Department of Linguistics

Startup company: USM Linguistics and Vital Text Systems

The USM Linguistics Dept. is partnering with Vital Text Systems, a Maine-based consulting and software development startup company. The goal is to create improved methods for critiquing 'requirements documents', which define the goals and intended outcomes of many large software and hardware development projects. The process of creating such documents is notoriously difficult -- with some systematic assessments indicating that as many as 40% of the errors that turn up in safety-critical systems are direct consequences of errors or ambiguities written into a project's requirements document.

The project is working to exploit computational linguistic tools to semi-automatically detect likely sources of trouble in requirements documents.

Five USM undergraduates are currently employed by the project, three Linguistics majors and two Computer Science majors. They are collaborating with senior faculty, as well as senior software developers, and managers in building an innovative system that brings linguistic insights to bear on a key engineering issue, one that bears directly on the reliability and safety of a wide range of contemporary systems, from aircraft and spacecraft to surgical robots.

The Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development included the project in its Top Gun program in Spring 2013 and in summer 2013 the project won a matching grant from the Maine Technology Institute.

Students who would like to be considered for participation in this work should contact Prof. Wayne Cowart (