ELIZA, ELIZAE: The Absurdity and (Absurd) Potential of Latin Chatbots
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Development of the ELIZA chatbot at MIT in the mid-1960s opened up more than a half-century of discussion about the possibilities and limitations of human-computer interaction using natural language. One idea that has—perhaps unsurprisingly to many—not received much attention is building a chatbot to respond to prompts given in the Latin language. In this paper, I discuss my development work with a natural language processing platform for historical languages, the Classical Language Toolkit, and my recent work using CLTK to develop a Latin chatbot, connecting this work to a long pedagogical tradition of teaching Latin through dialogue. I argue that rather than something to be seen as a novelty, Latin chatbots (and related NLP applications for ancient languages, like for example, a recently released Latin version of Duolingo) instead will push Latin pedagogy significantly forward, ironically while reconnecting with its dialogic origins.
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