Robert E. Frederking

Welcome to my home page!

Associate Dean for Graduate Education, SCS
Chair of Graduate Programs, LTI
Principal Systems Scientist, LTI (research faculty)

Language Technologies Institute (LTI)
School of Computer Science (SCS)
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213 USA

Telephone: +1-412-268-6656 (that's 412-CMU-MOJO)
FAX: +1-412-268-6298
ref+@cs.cmu.edu

To see my planned trips and if I'm here now, finger me. Quotes from my plan file.


New stuff:

JGC60: I was the General Chair for the April 2014 JGC60 celebration.
It seems to have gone well.

EAMT/SUSU MT School: I was one of the instructors at The Joint EAMT - SUSU Intensive School in Machine Translation, in Chelyabinsk, Russia, May 16-20, 2011.
While there, I got my wife a lovely malachite heart at the Ural Mountains mineral museum we toured.

2013 update: Yes, I spent a week in Chelyabinsk, Russia, where that meteor exploded in February!
We had a lovely cruise on the lake where divers have been looking for meteor remains.
Meteors almost never cause damage, and that's the only place I've spent significant time in in Russia,
so I'm pretty stunned.

SMT without the S: As part of preparing for the MT school above, I made these powerpoint slides, which explain to people who might not know any statistics or computer programming how Statistical Machine Translation (SMT) works.
They are based on the idea of fitting a line to data points, which everyone has some familiarity with.
The suggested story to tell along with them is in the "Notes" section of the slides.
I hereby declare them freely available "open source" slides. If you use them, please mention where you got them. Thanks.

I co-taught the graduate Seminar on Endangered Languages, 11-736, Fall 2010.
We taught it again in Fall each year so far.

Haitian Creole data: After the January 2010 Haiti earthquake, we released the Haitian Creole data that I had been preserving since the end of the Diplomat project, to facilitate public speech and translation work on Haitian Creole. We got some nice press coverage about it.

I finally got around to writing down the best story from my 2001 trip to Africa.
Includes a cool Google Map of the Okavango "Delta" (swamp).

In honor of the upcoming US elections, I've started writing down a few short essays on Honest Political Economics 101, perhaps to beg the universe for just a little reason in political discussions about the economy.


My newest favorite quote:

At the 7/4/2012 CERN news conference announcing the Higgs boson, a reporter asked how they could justify spending all this money on something so arcane, with Europe in a financial crisis, people starving in the third world, etc.
Prof. Rolf Heuer, Director General of CERN, replied with a wonderful illustration of how you have to get the right balance between basic science and other spending:
If you have one sack of corn, do you eat it or do you plant it?
In both cases you are going to starve, to die.
You have to find the balance: part of it you eat, and part of it you plant.


Previous favorite quotes:

She's my arch-enemy. The Dr. Doom to my Mister Fantastic; the Dr. Octopus to my Spiderman; the Dr. Sivana to my Captain Marvel.
It's amazing how many super-villains have advanced degrees.
Graduate schools should probably do a better job screening those people out.

-- Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Big Bang Theory, s2e2
(BBT is my new favorite TV show, because it gets nerd culture exactly right. I know these people; in my 20s, I was Leonard, but taller.)

My children's school was canceled today. Because of what? Some ice?... We're going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town.
-- Barack Obama, 28 January 2009
I like this so much because I'm originally from Cleveland, and a major complaint I have in winter is that Pittsburghers are terrified of driving in what I think of as "a little snow". Obama experienced the same kind of culture shock moving to D.C.

You can pretend to be serious; but you can't pretend to be witty.
-- Sacha Guitry (1885-1957), French film actor, director, screenwriter and playwright


Until October 2008 I was Vice-President of the AMTA, the Association for Machine Translation in the Americas, 2004-2006 and 2006-2008. I was term-limited from running in 2008.
AMTA-2008 was in Hawaii!! At the Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio. Aloha!
I learned to surf while there. No PhotoShop or fake plastic waves in the picture!
I also visited the active Kilauea volcano on the Big Island. This view is facing south; the nearby rim is the rim of Kilauea Caldera, the fully visible crater inside is Halema'uma'u Crater, with the volcanic gas coming out of one particular spot in its floor. The white deposits are sulfur. Half of the national park was closed due to the high levels of volcanic gas, which is kind of exciting.

