IIT Approach to Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace

In document Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace (Pldal 108-112)


There are many approaches to solve real or potential problems of multilingualism in сyberspace. One of them is Informatics and Information Technology (IIT) approach. Motivation is very straightforward : IIT is

“behind” сyberspace technology. IIT is also “behind” our Information for All Programme. “IIP” is one of the predecessors of IFAP. In this paper we will analyze languages used in the IIT environment, their properties as carriers of information and/or knowledge, their properties required for description of computation, their properties as communication tools in communication of human beings with computer, as well as computers within computer network.

We will present the experience with intermediate language in the process of translation or interpretation in IIT. An analysis of natural languages use and processing by IIT is also done. We will show the role of language for the availability of information and/or knowledge as an inevitable part of information and/or knowledge access. We will also describe some potential next steps to make available information and/or knowledge accessible.


Informatics and Information Technology (IIT) is “behind” cyberspace technology and also “behind” IFAP. Furthermore language and multilingualism are nothing new for the IIT environment. Using a computer requires for communication of the user with the computer and multilingualism is used in the IIT environment as well.

Language enables presentation and dissemination of information, language enables information exchange. Presentation and dissemination / exchange of information is a strong part of IT. Communication has been completely changed by IT.

Language as a Basic Communication Tool

In the IIT environment language is a basic communication tool for the communication of a human being with the Computer, and for the communication within computers in a computer network.

Computer also has its “mother language”. Knowing this language is for communicating with the Computer. This is valid also for the communication within computers. “Mother language” of the Computer – machine code – is good for the Computer (Computer architecture), but it is “too low” for the user – a human being. As a consequence computer programming in mother language – machine code – is difficult and inefficient. To overcome this difficulty high level programming languages have been developed. They are more suitable for the user, but communication with the Computer in such a language requires an intermediate step – translator / interpreter. Actually communication with the Computer in a high level programming language is more about “what” (content of communication) than about “with whom” this communication is realized, more about programmes, their construction and corresponding computation realized by the Computer. Some representatives of high level programming languages: Machine code, Assemblers, in 1951 Grace Hopper programmes the first compiler A-0, paving the way for the higher level programming languages used today, FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslation), LISP, COBOL, ALGOL 60, BASIC, C, Pascal, Smalltalk, Prolog, Adobe and PostScript, Perl, Java, Python...

Preservation of Knowledge

Programmes in any programming language (PL) represent knowledge associated with the given PL. Similarly as in the case of natural languages, if a given PL is not used / replaced by a new PL, we lose all knowledge represented by programmes prepared in the given PL.

Formal, Natural and Programming Languages

Formally, language is a subset of set of all strings created from the symbols of a given alphabet. Let A be an alphabet, A* – a set of all possible strings of symbols from A (including empty string), then language L is a subset of A*. A programming language is a formal language with specific properties. The PL is specified by the corresponding grammar. Communication of a user with the Computer in a PL is realized by a programme and corresponding computation.

It is just computation which must be equivalent at each level of the PL and finally realized through the mother language of the given computer. An hierarchy of languages can be built up through “Sets of strings” and through

“Computations”. Both approaches are important in communication and also in education.

Communication with the Computer has some specificities:

• Computer is unable to communicate in a non-mother language,

• Communicating with computer we cannot rely on “common sense” ,

• Communication language must be deterministic and unambiguous As a consequence to communicate with the Computer in a non-mother language we need “somebody” who knows both languages to translate or to interpret.

A number of high level programming languages and a subsequent need of translators or interpreters led to some “intermediate” languages (IL). They brought some “savings” to the translation process that can be seen from the following scheme, where SL is a source language and GL is a goal language:

Intermediate language uses to have properties like “simpler translation from SL”, “simpler translation to GL”. Also operations “on IL” use to be simpler.

Accessibility and Availability

High level programming languages have changed the communication with the Computer, but computers themselves (IIT) changed communication between human beings. IIT not only enables different representation of information exchanged (voice, text, picture, etc.), but enriches the position of sender and receiver of information as well. You don’t have to send information directly to the receiver, it can be presented in a special place instead and this way become available for the receiver. We can say that communication has been changed from “receiving information” to “information search”. As for a language used

for information representation, the situation is the same: the receiver needs to understand the language used for the information representation. This concerns also natural languages.

Information search brings another notion – accessibility. It is natural that information is “accessible” only if it is “available”. While information availability is connected with the information sender and reflects the language which he understands, information accessibility is connected with the information receiver. If he wants to use the accessed information, he needs to understand the language in which it is represented or he needs help – “someone” who can translate or to interpret it.

IIT and Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace

IIT can “help”. It is important for the availability of information / knowledge in a given language. It is important for preservation of information / knowledge in a given language. It is important for different ways of representing information.

It is important for translation or interpretation from a given to the required language.

Claudia SORIA Researcher, National Research Council

(Pisa, Italy)

In document Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace (Pldal 108-112)