Monthly Archives: May 2011

Autocorrect vs. iLanguage

An obvious place where natural language must get filtered through technology is texting.  However, with the advent of autocorrect, texting has become a rather perilous endeavor with humorous results.

What makes so funny??

1.  Although “sex-ting” has made headlines, I am pretty sure that the primary purpose of texting for most people is not to send dirty words, and especially not to one’s parents.  This is something Apple appears not to have taken into account when creating their autocorrect algorithm. (Or did they?)  For most people, dirty words are less frequent than other types of words, particularly for the domain of texting.

2.  On the other hand, one thing the autocorrect algorithm does appear to take into account is part of speech.  If autocorrect algorithm just returned the closest word, it might not be the same part of speech than the word intended, resulting in just gibberish.  But the mistaken texts are funny because they do make sense, and do have semantic meaning, just not the intended meaning.

If autocorrect had provided a verb “broil” or an adjective “broiled” instead of an noun the result would have just merely been weird rather than funny.

It is precisely this mixture of getting some things right and some things wrong that permits these texts to occur.  While autocorrect does take the immediate linguistic context into account, it does not consider the context of the text itself, which is not something easily determined by an algorithm.

What do you think? Do you see any patterns in the autocorrect mistakes? Do you have any observations about texting that you think might improve the algorithm?