Thanks to the work of an MSc student on multilingual semantic role labelling, the University of Malta has recently entered into a joint patent with IBM.
The collaboration and license was supported by the UM's Knowledge Transfer Office.
Collaborations started in 2016 when Dr Lonneke van der Plas from the Institute of Linguistics and Language Technology was contacted by a researcher from, Yunyao Li’s team at the IBM Almaden Research Center (US), whom she met at a conference the prior year.
The two teams worked on technology for multilingual semantic role labelling.
Semantic Role labelling involves identifying and labelling the various constituents (e.g., main arguments) of the sentence with semantic labels, indicating the role these constituents play with respect to their predicate (e.g., a verb or noun), thus creating a semantic frame.
This enables the system to capture the semantics of events in terms of the participants and the roles they play based on the predicate in a more stable, consistent manner across syntactically different sentences, as well as between similar verbs. The technology developed as part of the collaboration makes use of a joint distributional semantic system to review and correct redundant semantic verb frames that are automatically created for any given language.
MSc student Carlos Diez Sánchez was participating in the Erasmus Mundus European Master’s Program in Language and Communication Technologies (the MSc in HLST at the UM) at the time. He was brought on board and worked substantially on developing the technology as part of his dissertation.
“My time at the University of Malta was an extraordinary, life-changing experience, and has helped me to achieve my most ambitious academic and professional goals. All the people I have had the privilege to meet and collaborate with have fulfilled my life way beyond my expectations”, said Mr Sánchez.
The collaboration between the two teams has led to a patent entitled ‘Using a joint distributional semantic system to correct redundant semantic verb frames’ (Application Number 16/878352) being filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, with both Dr Van der Plas and Mr. Diez Sánchez recognised as inventors of the technology.
“Collaborations with companies are a regular feature of our programmes in Language Technology. Giving students the opportunity to work with industry both prepares them for future careers, and gives them the opportunity to work on real-world problems that lead to solutions with real-world value, as reflected in this patent with IBM US” noted Dr Van der Plas.
“Once again, we are seeing our students excel in their respective areas of study and research. We are immensely proud of the fact that our student body is contributing to our reputation of being a research hub and a catalyst for change”, said UM Rector, Prof. Alfred J. Vella.