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IARPA unwinding Language and Metaphors

Working at PCPerhaps when you think about geeks the first thing that comes to mind is eyeglasses and a computer or a pile of books and a chalk board full of equations. However man’s wisdom goes even further and one interesting area to study is language.

The language – that is any language – is filled with different figures of speech and one of the most famous ones is the metaphor. The issue with metaphors is that a word could mean something to one culture and a completely different thing to another culture. And as you may have experienced, computers and software are able to detect spelling and grammar; they are able to differentiate a verb from a noun yet figures of speech are something totally different.

This has caught the attention of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity – or simply IARPA – and has set the goal to put together a humongous database of all kinds of metaphors. In order to achieve this, they are reaching out to universities as well as businesses to help them with the task.

The IARPA has taken this matter very seriously and has dedicated time to research the origins of metaphors. They have tracked back the beginning of the figure of speech to the renowned Greek philosopher Aristotle. They have also discovered that metaphors aren’t solely figures of speech, but they also help mold our own ideologies and deeds.

This can be evidenced by taking a simple metaphor stating that “an affectionate person is a warm person”; perhaps this could lead us to say that a loving person has a fever. It shows the concept that cultures have created in regards of certain words and their meaning.

No wonder that the government is looking to study deeper how the metaphors can mold one person’s beliefs.

The initial phase of the project is to detect and compile all the possible metaphors and use them to build the database. They would be in four different languages which are English, Spanish, Farsi, and Russian. This indicates that there will be tons of information in the form of text being analyzed, then the metaphors would be detected (“the assignment was a breeze”, “you are the sunshine of my life”), and after this they plan on defining them onto abstract metaphors.

It is still unknown or perhaps it’s not revealed what the final phases of the project will be. The IARPA is hoping that this type of computerized project will help improve the international relations with other countries and cultures. The project is set to start in November of the current year.

Although this is a project ran by the government its ultimate goal is to be useful in the communities of different cultures. The agency has undergone many different projects which concentrate on language related issues such as storytelling because they believe it can aid them finding out what multifarious information means.

IARPA via The Atlantic


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