Fred Jelinek

Czech linguist

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,[1] 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,[2] 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.[3]
  • 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[4]
  • It's easier to say something stupid than write something stupid.

Quotes about JelinekEdit


  1. 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. 
  2. Palmer, Martha, Tim Finin (1990). "Report on the Workshop on the Evaluation of Natural Language Processing Systems". Computational Linguistics 16 (1): 171–185.
  3. Moore, Roger K. (2005). "Results from a Survey of Attendees at ASRU 1997 and 2003" in INTERSPEECH-2005. {{{booktitle}}}. 
  4. Jelinek, Frederick. "How I Got Here" Charles University, Prague, Czechoslovakia (November 22, 2001). Retrieved on December 17, 2010. Honoris causa degree acceptance speech.

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