For decades, especially in academia, Noam Chomsky’s theories on “generative,” “transformational,” and “universal” grammar have been taught and quoted, but not questioned much. Steven Piantadosi, Associate Professor of Psychology and head of the computation and language lab at UC Berkeley, is doing exactly the latter.
Piantadosi spoke to Slator in May 2023 about his paper (download) titled “Modern language models refute Chomsky’s approach to language,” in which he argues that “LLMs undermine virtually every strong claim for the innateness of language that has been proposed by generative linguistics” and that “machine learning has subverted and bypassed the entire theoretical framework of Chomsky’s approach.”We asked readers if they think large language models (LLMs) do indeed prove Chomsky wrong. To a few readers (14.7%), this is the case. The rest of respondents are split between those who do not think so (41.2%) and those who think it is too early to tell (44.1%).
Have Answers, Can Chat
LLMs are a field of study in their own right, as a multitude of studies in academia and industry attest. ChatGPT, HuggingChat, BloomChat, and other models have become familiar names, but it also seems like a new “chatty” LLM is released about every other week.
Of late, the chat capability in an LLM (i.e., prompt the LLM and get a translation or an answer —in many languages) is the foundation on which products are being built or rebuilt left and right, and industry threads are being sparked in social media.
Like most of the [connected] world, surely Slator readers are interacting with these chat LLMs … or are they? We wanted to know if this was the case and how often. Surprisingly, the majority of respondents have never used them (46.9%), a quarter (25%) rarely use them, less than a quarter use them weekly (21.9%), and only a few use chat LLMs daily (6.2%).
Pulse Check: Growing, Shrinking, Steady?
Data collected and analyzed in Slator’s Language Industry Market Report 2023 reveal that, despite a slower pace compared to 2021, growth did happen in the language services industry in 2022, at a rate of 4.77%. As we get close to the end of the second quarter in 2023, it is a good time to see if business in the language industry is holding steady, growing or shrinking.
A few companies have grown, like Japan’s Honyaku Center, whose revenues are up 5.6%, or Zoo Digital, which raised USD 15.5m, as detailed in the Language Industry Data and News Briefing for June 2023.
We ran a mid-year business check with readers, to see how things are going. For a third of respondents, business is steady … or flat (32.4%), a little over a quarter have experienced a slight decline (26.5%), less than a quarter have seen slight growth (23.5%), and the smallest group has seen a strong decline (17.6%).
Work It, Own It
The majority of LSPs are privately held. And many of those private companies were started by linguists-cum-entrepreneurs decades ago and continue to thrive. Such is the case of UK-based language service provider (LSP) Sandberg Translation Partners, founded by Jesper Sandberg in 1995.
The Nordic language specialist company became an employee-owned trust (EOT) in May 2023, which means that its 100+ employees are now also the new owners of the company. A growing economic trend but still an unusual move for the language services industry, this structure made sense to Sandberg, the firm’s executive chairman, as he sifted through options for succession and a path for the future.
We asked readers their opinion about employee-owned LSPs, and half of the respondents consider it a good idea (50%). Over a quarter of respondents have no strong opinion on the matter (27.8%), and less than a quarter think that decision-making might be tricky in that kind of setup (22.2%).