Spell checker is ceart go leor as Microsoft goes for Gaeilge

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Spell checker is ceart go leor as Microsoft goes for Gaeilge

Message par drouizig »

Spell checker is ceart go leor as Microsoft goes for Gaeilge

THE last few months have been eventful ones for Michael Burke, originally from St Patrick's Avenue, Carlow. He has completed a Master's degree, has just this week been accepted for a PhD and has been centrally involved in the production of an historic first-ever spell-checker tool for the Irish language, launched this month by Microsoft.

Michael is son of Michael and Anne (neé Holohan) and attended the Holy Family Primary School in Askea and, at second-level, the local Christian Brothers School, St Mary's Academy.

"In secondary school, I did some basic work with computers. I was interested. There was a course in Trinity College for computers and German so I went for it," he said this week.

"Some work was done on the project before I started. I thought it was the perfect project for a Master's degree. It was good to learn from two approaches to the project - that of the college and that of Microsoft. It was a good experience in general."

He says his own Irish is not perfect but he was greatly helped in the work by Dáithí " Cróinín of I n t i t i ú i d Te a n g e o l a í o c h t a /t h e Linguistics Institute of Ireland, with Michael leading the way on the programming aspect of the project while Dáithí concentrated on language matters.

Adds Michael: "It was complicated enough. You have séimhiús and different ways of spelling words in Irish, depending on matters like the case and whether they are singular or plural and so on. We had to deal with that as much as possible. We hope to continuously improve the product with feedback."

He said the product was on the Microsoft web-page, where people can download it free (see address below).

The first ever Irish spell-checking application licensed by Microsoft is called the Proofing Tools 2002 Win32 Irish Spell Checker.

The product, which can be run through Office XP applications, is aimed at all users of the Irish language, from learners and occasional users to academics and professionals.

Microsoft believes that the speller engine can be expanded into others areas of language learning and teaching.

Welcoming the launch of the spell checker, Minister for Education and Science, Noel Dempsey, T.D., said: "I sincerely thank all who were involved in the development of this new product, Microsoft Ireland, ITÉ/Linguistics Institute of Ireland and Trinity College.

"This product could not have been completed and distributed effectively among those who write in Irish, without the co-operation of the experts in Irish, computational linguistics and the major global experts in new technology, Microsoft, who are now providing this facility free of charge to all."

"I am particularly pleased that ITÉ/Linguistics Institute of Ireland, who provide research and development services concerning linguistics to my Department, were able to play a major part in this project.

"The ongoing work being done on the Irish National Corpus over the years provided the database for the list of words on which the Spell Checker is based. The corpus is compiled from various texts including articles from newspapers, poetry, novels, books for children, parliamentary acts, reports and school texts," said Mr Dempsey.

Ian Taylor, chief software architect, Microsoft Ireland, said: "We believe that, in offering this product to our customers, we are highlighting our commitment to Ireland, at both a technical and cultural level. Technically, we believe this represents a major advance in the design of this type of application."

Geraldine Cassidy, programme manager, Microsoft Ireland, said: "We are delighted to see the first release of the Irish Spell Checker on the market and hope that our customers benefit greatly from using it in our products. As a team, we really enjoyed working on this project and we look forward to receiving positive feedback from our customers now that it's on the market."

Donncha " Cróinín of ITÉ/Linguistics Institute of Ireland, said: "This is a unique step in the growth of the Irish language in this country. We hope that its use and feedback from users will support the development of a wider range of computer applications for speakers and writ-ers of Irish."

The Irish Spell Checker has evolved over six years of research into computational linguistics. The main theoretical issues which had to be considered in the course of the research were the development of efficient algorithms over compact data structures for large amounts of information.

The concept for the Irish Spell Checker originally arose in 1999 when Microsoft met with representatives of the computer science department in Trinity College Dublin and of the Linguistics Institute of Ireland to discuss the development of a spell-checking tool specifically aimed at Irish language users.

Following discussions, Microsoft passed over the Testkit and the Application Programming Interface (API)specification to Trinity College and to Michael, then doing a computer science master's degree, who was in charge of the development of the Irish Spell Checker.

Microsoft provided ongoing technical support on the design of the Irish Speller and tested the tool on an ongoing basis during the development stages. Microsoft has now licensed the application from Carlow Answers, a firm set up by Michael to bring Irish Spell Checker to the market.

Michael said at the launch: "A good spell checker depends on the quality of its base word list and productive morphology for fleshing out valid word forms. We hope that the ongoing refinement of the application will be of benefit for Irish language users and, ultimately, to the longevity of Irish as a living language."

Dr Carl Vogel, Computational Linguistics Laboratory, Trinity College Dublin, said: "We enjoyed our involvement in this project insofar as it gave advanced undergraduates and post-graduates an opportunity to become involved in the development of concrete and culturally important applications in this field."

The Irish Spell Checker can be downloaded from the Microsoft Ireland web-site at http://office.microsoft.com/ downloads/2002/ptk.aspx