An Introduction to UNIKOM
UNIKOM, LLC. (Universala Komunikado) has developed systems that can provide instantaneous, accurate, and grammatically correct communication networking among natural languages. While humans translate, our systems perform what may be termed “transformations”.
The UNIKOM systems of algorithms are designed for utilization by teams, which undertake the creation of software programs for specific languages. Each team is headed by an Esperantist linguist, who may be assisted by a translator, a computer programmer and a lexicographer, with quality control by an independent monitor.
Teams are now being readied to develop translation software for English as the source language, and Spanish and French as target languages. These programs constitute the initial UNIKOM software offering.
As these programs are completed, other teams will undertake the development of software for German, Portuguese, Russian, Mandarin, Farsi, Japanese, Hindustani, and Arabic, which are among the seventy-seven languages that are spoken by over 88% of the global population will be included.
The UNIKOM system uses an intermediate language, or “interlingua”. This method divides translation into two steps:
Step 1: The source language is transformed into the interlingua.
Step 2: The interlingua is transformed into the target language.
This procedure dramatically reduces the overall number of software programs required. To communicate among a set of n languages involves n(n-1) programs; while the interlingua method requires only 2n programs. For 50 languages, the number of individual programs is reduced from 2450 to 100. (Letting n = 77, calculate 77 x 76, and then 2 x 77 for an even more dramatic difference!)
The Interlingua: Esperanto
An interlingua must be free of semantic ambiguity and possess a simple and uniform grammatical structure. While no natural language meets these criteria, Esperanto, the international language, qualifies. Esperanto was invented in the late 19th century by Dr. Ludovic Zamenhof. Among constructed languages, Esperanto is the only one whose structure is close to that of a natural language. It is spoken today by millions, with a large body of literature. Consequently, Esperanto has been chosen as the UNIKOM bridge language.
The grammatical structure of Esperanto is based on a small set of rules, which have no exceptions. In this system, a word is built from a basic root form by the addition of prefixes, suffixes and endings, each contributing specific grammatical information to designate verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs, or equally well-defined semantic information (for example: negative prefixes that transform the word into its opposite).
This agglutinative (add on) structure assures to this regular and unambiguous grammatical system great flexibility in the creation of new words, thereby insuring UNIKOM’s growth, in science, technology, finance and commerce applications.
A large international population of enthusiastic Esperanto speakers correspond with each other in Esperanto via the internet. Many of them are professional translators, linguists and computer programmers. In addition, there exists an international network of Esperanto organizations which communicate in the international language.
The UNIKOM Algorithm
The algorithms underlying the UNIKOM translation systems were inspired by Noam Chomsky’s “Transformational Generative Grammar.” Developed in the mid-1950’s, this theory distinguishes between the “surface structure” and the “deep structure” of any statement. The best approach is to begin with these examples. Sentences 1-4 represent surface structures which can be reduced to the same deep structure, shown in sentence 5.
1. The boy does not see the dog.
Negative surface structure.
2. Does the boy see the dog?
Interrogative surface structure.
3. The boy will see the dog.
Future tense surface structure.
4. Were the boy to see the dog…
Hypothetical surface structure.
5. The boy sees the dog.
The deep structure (5) refers to the informational content of the statement. In this example, it is the concept of a boy seeing a dog. The surface structure refers to grammatical elements, such as a negation (1), question (2), verb tense (3) or verb mode (4), that are superimposed on the information elements.
As is evident in this example, each language will implement a given surface structure in a different way. Nevertheless, the linguistic analysis, and, therefore, the translation process, remain the same.
The transforms enable the UNIKOM systems to avoid conventional time – and memory – consuming methods such as searching through large look-up tables for pre-existing sentence patterns. The use of Esperanto permits a very efficient coding of the programming transforms, because each of its grammatical elements has only one function and/or meaning.
A software company in the Netherlands used Esperanto as its interlingua, spending over $12 million during the 1980’s on this project, but failed to find sponsors. Current projects in machine language translation focus on a particular context, such as tourism.
UNIKOM deals with ambiguous words in the source language by rejecting them, and requiring the substitution of unambiguous ones. Good grammar and correct spelling are necessary. Since every module will have an identical Esperanto interface, languages can be readily added to the system. No other products have this capability.
The demand for language translation software is enormous and growing every day, in commerce and industry, among governments and within international organizations. In addition, there has been a surge in individual usage of the translation software currently available, indicating that this is a viable target group of users.
Advances in communication technology have radically expanded the global reach of many companies. Foreign language correspondence, contracts, research material and other documents all require translation.
Despite the dominance of English as an international language of commerce, English is not widely spoken in many countries. The issue of national pride, and accusations of English linguistic imperialism (in France, for example) also limit the potential of English to serve as the lingua franca of the world.
Most of the commercial translation products available today are essentially electronic dictionaries that pair words and phrases, performing a rudimentary approximation of the contents of a document.
The UNIKOM development plan contemplates the production of usable software at every stage. These translation tools will be distributed by mail and over the internet, at low cost, to encourage widespread use, initially by Esperantists. The income generated will be applied to research and development, and to cover general operating costs. These policies are consistent with a financially independent course for the company.
The products launched for public use will be subjected to rigorous Beta testing and continuous monitoring for quality assurance.