My wife is the proud owner of the MT Diamond.

I've begun a personal project of digitizing my VHS tapes, cassette tapes, and vinyl(!) LPs, while it's still possible.
(VHS via my TiVo [Humax version, with a DVD burner in it], audio via my Mac and Audacity.)
It takes enough of my precious time that it's only worth doing for things that will never make it into digital on their own, like "Metamorphosis", a wonderful track over 10 minutes long from Curved Air (but maybe the only good thing they ever did; sorry). There's a low-fi clip of the beginning of "Metamorphosis" on the web now (June 2008).
Time-wise, if I can buy it on CD/DVD, that's actually worth it.

In October 2007, I bought myself a "Laser Blue" 2008 Mini Cooper S convertible. It's very nice.
Because it was the first 2008 sold at "Mini of Pittsburgh", they put our picture on their website (along with many others).

At the end of 2006, I discovered that I am a proud member of Y-DNA Haplogroup I.

My Appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman! TV history is made.

I was on the organizing committee of INTERSPEECH2006 (formerly known as ICSLP2006).
I was one of the co-chairs of the First International Workshop on Medical Speech Translation at HLT/NAACL-2006.

August 2004: I spent 10 days in the Bahamas as part of our collaboration with the Wild Dolphin Project working towards communication with dolphins. Life is rough sometimes.

July 2003: I taught the Computer Science core course in the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Sciences (PGSS) here at Carnegie Mellon University.
July 2004-2008: I did it again.
In 2009, PGSS was snuffed by the state budget crisis. Sic transit gloria mundi!

Tongues Featured on BBC: BBC World Service carried a radio story on this research project that I ran the CMU part of (see also below). The webcast (and a related webpage story) are still available as of September 2002.

NAACL2001: I was the local webmaster for the 2001 NAACL conference.

First African eclipse trip: My trip to see the 21 June 2001 total eclipse of the sun in tropical Africa was just wonderful.

I was quoted extensively in the May 2000 issue of Wired. There's quite a bit on the LTI, and I got 1.5 columns myself, starting at the bottom of one page (and going onto a second page).

I learned to program in Perl by building a Random Contra Dance Generator! More on contras below.

Check out this amazing trick a friend sent me in email.
More fun stuff below.


NSF/EU Report:

I'm providing a Web home for a report on Multilingual Information Management commissioned by the US National Science Foundation.
It has now also been published, as Linguistica Computazionale, Volume XIV-XV, "Multilingual Information Management: Current Levels and Future Abilities", Eduard Hovy, Nancy Ide, Robert Frederking, Joseph Mariani, and Antonio Zampolli (editors). Publisher: Insituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali, Pisa, Italy, 2001. ISSN 0392-6907.
Please send any comments to Robert Frederking (ref+@cs.cmu.edu, Web document maintainer) or Ed Hovy or Nancy Ide.

Research interests:

  • As of 2012, my main research efforts are in:
  • Encore Named Entity Extraction and use (DoD sponsored, no logo yet)
  • Metaphor (iARPA sponsored, no CMU website)
  • As of 2011, I am the Associate Dean for Graduate Education for SCS.
    (Or Assoc. Dean for Graduate Programs, or Graduate Policy, depending on who you ask!)
    This includes both the many Doctoral Programs and the very many Masters Programs in SCS.

  • As of 2008, my main research efforts were in:
  • the email-understanding part of the RADAR system,
  • the NineOneOne speech translation project, and
  • the AVENUE translation project.
  • Here is my CV as of January 2007.


