Fred Jelinek

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Fred Jelinek (18 November 193214 September 2010) was a researcher in information theory, automatic speech recognition, and natural language processing.


  • Every time I fire a linguist, the performance of our speech recognition system goes up.
    • Although its fame and iconic status are undisputed, the quip's context is unknown and its specific wording and dating are unclear. According to Daniel Jurafsky and James H. Martin,Jurafsky, Daniel; James H. Martin (2009). Speech and language processing: an introduction to natural language processing, computational linguistics, and speech recognition. Prentice Hall series in artificial intelligence (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p. 83. ISBN 0-13-187321-0.  Jelinek himself recalled the quote as "Anytime a linguist leaves the group the recognition rate goes up" and dated it to December 1988 (Wayne, Pennsylvania), further noting that the quote did not appear in the published proceeding, Palmer, Martha, Tim Finin (1990). "Report on the Workshop on the Evaluation of Natural Language Processing Systems". Computational Linguistics 16 (1): 171–185. whereas Roger K. Moore gave the wording as "Every time we fire a phonetician/linguist, the performance of our system goes up" and dated it to an IEEE Automatic Speech Recognition and Understanding workshop held in 1985. Moore, Roger K. (2005). "Results from a Survey of Attendees at ASRU 1997 and 2003" in INTERSPEECH-2005. {{{booktitle}}}. 
  • It is generally believed that scientific talent reveals itself in early youth. [...] This was certainly not my case. I somehow slid into my scientific profession. My mother wished for me to become a physician, just like my father. [...] I myself wanted to be a lawyer, defender of the unjustly accused. But my career is the result of political circumstances, academic possibilities, and lucky accidents.
    • Talking about his life in a 2001 speech Jelinek, Frederick. "How I Got Here" Charles University, Prague, Czechoslovakia (November 22, 2001). Retrieved on December 17, 2010. Honoris causa degree acceptance speech.
  • It's easier to say something stupid than write something stupid.

Quotes about Jelinek[edit]

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