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Anniversary article: Then and now: 25 years of progress in natural language engineering

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 May 2019

John Tait*
Affiliation: Ltd, Thorpe Thewles, Stockton-on-Tees, UK
Yorick Wilks
Florida Institute of Human and Machine, Cognition 15, SE Osceola, Ocala FL 34471, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:


The paper reviews the state of the art of natural language engineering (NLE) around 1995, when this journal first appeared, and makes a critical comparison with the current state of the art in 2018, as we prepare the 25th Volume. Specifically the then state of the art in parsing, information extraction, chatbots, and dialogue systems, speech processing and machine translation are briefly reviewed. The emergence in the 1980s and 1990s of machine learning (ML) and statistical methods (SM) is noted. Important trends and areas of progress in the subsequent years are identified. In particular, the move to the use of n-grams or skip grams and/or chunking with part of speech tagging and away from whole sentence parsing is noted, as is the increasing dominance of SM and ML. Some outstanding issues which merit further research are briefly pointed out, including metaphor processing and the ethical implications of NLE.

© Cambridge University Press 2019 

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