  • I'm a Principal Systems Scientist at the Language Technologies Institute, which is a ``unit'' of the CMU School of Computer Science.
    As of August 2009, most of the LTI (including me) has moved to the fabulous new Gates Hillman Complex.
    I am the Chair of the LTI's Graduate Programs.
    I am also teaching parts of some of its courses, in particular
    the Algorithms for NLP course (Fall semester).
    Machine Translation (MT) research within the LTI was earlier described as being within the Center for Machine Translation. The CMT was a research unit until it evolved into the LTI with the arrival of our graduate programs (see above). I specialize in building large AI systems that need to actually work, particularly dealing with natural language, particularly doing machine translation.

  • I have been involved in several efforts here to develop Translingual Information Retrieval. Wouldn't you like to be able to retrieve documents in languages you can't read, using English queries?
    We presented a best-paper award paper at IJCAI-97 in Nagoya, Japan. Another paper was presented at a workshop at the 1997 AAAI Spring Symposium at Stanford. ( Jaime Carbonell, Yiming Yang, Ralf Brown, Eric Nyberg, and Bill Scherlis are also heavily involved.)
    I was part of the NSF KDI Universal Access and DARPA TIDES TRACAT projects, and am now part of the NSF/EU jointly funded Muchmore project.


  • I was involved in some tentative efforts "Towards Communication with Dolphins", with Tanja Schultz and Alan W Black.
    This involved me spending 10 days in the Bahamas in August 2004.


  • Until 1999, I was co-PI on the once-and-future pilot-project called DIPLOMAT to develop techniques for producing rapid-deployment MT. The first test case was Serbo-Croatian! We also worked on Korean, Haitian Creole, and Spanish, and might eventually tackle Arabic.
    There's a cool video demo of DIPLOMAT being used in Croatian and Haitian Creole (remember, these are 1998 laptops, so they're a little slow).

    We now (2002) have three related projects funded: the ARO ACT II Tongues project (subcontracting to Lockheed Martin Federal Systems), the DARPA TIDES Lingwear project with the Janus folks, and the NSF/EU Nespole! Project.
    Tongues: I've finally managed to get a pointer to some of our Tongues papers online (although I'm cheating, and using awb's website):

    Tongues Featured on BBC: BBC World Service carried a radio story on this research project.


  • Until September 1996, I was a co-PI on the Pangloss project.

  • Papers: I've written a bunch of papers, but the contents aren't on-line yet. (Blush.) Except for the Pangloss tech report and the short version of my thesis.
    Also the paper I wrote attacking Gricean Implicature for the AAAI 1996 Spring Symposium. (Cite as: Frederking, Robert E. Grice's Maxims: ``Do the Right Thing''. Presented at the Computational Implicature workshop at the AAAI-96 Spring Symposium Series, Stanford, 1996.)
    And now my paper for the AAAI 1997 Spring Symposium on Translingual IR, and our best-paper award paper at IJCAI-97.
    Send email if interested in the other papers.
    I was surprised to discover that my thesis is available online in both the original version and the (used) book version, which has an index.
    I co-wrote a chapter about speech-to-speech MT (s2smt) that's (finally) published.

  • See Theoretical interests below.

  • Personal interests:

  • I saw a glass dragon at a shop in Paris that looks just like the SCS dragon, so I had to buy it.

  • I like to dance, mostly contra dancing, and sometimes square, Cajun, or swing dancing. Contra dancing is usually located at the Swisshelm Park Community Center; special dances are held at the Edgewood Club (see also this scanned-in map).
    In 1997, I began to call contra dances!
    I've also written a Random Contra Dance Generator in Perl.
    During the school year, there are contra and/or square dances every Friday night, and swing dances most Sunday nights. Note: we are cool/hip square and contra dancers, in normal clothes, as opposed to the cowboy-style square dancers you may have run into elsewhere. These are two disjoint subcultures. These days, there are contra dances all over the country. They are a major topic of conversation on the rec.folk-dancing newsgroup. There is also a CMU ballroom dancing organization.
    new Pittsburgh contra page
    old Pittsburgh contra page
    Pittsburgh community dancing page
    Bob Stein's contra page
    Kiran Wagle's contra page

