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One of the most active areas of Artificial Intelligence research today is the understanding of natural language. From the earliest days of computing, people have been intrigued by the idea of communicating easily with computers. In the past few years, new techniques and larger systems have combined to open new possibilities for expressing ideas to computers in natural language. Question answering systems are approaching a level useful in real applications areas. Advanced computing applications like automatic programming will base their interaction with the user on natural language capabilities. In almost every area of computing, it is easy to imagine ways in which language understanding could make computers more accessible, not only for those who use them now, but for a much wider range of people without special training.