What is HLT?
Human Language Technology is a developing interdisciplinary field that encompasses most subdisciplines of linguistics, as well as computational linguistics, natural language processing, computer science, artificial intelligence, psychology, philosophy, mathematics, and statistics.
Anywhere language comes in contact with information technology, or where humans need to interact with computers, language needs to be organized so that it can be handled and processed by computational means. This often requires broad knowledge not only about linguistics and how languages work, but also about computer science and related fields.
Well-known topics in human language technology include web search engine technology (an instance of information retrieval), speech recognition (computer dictation), speech synthesis (computer-generated speech), optical character recognition (OCR), machine translation, electronic dictionaries, spell checking, grammar checking, word processing, computer typesetting, computer-assisted language teaching, automatic captioning on TV - in short, any and all tasks where human language and information technology meet.
For a more in-depth perspective of the field, see the first chapter of Dan Jurafsky's and James Martin's book, Speech and Language Processing, which is available online and provides a good overview of the field.
What do studies include?
At the University of Arizona, our objective is to provide a balanced curriculum in linguistics, computational linguistics, and practical skills like business training. Upon completion of the program, students will have the skills required to enter a competitive workforce. We also work closely with providers of internship opportunities in the industry to assure that students receive strong hands-on experience in the form of a final project, preferably done in the industry. The minimum number of credits to be completed is 36, and students will also write a Master's thesis documenting an actual completed implementation. Possible local industrial internship opportunities include Lockheed Martin (Phoenix), Intel (Chandler), Raytheon (Tucson), and Motorola (Phoenix).
What kinds of jobs require knowledge of HLT?
Many jobs are centered in the IT-industry where a variety of companies are in need of trained HLT professionals. But the wide coverage of the field also guarantees a wide choice of careers, some of them closer to language-related work, some closer to computer science.
Human Language Technology represents the fastest growing field of language research. Because of its industrial applications, it provides far more employment opportunities than are available in traditional academic research. The Master of Science degree in HLT is designed for students who are interested in going directly into industry rather than going into academia on the PhD track.
What kind background should I have as an applicant?
We are looking for students who feel comfortable both in linguistics or language-related liberal arts disciplines, as well as the more scientific fields that HLT includes - computer science, mathematics, or engineering. Applicants will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Programming skills are a prerequisite, but studies can be undertaken during the summer preceding entrance to the HLT program, if admitted.