Finite-state technology as a programming environment

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Finite-state technology is considered the preferred model for representing the phonology and morphology of natural languages. The attractiveness of this technology for natural language processing stems from four sources: modularity of the design, due to the closure properties of regular languages and relations; the compact representation that is achieved through minimization; efficiency, which is a result of linear recognition time with finite-state devices; and reversibility, resulting from the declarative nature of such devices. However, when wide-coverage grammars are considered, finite-state technology does not scale up well, and the benefits of this technology can be overshadowed by the limitations it imposes as a programming environment for language processing. This paper focuses on several aspects of large-scale grammar development. Using a real-world benchmark, we compare a finite-state implementation with an equivalent Java program with respect to ease of development, modularity, maintainability of the code and space and time efficiency. We identify two main problems, abstraction and incremental development, which are currently not addressed sufficiently well by finite-state technology, and which we believe should be the focus of future research and development.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationComputational Linguistics and Intelligent Text Processing - 8th International Conference, CICLing 2007, Proceedings
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)354070938X, 9783540709381
StatePublished - 2007
Event8th Annual Conference on Intelligent Text Processing and Computational Linguistics, CICLing 2007 - Mexico City, Mexico
Duration: 18 Feb 200724 Feb 2007

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume4394 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference8th Annual Conference on Intelligent Text Processing and Computational Linguistics, CICLing 2007
CityMexico City

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • General Computer Science


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