The Onion News Network has a great parody on a new Mac laptop with the keyboard replaced with just the iPhod wheel (jut what we’ve all been waiting for. But the best feature, was the “sentence predictor”. Like the word predictor, the sentence predictor would give you options for completing a sentence once a few words had been typed in.
But is this possible in real life? (continues below video)
I hope you enjoyed the video as much as I did, but it get me wondering if a sentence predictor is possible, and if so what it would be like. It is a real problem that researchers are exploring as can be seen in this presentation from Nicola Carmignani.
Actually I could see something like a phrase predictor based on syntax and morphology (and these have been built). For instance, if had a phrase “give the book”, English syntax dictates that we usually have to specify a destination, hence you can predict that the next word will be “to”. After that though, syntax dictates that you can give a book to anyone (literally an infinite number of choices).
So for a more robust sentence predictor, you would probably need be able to access the context or discourse of the entire passage. For instance if you had been discussing your friends Rachel and Phoebe, then a sentence predictor could guess “to Phoebe” or “to Rachel” as plausible guess for “give the book”. Carmignani’s presentation in fact, gives a song lyric as an example – “Penny Lane”, which most people could predict would end with “is in my ears and in my eyes” (following the Beatles song).
When I thought about it I realize that I do have a built in sentence predictor (or maybe cliche predictor). After all I use to complete sentences for my friends all the time. Interestingly, they don’t always thank me for it…