One long-standing problem in computer science has been to figure out how to index large amounts of text automatically--especially in a way that involves not just key words but complete ideas, thoughts, and concepts. Indexing journal articles for computerized retrieval, for instance, usually requires specially trained workers, who do the work by hand--a costly and lengthy process.
Now, Syntactic Analyzer Inc., in Minnetonka, Minn., says it has a solution. Its Syntax program, running on an IBM-compatible mainframe, scans text stored in the computer and can analyze complete sentences and identify the concepts they contain. It also writes abstracts of entire documents. That way, a researcher who isn't familiar with the material can glean more information than by using a standard key-word search. The company plans to market Syntax to law firms and on-line information companies. Biosis, a Philadelphia medical-information service that manually produces 700,000 synopses of journal articles a year, is testing the package.