How it all began
The processing of linguistic data at the Saarland University has a long tradition that stretches back to the late 1960s when the first machine-readable dictionary of German to analyze texts was developed (SADAW = Saarbrücker Deutsches Analysewörterbuch, SATAN = Saarbrücker Textanalyse).
The pioneer Hans Eggers and his pupil Harald Zimmermann (who later became the founding director of IAI) were so fascinated by this problem that it became for both of them their lifework. Hans Eggers represented the scientific interest in the development of algorithms to model linguistic thinking, Harald Zimmermann the practical interest in “developing programs for automatic language analysis (and later for machine translation) that could lighten the burden of human work or – as we believed – gradually replace it.”
It was also his initiative which led to the foundation of the GFAI and IAI in 1985/86. Institutions and companies located in the Saarland founded the Society for the Promotion of Applied Information Sciences (Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Informationsforschung e.V. - GFAI ) as a non-profit association which appointed IAI its executive body. A cooperation contract with the Saarland University regulated IAI’s organisation as one of the first German institutes affiliated to a university. In place of the university, IAI took over the EU’s contract for the German component of the EUROTRA project on machine translation. Harald Zimmermann asked Johann Haller to coordinate the project, who, in 1990, followed him onto IAI’s board of directors, after having been given a professorship at the Saarland University.
The EUROTRA project also acted as catalyst for the foundation of the Department of Computational Linguistics and Phonetics at the Saarland University which, with currently four chairs, is one of Germany’s leading institutes and plays a significant role in the organisation and research activities of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence in Saarbrücken.
In the EUROTRA years and through other linguistic EU projects up to the end of the last millennium, IAI was able to build up a large bank of linguistic material and acquire significant experience in creating dictionaries and reference works on grammar. With the increasing performance of computers, their being used in practical applications came ever closer. Firstly, visionary pioneers, again from industrial companies and funding institutions (e.g. EDS, BMW, the project management organization GID (later GMD and DLR)) developed individual applications in language and terminology control and machine translation together with IAI. An important breakthrough was IAI’s cooperation with the publishing house Duden which led to the first version of Duden Korrektor (language assistant at that time).
Over the years this product has won many awards and every competition of comparison with other correction tools.
Cooperation with industry
Bolstered by its growing renown and experience gained, IAI was also able to establish its new CLAT tool (Controlled Language Authoring Tool) within industrial applications. Today, every company in the German automotive industry (from BMW to Porsche and on to Volkswagen) uses this tool for the purpose of quality-assurance and cost-reduction. Other industrial companies such as Heidelberg, the world’s leading manufacturer of printing presses, as well as several branches of Siemens also trust in IAI’s software. SUN Microsystems uses a special version for English texts (SunProof).
In addition to that, IAI has developed another tool for knowledge management and automatic indexing. Libraries, major organizations and databases use AUTINDEX to automatically check texts against keyword lists, thesauri and ontologies. Special versions for publishing houses compile automatic indexes.
Today, the twenty members of staff, many having gained Ph.D. degrees and long-term experience, guarantee first-class quality in language checking, terminology extraction and validation and in knowledge management. IAI’s experts frequently succeed in winning projects funded from within Germany or by the EU.
Separating Research and Industrial Application
In 2010 IAI formed a joint venture together with Across a leading software company in the field of translation technology, the Congree Language Technologies GmbH Congree in order to successfully market an authoring assistance software suite that is based on IAI’s language technology. This was a first major step to separate research from industrial applications.
The completing step in separating the two activities was in 2014 when members of IAI founded the IAI Linguistic Content AG .