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project objectives

In the last years the majority of National Programmes in Europe in the field of HLT have identified Language Resources (LRs) as the first area to be supported by national funding, on the basis of consultations involving researchers, industry, service providers, etc.. LRs are in fact today unanimously recognised as a central component of the linguistic infrastructure, necessary for the development of HLT applications and products, and therefore for industrial development. The availability of adequate LRs for as many languages as possible and, in particular, of multilingual LRs, is a necessary condition for the development of a truly multilingual Information Society. The availability of LRs is also a «sensitive» issue, touching directly the sphere of linguistic and cultural identity, and is a crucial precondition for the participation of a language, and of the citizens speaking this language, in the Information Society.

The cost of LRs production is however very high, and this can – in fact has – hampered the involvement of industrial developers – (in particular SMEs) – in the business of HLT. Moreover, it has clearly emerged in recent discussions (panels of funding agencies at LREC, COLING, ACL, etc.), that the Framework Research Programme of the European Commission (hereinafter referred to as the Commission), as well as US funding Agencies such as NSF and DARPA, are not well suited for complete and continuous support of infrastructural projects. On the other side, it is clear that only i) combining the strengths of different initiatives and different institutional tasks, ii) exploiting at best the ‘modus operandi’ of the national funding authorities in different national situations, iii) responding to the needs and priorities of each R&D and industrial community, based on a clear distinction of tasks and roles for different actors in the HLT scene, we can produce the synergies, the economy of scale, the convergence and cumulation of efforts necessary to provide the infrastructural LRs needed to realise the full potential of a multilingual global Information Society.

The proposed Network aims at enabling the progressive realisation of this urgently needed cooperative framework, by supporting links, establishing exchange mechanisms, fostering cooperation and interoperability of the results of National projects and activities which, in a substantial subset of EU member countries, have recently been funded by relevant national Authorities to provide LRs of different types for their respective languages.

This objective is very much in line with the role that the Commission can play with respect to national initiatives, acting in line with the subsidiarity principle not only as an initiator of LR development actions so as to ensure harmonisation of models, but also as an essential mediator to facilitate harmonisation of efforts and to enable activities which, by their very nature, are of a supranational type, such as those connected to multilingual issues.

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