  • I got married in 1999. In addition to a wonderful wife, I married into a great house and a wonderful dog named Max.
    I did have to move across Pittsburgh, from Squirrel Hill to Spring Hill. (In case you didn't know, Pittsburgh is full of lovely hills, separated by river valleys.)
    My street on Spring Hill has a lovely view of downtown (this was painted from my street),
    and Spring Hill actually has its own web page now! There's also a city council webpage.
    Since we didn't have DSL or cable internet on Spring Hill yet, I gave up good Internet connectivity for the woman I love.
    (As of July 2000, I have DSL at our home on Spring Hill. Whew.)
    By the way, we met at a contradance!
    2009 update: Our dog Max passed away in February at the ripe old age of 18 years.
    His younger Westie brother Flynn is doing very well (he's on the left in this photo of him and Max).
    2009 Update: We acquired a brother for Flynn, named Vince.
    Flynn is hoping for fame and fortune from the YouTube.Com video of him talking.
    2010 Update: We also have a YouTube video of Flynn driving.
    It's the same street that Russell Crowe races up and down in The Next Three Days.
    The home of the birthday party girl in the movie is on our block.

  • I like astronomy. I post on the local general newsgroup whenever Pittsburgh has a visible comet, an eclipse (there was a good annular one here in 1994), good meteor shower, aurora, etc. The best place to see such things near Pittsburgh is the Wagman amateur observatory (it's dark, and no one will chase you away).
    I visited the world's largest radio dish at Arecibo Observatory while I was visiting Puerto Rico (March 2000).
    I also went to Hawaii for the great 1991 total eclipse of the sun. It was worth every penny. (See also my travels, below.)

    My trip to see the 21 June 2001 total eclipse of the sun in tropical Africa was just wonderful.
    My third eclipse: 29 March 2006, North Africa and Turkey. Also very cool.
    My fourth eclipse: 22 July 2009, Shanghai. This was the first one I didn't see due to overcast. It was still pretty cool, because the sky got dark as night on a drizzly gray morning. I could tell everyone around me was saying "holy crap", even though I don't know Mandarin.
    Next really good eclipse: in the good old US of A in August 2017!
    The next good one after that will also cross the US, in 2024.

  • My Erdos number is at most 6. Maybe even 5.
    I have co-authored papers with Ralf Brown, whose number is at most 5.
    I have also co-authored papers with Alan W Black. This would give me an Erdos number of 5 if workshop papers count (as Bob Carpenter apparently thinks.)
    (Not all of my co-authors have names that are also colors.)

  • Several people have said that my winter goatee makes me look real Beat (along with the occasional all-black clothes).

  • NPR interviewed me for an All Things Considered story on machine translation that aired 12 February 1998.
    Okay, so they only used two sentences. But they got my name right, and they didn't make me sound like an idiot, so I'm happy. They even linked it to the NPR Front Page for a couple of days (sic transit gloria mundi).

  • In 1995, a guy named Jonny Gammage was killed by suburban police near here (Pittsburgh), apparently for the crime of being a black man in a Jaguar. I actually wrote a song about it, pretty uncharacterisic behavior for me.

  • I am vice-president (for life?) of Dec/5 Inc., the organization of people in the local computer science community that takes legal liability for having fun on campus and saying truthful things in the Guide to Living in Pittsburgh. It is not in any way affiliated with CMU or the SCS. So there!

  • I was one of the first members of the Pittsburgh chapter of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR). CPSR was formed in response to Reagan's Star Wars program, since they kept implying that CS people were in favor of Star Wars. The meeting to discuss forming a Pittsburgh chapter took place in Jim Morris's house (I believe he was head of the ITC at the time). A friend of mine from grad school here, Nathaniel Borenstein, was recently elected President of CSPR! Way to go, Nathaniel.

