本文摘要:PATTON OSWALT, an American comedian, once told a story about a text exchange with his girlfriend. “I love you,” she texted. Mr Oswalt began to reply “I love you too.” Only the grouchy comic got as far as “I…” and the predictive texting pro


PATTON OSWALT, an American comedian, once told a story about a text exchange with his girlfriend. “I love you,” she texted. Mr Oswalt began to reply “I love you too.” Only the grouchy comic got as far as “I…” and the predictive texting program began to fill out the text based on his habits. “…hate…”, it provided. Mr Oswalt hit “send” before he could stop himself, and his poor girlfriend ended up receiving a rather offensive text.帕顿·奥斯瓦尔特是一名美国喜剧演员,他跟观众谈过自己与女朋友短信交流的故事。“我爱你”,女友在短信中写到。奥斯瓦尔特先生打算恢复“我也爱人你”。只有爱发牢骚的喜剧演员才懂“我...”的句式效果,这时文字预测功能开始根据他的习惯自动填上短信,写的内容是:“...怨...”。

奥斯瓦尔特先生还没有再也反应,手一抖就按了“发送到”键,结果他女友接到了这条侮辱意味十足的短信。Johnson would expect Mr Oswalts relationships to have moved on from such moments of communicative meltdown. Predictive texting was fairly new in 2009, when Mr Oswalt told his gag. But five years later, smarter and faster processors, plus better wireless broadband, have allowed smartphones to do much better at predicting what users mean, and what they are likely to say next. Apple has implemented new elements of language analysis and prediction in iOS8, its latest mobile operating system, for texting both with thumbs and with speech recognition.笔者约翰逊期望奥斯瓦尔特先生与女友的关系不要因为这种交流告终而泡汤。2009年,奥斯瓦尔特先生向观众谈这个噱头时,文字预测还是较为新奇的功能。但是五年后的今天经常出现了更慢更加智能的处理器和更加先进设备的无线宽带,使智能手机能更佳的预测用户的心思以及下一句想说什么。

苹果公司为近期的手机操作系统IOS8获取了新的语言分析和预测元素,限于于手指点字和语音辨识。Speech recognition relies on a big database of natural human English text. An unclear word can be disambiguated by the words around it, as the software tries to match a string of words to a string in its database. If the computer hears Four score and seven [mumble] ago, it can scan its database and guess that the missing word is probably years.语音辨识技术依赖普通人类英语文本大型数据库。


例如,当计算机听见“四十七[发音模糊不清]前”,它不会搜寻数据库猜测没听明的那个单词有可能是“年”。In iOS7, the user had to dictate an entire passage, hit “done”, and wait for the (usually quite accurate) text to appear after a second or two. In iOS8, though, things get more interesting: the words appear nearly as they are spoken. The real-time appearance of each word allows the curious language pundit to peer into the software’s mind. I tried a deliberate “Four score and seven rrrrs ago.” Each of the first four words appeared almost instantly. After the rrrrs, the system paused for a brief moment, before offering “years ago” on the screen. The software clearly thought “hmm, rrrrs sounds like nothing in my database. But this ‘four score and seven’ is almost always followed by the word ‘years’, and the ‘ago’ seems to prove it.”在IOS7系统中,用户必需再行口述一整段语音,页面“已完成”键,一两秒后语音被转化成文字,准确率一般都很高。



To check my intuition, I tried “rrrrs” for “years” in several situations where years is not the obvious word, including a classic line from Raiders of the Lost Ark: “It’s not the years, honey—it’s the mileage.” The software returned things like “It’s not the errors honey it’s the mileage,” and “It’s not Thursday honey it’s the mileage.” The line obviously isn’t in Apple’s training text as frequently as “Four score and seven years ago.”为了检验我的直觉辨别,我在多个情景中将“年(years)”说成了“rrrrs”,在这些情景中单词“年(years)”并不是显而易见就能推断出来的,还包括《夺宝奇兵》中的经典台词:“关键不在于车龄,宝贝,而在于行经里程”。这时软件表明出有的文字是:“关键不在于错误(errors),宝贝,而在于行经里程”,以及 “关键不在于周四(Thursday),宝贝,而在于行经里程”。这句话在苹果数据库中经常出现的频率显著不如 “四十七年前”。Another much-touted advance in iOS8 is predictive text for typing. When composing a text or e-mail, users see three words above the keyboard at any given time—the three words Apple reckons they are most likely to use next. As with speech recognition, the software must first be trained on a bunch of actual English text. But Apple also claims that the software learns from each individual user over time.苹果IOS8系统中另一个倍受欢迎的变革是点字预测功能。


iOS8 has had about a month to learn your columnist’s habits. At present, the three words Apple thinks Johnson is mostly to use to start a text are “I”, “The” and “I’m”. If that sounds depressingly ego-centric, remember that “I” is the most common word in spoken English. Pressing “I” reveals the three words most likely to follow “I”: “love”, “don’t” and “just”. Johnson is apparently not as disagreeable as Mr Oswalt.IOS8系统用了一个月时间自学笔者的习惯。现在苹果指出笔者在编辑文字时,结尾最常用的三个单词是“我”,“这”,“我是”。尽管这种以自我为中心的感觉令人沮丧,但请求忘记“我”是英文口语中最常用的单词。


What is striking, however, is that though the software can pick words that are likely to follow the previous word, the trick does not produce great phrases. Repeatedly pressing the middle of the three choices on my phone results in令人惊讶的是,该软件能从先前经常出现过的预测结果中选词,但这种技巧无法产生令人满意的短语。在我键盘上反复反复页面第二个最合适单词,结果产生下面的文本:“The day I have a great way of the year and the other hand is the only thing that would have to go back and I don’t think that I have a great way of life and the day I have to go back and the other hand…”我以一年中较好的方式童年了这一天(The day I have a great way of the year),另一方面(the other hand),这一天是我必需要总结的(have to go back),我指出自己没较好的生活方式(I have a great way of life),这一天是我必需要总结的(have to go back),另一方面(the other hand)...Curiously, sometimes the system repeats its own predictions (“and the other hand” occurs twice). But sometimes it doesn’t (“I have a great way of” is once followed by “the year”, and the second time followed by “of life”). And if I clear the whole mess and begin again, repeatedly tapping the same button gives me a different string. What is going on behind the scenes is unclear. (Apple did not respond to requests to clarify.)令人惊讶的是,系统有时不会反复之前的预测结果(“and the other hand”经常出现过两次)。

但有时又会反复(第一次经常出现的“I have a great way of”后面追随的是“the year”,而第二次经常出现时后面追随的是“of life”)。如果我删去这些乱七八糟的文字新的编辑,然后某种程度反复页面第二个最合适单词,产生的一连串单词不会与上次有所不同。这到底是怎么一其实我不得而知,苹果公司对于回应此事的催促并未不作对此。When this new predictive feature was announced, a few observers harrumphed: offering the next potential word allows a writer to skip the work of choosing words. Well, to choose just one word: nonsense. At the most, iOS8 will allow you to avoid typing some fairly long but frequent words. But it’s not ready to appease your boss, apologise to your spouse or do your homework for you. In 1965 Michael Frayn imagined automating journalism in his novel The Tin Men, automatically generating catchy headlines and composing predictable stories (like ones on the royal family) with a string of clichés. Fortunately, half a century later, we hacks must still be paid to string out clichés by hand.当这种新潮的文字预测功能刚刚问世时,少数仔细观察人士曾回应嗤之以鼻:预测下一个有可能中用的单词不会让写字的人跨过选词过程。