# "Natural Language" vs. "Natural Language Processing" tags?

I'm wondering if this should be a single tag. However, if we do keep them as separate tags, how do we disambiguate?

natural-language

natural-language-processing

It looks to me like they are both used for similar questions, and based on the current Tag Info for the two tags they don't really appear to be different either. So, based on current tag usage, I'd argue that they should be combined into a single tag (which, in my opinion, should be natural-language-processing because that's the full term that everyone in the field uses in my experience).

I suppose that, in theory, natural-language could refer to something else than NLP... like, it could be for questions about language itself, rather than questions about processing (generating and/or understanding) language. I have a very difficult time imagining any such questions would actually be on-topic for AI though.

• re: natural-language, I was also wondering if it was initially intended as a linguistics tag. In that context, I think it could have a place, linguistics being one of the corollary disciplines that contributes to natural-language-processing. The problem there is people using the tags arbitrarily, despite any disambiguation we might provide in the tag info...
– DukeZhou Mod
Oct 3 '18 at 19:51
• @DukeZhou Well the current Tag Info certainly doesn't disambiguate in such a way, since the Tag Info for natural-language is still all about AI (it's basically a highly informal summary of NLP). If someone were to ask a linguistics-only question for the purpose of understanding language better and the end goal of that understanding is still something NLP-related... NLP would work too. If it's really so far removed from AI that NLP becomes the wrong tag... I feel like the question would fit better in one of the dedicated language-related SE sites anyway.
– Dennis Soemers Mod
Oct 3 '18 at 19:57
• Definitely the natural-language tag would have to be modified if we do keep it. (My feeling is it is analogous to having tags for "probability", "logic", etc.)
– DukeZhou Mod
Oct 3 '18 at 20:06
• Just as an update, I'm leaning toward merging the current tags (per you point that most of the usages of both tags is currently similar.) My thinking is that if we should need a straight linguistics tag, it can be subsequently created.
– DukeZhou Mod
Oct 5 '18 at 20:48
• @DukeZhou Maybe such a new tag should then simply be named linguistics, to make the difference with NLP clear?
– Dennis Soemers Mod
Oct 6 '18 at 8:33
• It's a good thought but it might open up another semantic issue in that linguistics is not restricted to natural language only. I could see potential use for an umbrella linguistics tag...
– DukeZhou Mod
Oct 8 '18 at 20:43

If I put quotes around the two terms and do a web search, the documents in the search results are very different, and the definitions of the terms don't match either. Natural language is mostly used as part of the social sciences, and NLP is mostly used in computer science and programming.

Natural language by itself (that is, without considering computation-related aspects) has little to do with AI. In AI, we want to do NLP, which can be based on natural language, but the tag or should also include these related discussions or questions. So, the tag should not really exist.

• Thanks for reviving this. Although I agree with Dennis that, in theory, a pure "natural language" tag could have a function, upon review of its usage, it seems clear it should be merged with the "natural language processing" tag.
– DukeZhou Mod
Jun 14 '19 at 17:27

There is a key difference between the two terms. Whether this finer level of granularity is useful in the tags, I have no opinion.

Natural language is concerned with the general idea of conveying ideas via vocalization and the comprehension of the idea by a listener.

Natural language processing sounds more well defined, but it is actually poorly defined and the definitions in the literature are scattered between these two extremes:

1. Parsing text into linguistic structures.
2. Linguistic processing components in chat-bots designed to replace human experts.

What is included in NLP?

• Talking?
• Generating text?
• Generating linguistic associations?
• Parsing text?
• Hearing?
• Listening?
• Dialog?
• Topic detection?
• Cognition?
• Story invocation? — See Schank.
• Translation?

Depends on who is teaching and when. I don't even see any consistency between the same person's view of NLP over time.

If addressing the terms literally, natural language is simply the field of linguistics minus the addition of formal languages. NLP would then become the action that occurs when some system deals with natural language at either its input, its output, or both.

I saw those two tags earlier today. I don't have a recommendation as to whether to combine them or leave them alone.

• I'm not convinced this is limited to auditory language, since the language analyzed can be in text form.
– DukeZhou Mod
Oct 3 '18 at 21:33
• Still discounts the fact that NLP algorithms would be used for interpreting both text and audio. You clearly make the point that parsing audio is important, but not that it is a requirement, jsut that it adds an extra element of correctly translating spoken language into text where the language is spoken.
– DukeZhou Mod
Oct 5 '18 at 20:46
• I think that would be fine to create the new tag, if necessary. (I think the current problem is that they weren't properly disambiguated, which led to the question overlap.) Thanks for you input on this!
– DukeZhou Mod
Oct 5 '18 at 22:30
• I think we'd want to merge to NLP because it's the AI specific field, and then look to relaunch, and probably retag some old questions, with the new tag.
– DukeZhou Mod
Oct 5 '18 at 22:57
• Thanks for doing it. The edits should all be approved.
– DukeZhou Mod
Oct 8 '18 at 20:41