  • I waited my whole life for the Cleveland Indians to make the World Series. They finally did in 1995, and again in 1997.
    It was especially poignant that we beat the Orioles in 1997, since Baltimore stole our football team (now the so-called Ravens). In 1998 they gave the NY Yankees a harder time in the playoffs than they had in the World Series. I won't discuss the 1999 playoffs.
    In 2007, we didn't make it to the World Series, but it was especially lovely eliminating the NY Yankees in the division playoffs. And we got their manager fired!
    We'll win it next time.
    (BTW, I am a Clevelander living in Pittsburgh.)
    Go Tribe!!!
    The Indians played in Pittsburgh for the first time ever (I believe) 1-3 September 1997. I called in February for tickets, and 9/1 was sold out except for the bleachers! I got tickets for 9/2, though. It seems that all of Cleveland goes to the games in Detroit, and now Pittsburgh too. Naturally, the game I was at was the only one the Indians lost. It was a good game, though.

  • I have had five house-rabbits. The picture is of my first one, Blanche, the smartest animal I ever met. She moved to Germany and back with me. She passed away in 1994, at the ripe old age of ten.

  • I like to travel. Here is a cool map of all the places I've been so far.
    Peru (1995) was amazing; I highly recommend going there.
    I was in Haiti in 1984, when Baby Doc Duvalier was still in power. It was fascinating, but you need to be able to tolerate real poverty around you.
    In January 2008, Haiti was listed as one of the ten most dangerous countries to visit, so I guess I'm glad I was there when it wasn't so bad.
    I visited the world's largest radio dish at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico (March 2000).
    Coolest trip so far: the total solar eclipse on 21 June 2001 in tropical Africa.
    A close second: my 10 days in the Bahamas as part of our collaboration with the Wild Dolphin Project.
    I also went to Hawaii (see astronomy, above) in 1991 for a total eclipse. I got to swim with wild dolphins there!
    My third eclipse: 29 March 2006, in North Africa and Turkey.
    My fourth eclipse: 22 July 2009, Shanghai.This was the first one I didn't see due to overcast. It was still pretty cool, because the sky got dark as night on a drizzly gray morning. I could tell everyone around me was saying "holy crap", even though I don't know Mandarin.
    Next really good eclipse: in the good old US of A in August 2017!
    The next good one after that will also cross the US, in 2024.

  • I am a Christian. For some reason, this is controversial.
    Philosophically, I'm a dualist!
    I am a politically liberal, religiously conservative, ecumenical Christian, raised as a Lutheran, currently attending Church of the Ascension in the Pittsburgh diocese.
    Ascension was part of the U.S. Episcopalian Church until October 2008. We are now part of the South American Anglican church! We're also part of the American Anglican Council.
    (Actually, I'm originally from the now extinct moderate branch of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.)
    Before that, my ancestors were in the Saxon Free Church, it seems.
    One of the many theological views I get from that origin is the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, which strongly supports the separation of Church and State.

  • I'm so old, I had to register for the Vietnam draft, in 1973. That was the first year they didn't draft anyone. Whew. I was beginning to think about becoming Canadian.
    I also had a nice, high draft lottery number: 248. So I was "1 H" ("we're not going to bother classifying you").
    2012 update: I finally found my draft card! I was sure I had it stashed away somewhere.
    By the way, contrary to claims by those who are trying to rewrite history, nobody I knew was crappy to the vets when they came back. We generally felt bad for them, that they had been screwed by the government.

  • There are fewer than 200 ``Frederking'' households in the United States, and not very many in Germany, either. I have an online PostScript family tree that goes back to the 1620s. It was published in Germany in 1909. I translated it from German into English. There's also now a plain text version.
    My ancestors, by the index of the tree:
    I 2, II 5, III 8, IV 2, V 4, VI 12, VII 8, VIII 11, IX 14 (grandpa; I would be generation XI)
    
    Among many other interesting things, the brother of my ancestor (V7) fought in the American Revolution... as a Hessian mercenary, for the British!
    V2 was also a Hessian soldier in the Revolutionary War.
    VII 5 was killed in the U.S. Civil War.
    Before ``we'' got into the preaching business, ``we'' were cloth merchants, it seems.

