Somewhere on a not-too-distant frontier lurk computers that can fully converse with humans. High-tech companies, hoping to get a jump on that future, are seeking out people who grasp the structure of language. Linguists are in demand at dotcoms.
May they do their work well. Anyone who uses online search engines knows how frustrating it can be to get a computer to grasp the nuances of language. The darn things are so literal! Most human beings, by contrast, insert all kinds of peripheral, yet telling, meanings into words.
PhDs in linguistics, supposedly, can teach machines some subtleties of language. How to break general terms into logical components, for example. Maybe even how to sense irony.
So when computers start lobbing smart comebacks, we'll know who to thank - or blame.
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