rich and productive morphology (including non-concatenative processes), a diversity of orthographic conventions and, unfortunately, limited language resources suitable for computational research and development.

Although there exists a body of CL research specifically targeted to individual Semitic languages, much of the work to date remains the result of initiatives undertaken by individual researchers or research establishments. A direct consequence is that there is comparatively little awareness amongst practitioners of either the state of the art as practiced outside their own locality, the common challenges faced by all practitioners, or the potential for developing a coordinated approach.

The growing interest, around the world, in the challenges that Semitic languages pose, is reflected by the number of meetings dedicated to computational approaches to Semitic languages, as well as in nationally and internationally funded projects centered on Semitic languages. A workshop on Computational Approaches to Semitic Languages was held at COLING-ACL98 in Montreal. ACL-2001 in Toulouse hosted a Workshop on Arabic Language Processing: Status and Prospects. A second Workshop on Computational Approaches to Semitic Languages was part of ACL-2002 in Philadelphia, and MT-Summit 2003, in New Orleans, had a Workshop on Machine Translation for Semitic Languages. Other meetings, mostly dedicated to a single language, were held during the years, the most recent being the NEMLAR conference on Arabic Language Resources and Tools, held in Cairo on September 2004.

The purpose of the ACL SIG on Computational Approaches to Semitic Languages is to bring together researchers and practitioners who are interested in computational approaches to Semitic languages, emphasizing the common challenges and solutions rather than the distinctive features of this family of languages. The SIG will encourage exchange of ideas, sharing of resources, promotion of interest in computational approaches to Semitic languages and organization of conferences and workshops dedicated to this area.

The current political situation in the Semitic-speaking parts of the world, and in particular the Israeli-Arab dispute, are far from encouraging. We believe that both language and research can bridge over political differences and bring together individuals with common interests, to the common benefit of all involved. There is a large and growing body of researchers working on Semitic languages outside the Arab world and Israel. In order to ensure that the SIG function effectively as a collaborative forum including researchers in the Arab world and researchers in Israel, it will refrain from sponsoring events that are held in countries that are not accessible to the entire Membership. We believe that the fact that this SIG is widely supported by a diverse community is a good sign of collaboration spirit.

Computational Approaches to Semitic Languages,
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