    I bought a reference book a few years ago in Germany, and was stunned to see "Frederking" used as an example of the distribution of a German family name: here is the map.
    In the map, the kink in the river Weser is about where Minden is, and the family tree shows that my family was in Minden for a long time. It also says that this area of Germany is the only one where the local dialect would produce the name (which means "little Frederick", or son of Frederick).
    According to another reference work that I got in Germany, the town name "Minden" probably comes from a watersprite named "Mime", that perhaps was thought to live in the river there.
    My dad looked around the web for photos of Frederkings. Genetics can be spooky; here's someone who looks a lot like me (when I was 17).

  • Another branch of my ancestry comes from the von Bülow family, which is north German aristocracy. This connects me to a bunch of famous people, including one of the chancellors of Germany.
    The most regal current distant relative that I know of is the new King William (Willem-Alexander) of Holland.
    He is my fifth cousin!
    (Through my ancestors Victor Frederking, Dorothea Storm Frederking, Marie Brauer Storm, Helene Passow Brauer, and Luise Sophie Ida von Bülow Passow. Luise was the sister of Auguste von Bülow, the ancestor of the king, via the von Amsberg family.

    On the other side of my family, my most famous relative is probably my second cousin Julie Meyer, one of the most important businesswomen working in Europe.

  • Related to the above, at the end of 2006 I submitted a Y-DNA sample for haplotyping to the Genographic Project. The short version of the story is that because only men have Y-DNA, it doesn't get shuffled around each generation, but is generally passed on unchanged from father to son. So you can track the spread of humanity in the distant past by the accumulation of small harmless mutations.
    It turns out that my Y-DNA shows that I am a member of Haplogroup I. So probably most/all other "Frederking"s from Minden share this haplogroup (unless there was an adoption or some other "irregularity" along the way).
    Specifically, we are I2b-M223 (formerly I1c).
    Some members of "Haplogroup I" were probably descended from the Vikings. Although I'd like to claim Viking ancestry, most likely my branch is the one centered near Minden, Germany, the ancestral Frederking homeland, according to this map. But we do have a cool story: group I is descended from a small group of people who survived the last Ice Age in a valley somewhere in Europe, as opposed to most Europeans who showed up after the Ice Age ended (those wimps!)
    Of course, most of my 27,000 genes come from the millions of other ancestors I have, but it is still interesting to know that one of them really did hunker down in Europe during the Ice Age.
    My sister submitted an mtDNA sample; mtDNA is only passed on through the egg, so it is similarly passed unshuffled down the female line. The result: we are in mtDNA haplotype U1b. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a specific story about this haplotype yet, but they say they're still working on these, so maybe it will get more interesting later.
    It does lend credence to the belief that we have some Jewish ancestry in my family, though.
    Oh, and my blood type is A+.

  • See me in 3-D!

  • Interests without hyperlinks yet include foreign languages, hiking, meteorology, my 1988 VW Cabriolet, the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club (okay, so it has a hyperlink), soccer, science, writing, film-making, art, music, anthropology.

  • Theoretical interests:

  • To quote my resume: My current interests include most aspects of natural language processing, as well as problems in knowledge representation, reasoning, and system design, from both application and theoretical viewpoints. I am especially interested in problems of the interaction between sentence understanding, sentence generation, dialogue phenomena, and non-linguistic capabilities. This includes problems such as the interaction between NL and graphics, the acquisition of semantic primitives via non-symbolic processes, and how to represent and reason about continuous substances and time. I am also interested in the simulation of human cognition, and the philosophical and theoretical foundations of artificial intelligence and natural language.

  • To put it more succinctly: I'd like to see AI become a science in my lifetime. I'd also like to be able to talk to my computer someday.

  • Robert E. Frederking
    ref+@cs.cmu.edu