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The FCG Editor: a new milestone for linguistics and human-centric AI

20 June, 2022 | Remi van Trijp

The FCG Editor is a free and innovative Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for engineering computational construction grammars. The design philosophy and description of the FCG Editor has now appeared in a PlosOne Article.

Construction Grammar is an innovative linguistic theory that has been slowly but surely transforming the study of language since its conception in the 1980s. It also has the potential to lead to fundamental breakthroughs in the biggest unsolved problem in Artificial Intelligence: natural language understanding. The reason is that Construction Grammar offers a theory about how ALL of linguistic knowledge can be modeled as a mapping between form and meaning, which means that even syntactic rules can be considered as meaningful conventions similar to how words map onto concepts. Unfortunately, it has turned out to be hard to develop computational models of constructional language processing, partly because of the lack of user-friendly developer tools. This is why the Sony Computer Science Laboratories Paris and its research partners at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the KU Leuven and the University of Namur are proud to release the FCG Editor: a free and innovative Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for engineering computational construction grammars using the Fluid Construction Grammar (FCG).

“With Fluid Construction Grammar, we have an amazing tool for implementing new kinds of language models, but you need to have significant software engineering skills to use it. So when we gave tutorials on FCG, we found that this technical threshold was a demotivating factor for many participants,” says Dr Remi van Trijp, research leader of the Language Team at the Sony Computer Science Laboratories Paris. “I therefore worked on a first prototype that would offer people a more user-friendly experience.”

After this promising first step, the FCG Editor became a collaborative research effort with Dr Katrien Beuls (University of Namur) and Dr Paul Van Eecke (Vrije Universiteit Brussel – KU Leuven). “Besides our long-standing research collaboration, working with our academic partners also meant that we were able to thoroughly test and improve the FCG Editor by letting AI and NLP students use it for developing their language models,” adds van Trijp. “We also took the FCG editor to conferences for tutorials and got a lot of important feedback.” The result of this hands-on approach is an innovative IDE for Fluid Construction Grammar that strikes a unique balance between user-friendliness and open-mindedness, drawing inspiration from the field of interactive programming.

The FCG editor provides all of the editing possibilities that you can expect from an IDE, and also allows interactive programming through a listener (similar to command-line interfaces), an interactive web interface that allows the user to inspect every detail of processing, configuration helpers, and a “construction wizard” that assists users in the definition of linguistic constructions. The main target audience for the FCG Editor is linguists, particularly construction grammarians, who wish to operationalize and test their theories; but also computational linguists and AI researchers can use the FCG Editor to develop models of constructional language processing to enhance their language technologies. “I believe the FCG Editor is an important milestone that can finally boost the development of computational construction grammars,” concludes van Trijp.

The FCG Editor now features in a PlosOne Article that also includes an introduction to Construction Grammar and computational construction grammars.

Work on the FCG Editor was partly funded by the MUHAI project (Meaning and Understanding in Human-Centric AI) from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 951846, and AI4EEU under grant agreement No 825619, as well as the Flanders Research Foundation.

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