Machine Translation

Michael Everson everson at
Fri Sep 11 18:43:12 CEST 2009

On 11 Sep 2009, at 11:13, Martin J. Dürst wrote:

> Good dictionaries usually contain several entries for each word in  
> the source language; what you do in that case is lookup, not  
> translation.

Rendering of one language into another is translation, whether it is a  
word or phrase or sentence.

> Short phrases could indeed be the place where machine translation  
> has its best chance currently: memory is cheap, phrases can  
> eliminate ambiguity, and if they are short, they are suited to  
> lookup without much processing.

Yes, currently. And the technology will grow and grow over the next  
few hundred years until Star Fleet has its Universal Translator....

>> I have several on my iPhone, and Mac OS
>> ships a Systran widget with its OS X Dashboard. This is machine
>> translation.
> Mostly just lookup, isn't it?

No. You can have it process entire sentences.

The red sun was high, the blue low.
Die rote Sonne war hoch, das niedrige Blau.

What do you have in your pocket?
Was haben Sie in Ihrer Tasche?

I assume the first one ought to have read "die niedrige blau", but the  
sentence is fairly literary. (It's science fiction.)

There's nothing wrong with the second sentence however.

I still don't see how our subtags, which describe language varieties,  
ought to be dragged into this arena. Compare
<lang=de>Was haben Sie in Ihrer Tasche?</lang>
<lang=de-machine>Was haben Sie in Ihrer Tasche?</lang>

There is no linguistic difference to be tagged. There was a process  
involved in getting to the second of the two sentences, but that is  
something else again.

Michael Everson *

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