Microsoft aims to patent verb-conjugation technology

Microsoft is looking to patent a technology that will automatically conjugate verbs in different languages.

Any U.S. high school student who has struggled through verb conjugations in Spanish class knows how hard it can be to keep all of the verb forms straight when trying to learn a new language. Now Microsoft has filed a patent for a technology that may help by automatically conjugating verbs in various languages.

According to a patent application Microsoft filed Aug. 31, 2006, to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the company aims to patent a "verb conjugating system" that "allows a user to input a form of a verb and display the verb forms."

The system would allow a user to input an infinitive or non-infinitive form of a verb. When a user inputs a non-infinitive form of the verb, the software would identify the corresponding base form of the verb. It then would use that base to display the forms for the verb.

Other characteristics of the technology would be to provide verb forms in a certain language when a user enters a verb in that language, and to identify the exact verb when a user enters the spelling for a verb that could pertain to one or more different languages, according to the patent application.

The verb-conjugating system may also allow a user to input a phrase that includes a verb, and will display the verb forms corresponding to that verb. It also may detect a misspelling of a verb form and provide suggestions for alternate spellings.

According to the filing, the inventors of the technology are Microsoft employees Eric J. Voetberg, Jinsong Yu, Mark D. Stumpf and Robert E. Parkin.

In an e-mail statement, David Kaefer, general manager for Microsoft Intellectual Property & Licensing, said that the patent is for software Microsoft is developing that will help people learn new languages.

"Just like complex software algorithms can help a user spot flawed grammar or autocorrect spelling, software can help us learn new languages, and we're building methods to do just that," he said.

Kaefer did not say when the software would be completed, or if it would become an actual commercial product on its own or be integrated into another one of Microsoft's products.

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