[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Front St.Opinion Section - Clovis Free PressBack St.
Vol. 17  No. 21 Final Edition
Clovis Free Press

January 14, 2001
High Paying e-Commerce Jobs!
Linguists In Demand

By Amy Williams, Staff Writer

      CLOVIS -- Linguistics experts help e-businesses improve customer service by building so-called natural-language processing systems that can respond meaningfully to requests for help or information. With linguists developing the database or "lexicon," a system can distinguish between multiple meanings of words, relate groups of words by concept, and narrow the scope of a search by asking questions of the site visitor.
     For instance, an online customer asking about shaving products might be asked whether he needs razors, blades or shaving cream before being directed to the appropriate web site. As the Internet grows, such systems offer an alternative to the keyword searches done by conventional search engines, which can turn up hundreds of irrelevant responses.
     To gain a recruiting edge, some employers are resorting to underwriting academic conferences, adding linguistics professors to their advisory boards, and holding pizza parties in university lounges. Or they make financial contributions to the Linguist List, the premier job-referral web site in the field, where postings are running nearly double over last year. "Is there a demand? You bet there is," says Stanley Peters, chairman of linguistics at Stanford University.
     "Is there a supply? Heck no. The supply is extremely limited." Linguists aren't accustomed to being wooed. A 1997 survey by the Modern Languages Association showed that only 28.4% of new Ph.D.s in linguistics found tenure-track positions, and only 52.5% received full-time teaching appointments -- worse than in such fields as English, classics and foreign languages. Nearly a fourth of the linguistics Ph.D.s were either unemployed or looking for a job. And
    Until recently, only a handful of companies hired any linguists at all, Microsoft Corp. the most prominent. Its linguists helped develop the grammar-checking function for Windows software.     As the Internet becomes increasingly global and multilingual, they are now trying to improve the quality of automated foreign language translation. For decades, linguistics researchers in academia and government labs labored to create a computer with a human level of understanding of language.
     With that goal so elusive, linguists are finding high paid jobs in e-commerce firms where they are making systems that understand and converse within digital domains. An Emeryville, Calif., firm is trying to hire linguists. The Ask Jeeves nternet web site disclosed this week that it has 10 linguists among its 600 employees. Jeeves is trying to hire more. Smaller natural-language processing firms lean more heavily on linguists. Thirteen of 18 technical employees at Quizit Technologies Inc. in Santa Monica, Calif., hold linguistics doctorates or master's degrees.
     Ten of the 30 employees at closely held Cymfony Inc. in suburban Buffalo, N.Y., have linguistics doctorates.he price is right, for both sides. What may seem a pittance in the New Economy amounts to a fortune for the long-suffering scholar. "We can go out and get linguists, sometimes with a master's education, for $40,000 to $45,000," says Michael Murphy, chief operating officer of Answerfriend.com in Los Angeles, where half of the 24-member technical staff have advanced degrees in linguistics.
     "They think they've died and gone to heaven. They're underpriced. Don't tell anybody." Steven Chang, a graduate student in phonetics at the UC Berkeley, recently took a job at a Santa Clara Interenet firm that provides automated traffic and weather reports, news and stock quotes when subscribers dial its toll-free number. Traditionally, a linguistics degree has been among the least marketable of academic credentials. Jobs, when they were available, paid around $35,000 a year on the high end, usually in the university.     That was then. Today, Technology startups are competing to hire the relatively small pool of specialists in this exotic field of study. Suddenly, linguists have their pick of jobs as lexicographers, "knowledge engineers" and "vocabulary resource managers."
     For those with doctorates, the typical starting salary is around $60,000, plus some stock. And if you have knowledge of the Internet's New Media key-word science you can draw a starting salary of more than $100,000.


Letter to the Editor

Copyright 2001 Clovis Free Press

Front Page | Calendar | Datebook | Real Estate | Opinion | Search | E-mail | City Cam | Schools
Public Affairs | Trails | Conservancy | Wish List | Free Classifieds! | Masthead | Advertise | Marketplace

News Stand

Valley Press | Bulldog News | California Star | Clovis Free Press | Daily Republican
Fresno Republican | Tollhouse - Shaver | Tower2000 News | Yosemite News

Aluisi Real Estate | Archer's Music | Auto Accessories | Auto House | PC Paramedics
Presentations Inc.
| Reagan Library | Sierra Portal | Web Portal

Clovis Free Press

"Of the people ~ By the people ~ For the People" - A. Lincoln

Copyright 1962, 2004 by Clovis Free Press - ClovisNews.com
Contact: Editor@ClovisNews.com
All rights reserved. Disclaim
Accessibility Guidelines

[an error occurred while processing this directive]