Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Josh Barua L&S Math & Physical Sciences

When is a Pen a Boli vs Pluma: Mining Lexical Rules with Neural Models

The emergence of unique semantic subdivisions of concepts across languages is a natural byproduct of cultural, geographic, and historical factors. One example of concept variation is the choice between “boli” and “pluma” when translating “pen” in Spanish. While both loosely translate to pen, boli typically refers to a ballpoint pen whereas pluma refers to a fountain pen (or even a quill in historical contexts). For non-native speakers, learning these subtle lexical rules that govern which translation to use can prove challenging without expert help. For my research project, we aim to use neural models to automatically identify instances of concept variation and provide interpretable rules that explain their distinction in usage. With this information, we will create a freely-accessible digital resource that can assist language learners in their journey. Novel insights into concept variation can also be used to improve systems in human-computer interaction, machine translation, and pragmatics that frequently struggle in cross-cultural settings.

Message To Sponsor

I would like to sincerely thank my donor for funding my research project and placing their trust in me. I’m thrilled to pursue this research over the summer and strongly believe in its potential to improve language learner outcomes. With your generous support, we will be able to work directly with native speakers who can ensure our project is a faithful representation of diverse languages and cultures.
Major: Computer Science
Mentor: Alane Suhr
Sponsor: CACSSF
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