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Harold Somers

Professor of Language Engineering

 School of Computer Science 
University of Manchester
Oxford Road
Manchester M13 9PL
e-mail: use hsomers at


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In September 2008 under the university's ERVS scheme, I resigned my post as Professor of Language Engineering, but remain as an Emeritus Professor in the School of Computer Science. From February 2008 until June 2010, I worked half-time as Director of Education and Outreach in the Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL), Dublin City University, Ireland. I am now fully retired, but retain a connection with DCU as a Visiting Professor, in order to help to organize the All-Ireland Linguistics Olympiad.
My first degree, from Bangor, was in Linguistics and I have an MA in Linguistics from Manchester University and a PhD from UMIST. I came to UMIST in 1978 as a Teaching Assistant in the (then) Department of European Studies and Modern Languages, working my way through the ranks - and the name changes - eventually to become in August 2000, Head of the Department, by then renamed Language and Linguistics. CCL logo During my time at UMIST I helped to set up, and later was Director of, the Centre for Computational Linguistics. Between 2000 and 2004 I oversaw the dismantling of that department in the run up to the amalgamation of UMIST with Manchester University, at which time I transferred to the School of Informatics. When that in turn was closed down in 2007, I joined, for the final year of my employment at Manchester, the Linguistics and English Language division of the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures, effectively returning to where I started my connection with Manchester, 31 years earlier in 1976. I have had three breaks on leave of absence, at ISSCO in Geneva in 1979-80, as a Toshiba Fellow in Japan in 1986-7, and between January and September 2005 at the Centre for Language Technology, Macquarie University, Sydney.

Research interests:

Throughout the course of my career, my main interest has focused on all aspects of Machine Translation and related technologies, especially, recently, applications in areas of healthcare provision, where it can be used to help patients with limited or no English. In the final years of my time at Manchester, I completed a research project in this area funded by the ESRC (final report here). I am especially interested in healthcare as an application area for spoken language translation, and have presented papers (e.g. this one, at TMI 2007) exploring the range of technologies needed for this purpose. This relates to my longer established interest in the development of language engineering resources for minority languages, including in 2004 work on a strategy document for the Welsh Language Board on Language Technology and Welsh. Another focus of interest has been the use of free online MT as found on the internet, and issues surrounding the use of MT in the classroom: how to teach MT, and to whom. I have compiled an extensive bibliography for this topic, and in 2002 I organized an EAMT/BCS Workshop on "Teaching Machine Translation", the Proceedings of which are still available on-line.

Research projects:

Completed research projects are described here.

PhD Supervision

A list of the 18 PhD students I have supervised, and what they are doing now (where known) can be found here.

Teaching and Examining:

I was until 2009 external examiner for the MAs in Applied Translation Studies, Interpreting and Translation Studies, and Translation Studies with Interpreting in the School of Modern Languages, University of Leeds.
Previously, I have been external examiner for UG courses at the University of Brighton.

I have been the external examiner for PhDs (or equivalent) at the following universities: Alicante, Basel, Coventry, Dublin City University, Essex, Geneva, Imperial College London, Jadavpur University Kolkata, Lancaster, Leeds, Macquarie University Sydney, Manchester, Montreal, Sheffield, Trinity College Dublin.

Almost all my teaching has been focussed on Machine Translation, though I have also taught programming (Pascal, Lisp, Prolog), general computational linguistics courses (e.g. most recently this one), corpus linguistics (such as this recent one), and other more general linguistics topics, and study skills.

I am the co-author of textbooks on Machine Translation and Prolog for NLP, and co-editor with Robert Dale and Hermann Moisl of A Handbook of Natural Language Processing, published in August 2000 by Marcel Dekker.
I have edited a book with the title Computers and Translation: A Translator's Guide, published in 2003 by John Benjamins (xvi + 349 pages, ISBN 1 58811 377 9 (US), 90 272 1640 1 (Europe), price € 115.00, $US 115.00).
A book of Readings in Machine Translation edited by Sergei Nirenburg, Yorick Wilks and myself was also published in 2003 by MIT Press (426 pages, price $55, £36.95, ISBN 0-262-14074-8).
This link takes you to the submission and review website

Other activities:

I was from 1996 to 2007 editor of the journal Machine Translation published by Springer. Andy Way took over the editorship in 2008. I remain on the editorial board.
I am on the Editorial Board of the journal Localisation Focus, and of the ACL's Studies in Natural Language Processing book series, published by Cambridge University Press.

I was Chairman of the local arrangements committee for Coling 2008, which took place in Manchester. From 2004 to 2008 I was a member of the Executive Committee of the European Association for MT (EAMT). I have been a member of the Advisory Committee of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics, which I helped found in 1982 and of which I was secretary from 1982-86.

Activities in which I am involved, in the near future

9th ILO
Forlì, Italy

Activities in the last twelve months

8th ILO
UCCTS 2010
3rd AILO
MT School
Chelyabinsk, Russia
  • July: I lead the Irish team to the International Linguistics Olympiad held in Stockholm.
  • July: I briefly popped in to the Using Corpora in Contrastive and Translation Studies conference held at Edge Hill COllege, Ormskirk.
  • January-March: I organized the Third All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad with Round 1 held in schools in February, and a grand final in Dublin, March 9th.
  • May: I participated in a week-long Joint EAMT-SUSU Intensive School in Machine Translation held at South Ural State University, Chelyabinsk, Russia

    Completed research projects

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    last updated: 25.5.11